Prime Time Cafe Catastrophe

Prime Time Cafe Catastrophe

Recently I had the opportunity to do a date night with my wife at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. Orlando has many choices as to where to dine. I don’t do food reviews of places to eat. But when we choose to eat a table service meal at Walt Disney World we are looking for a dining experience, not a place to eat. This review is not a food review, it is a review of the dining experience. That experience was one of the poorest I have ever had at Walt Disney World. More than just sharing my love/hate relationship about this place, I want to suggest ways in which we can learn from that experience in serving customers in your own organization. So stay tuned to this channel as we present how Prime Time Cafe becomes more like Catastrophe Canyon.

An outline is shown below but our podcast carries narrative of the entire experience. You can find the podcast here on PodbeaniTunesSpotify,  and ListenNotes. Please subscribe! 

My Experience

The following describes our experience:

  • On a date night at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we were able to secure a table at Prime Time Cafe in less than an hour. The wait when we checked in was only 5-10 minutes.
  • I have sat indoors with COVID. I don’t have a problem with that and didn’t think so going into this. In fact, it probably wasn’t on my mind.
  • Was seated in a corner next to a large and loud table. Packages cutting off our seating. The server could not work their way around our table.
  • Our server greeted us by slamming silverware and napkins in a metal rack tray on our table. He stated that we had to set the table by ourselves. I quickly retorted, “Bro, mom said you had to set the table.” That got a response out of the other table.” Surprised by how quickly I responded, he asked if we visited before. I said yes, but it had been a while.
  • He took our order about 5 minutes after we were seated, which was very timely. Still most of his attention was pored on the larger crowd at the adjacent table, that enjoyed his form of banter.
  • Finally we called out to him and quietly asked if we might be able to switch with another table that was empty on the other side of the restaurant. He quickly fired back out of character and ranted about all the things he had to do as a server from things like running credit cards to cleaning tables to handling special requests. It was an awkward moment after he spoke, as he was no longer playing an older sibling role, but a rather the part of a disengaged employee. I broke up the awkwardness assuring him, “Hey, I know you can do it Bro.” He stated, I’ll ask, but I can’t promise you anything.
  • Then nothing happened for the next 8-10 minutes until our dinner was set before us by another server. Three minutes later he showed up to refill water, volunteered that he had asked, but said it couldn’t happened. The table across was still empty after all this time, but it was filled about 7-8 minutes later.
  • Food was very good, but not great. There is a difference between good and great. Though great food may still not have redeemed this experience.
  • Server never gave me eye contact, but really couldn’t because he couldn’t stand anywhere where we could see him directly.
  • I never did have the PB&J shake–leaving money on the table. That made the experience all the more disappointing.
  • I accidentally left my wallet at home, so my wife used her card to pay the bill. I would have still paid the tip, but I would have written up a few words.
  • When he saw that the credit card was my Performance Journeys card, he asked what I did. He probably thought that the word performance was associated with theater, or that I was doing a “shoppers” visit. He engaged gingerly with us at that point.
  • I never felt the server really understood why we might have asked for another table, nor did I feel the server truly advocate for us. His demeanor in total left me feeling I was imposing on his time.

Four Ps

Let’s summarize this experience by what we refer to as the Four Ps fo Place, Process, Product and People.

Place. This place is a stellar design job. It is one of the most creative dining venues every put together.

Process. It was great getting a reservation only an hour before. Still, if a process for re-seating your guests isn’t in place or if management doesn’t make it easy and possible for a server to re-seat their guests, then you may be setting up your server for failure.

Product. It’s a very good product–not a great one, but one that distinguishes itself from others enough to be worth visiting. It also seems trimmed considerably from its more glory days. Consistently, it may not deliver, so it keeps itself away from Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant or even the Plaza Inn. By the way, I remember a time you used to look via GAF view masters to see the items on the dessert menu.

Also, part of the Product is the entertainment in terms of the TVs. I had only a partial view of a TV in the background but could hear no sound. It would be great if moments of WandaVision were spliced into that.

People. The most inconsistent ingredient. This is a complex situation where people need to be carefully screened for the role, then thoroughly taught on how to read their customers and provide a stellar experience. I don’t sense this is happening in formal, let alone informal ways.

Free Souvenirs for Your Organization

The following are concepts and ideas you can adapt to your own customer service delivery:

  • What is the role your customers expects you to play? Is being a professional a role? If so, what does it look like to the customer?
  • How can you deliver that expected role in a consistent and polished manner? How is formal & informal training supporting that?
  • How can poor performance end up leaving money on the table? How can you measure that or get feedback on it?
  • What does a dysfunctional relationship look like? How would you stay away from such in customer and client relationships?
  • What kinds of words or statements take you out of being in the role your customer expects?
  • When are you laughing or having fun with someone and when are you laughing or having fun at someone’s expense?
  • How sure are you that your form of humor and/or sarcasm is going to be well accepted by someone else?
  • How comfortable can you be in a casual relationship with someone you never met before? Where do you draw the line on being too casual or familial?

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Ready to Visit the Disney Parks?

Hopefully this podcast has made you realize you need help and support in planning your next trip to Disney. David and Leah with Out the Door Travel know Disney in ways few do and they can make your next trip on land or sea an exciting one–or at least less stressful! Be sure to contact them as you explore your next vacation, whether it is a Disney theme park vacation, a cruise, or an Adventure by Disney. There is no charge to utilize their services, but it will save you enormous time getting all the details right, and with their insight you can be assured you’re going to experience the best trip possible. Contact them today!

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J. Jeff Kober