Analyzing the Disney Parks Starbucks Announcement

| November 13, 2012

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Let me raise my hand.  Hi!  I was one of them.  Yup, I asked, even begged over the years for better coffee at the Disney theme parks.  It was a mission of mine most mornings to seek out a good cup of coffee other than the normal and abundant Nescafe brand served across property.  When the announcement that Starbucks would come to the U.S. Disney theme parks I was overjoyed.  Although I’m not a huge Starbucks fan (their coffee is a bit too strong for me) it was a much better option than the current Nescafe coffee served to guests each day.  But, nothing would prepare me for what Disney had up their sleeve for incorporating these Starbucks locations in the theme parks.

Most everything Disney said in their initial announcement several months ago seemed right on target.  They’d incorporate these Starbucks locations in the parks without compromising the theming and be very careful not to hinder the visual surroundings.  In other words, you may not see the normal Starbucks green and white logos or the normal uniforms worn by Starbucks employees.  These locations would look like how Disney would want them to look based on their location.  Sounded good to me.

Fast-forward to this past summer where we saw the first Starbucks open in a U.S. Disney park at California Adventure in Disneyland.  The coffee shop is located along Buena Vista Street near the front of the park.  It seems like a good location and fits the theme and surroundings very well.  Why not place it there?  California Adventure and Buena Vista Street haven’t been around long enough to really form a legacy or tradition by guests.  Placing a Starbucks there seemed like a good fit.

Fast-forward again to October when rumors started swirling about Starbucks going into the Main St. Bakery at the Magic Kingdom and Starring Rolls at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  They were only rumors (Starring Rolls is still a rumor), but a little bit of concern started to creep into my mind.  Surely Disney wouldn’t completely overhaul these locations with Starbucks coffee and pastries.  They had to only be considering merging Starbucks with these locations, or at least I hoped.  Taking away some of our most beloved treats and pastries like the Butterfinger cupcake, giant ice cream cookie sandwich, or the larger-than-life hot cinnamon roll and replacing them with Starbucks pastries would seem incomprehensible.

Let’s move forward to Friday, November 9th.  Disney officially announced the Main St. Bakery and EPCOT’s Fountain View Lounge would become Starbucks locations.  The official Disney blog mentioned and pretty much confirmed these locations would serve Starbucks coffee, pastries, artisan sandwiches, and some of our favorite Disney treats.  For me, losing the Main St. bakery to Starbucks is one thing, but potentially removing some of our favorite pastries and treats is taking it to another level.  Disney fans immediately reacted to the news by taking to social media outlets and expressing their sincere disappointment about losing the iconic Main St. Bakery to Starbucks and their delicious treats and pastries.

After the frustration wore off and reality began to set in I started thinking about the Main St Bakery’s next door neighbor, the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor.  Whether we want to believe it or not, it’s an Edy’s ice cream outlet.  Guests flock into the ice cream parlor everyday for an ice cream treat not giving it a second thought that it’s commercialized with Edy’s brand ice cream.  Will this Starbucks location next door get the same patronage and popularity?  You bet it will.  We may be disappointed with the announcement, but guests will still stop in to enjoy their favorite cup of hot or cold coffee and a Starbucks food item.

But, let’s not panic here!  There is some information we don’t really know for sure.  Although Disney might be removing some of our favorite and beloved treats out of the Main St. Bakery and the Fountain View Lounge at EPCOT it seems they could be relocating them to other outlets inside the parks.  For example, the yummy hot cinnamon rolls are available in Gaston’s Tavern in the Enchanted Forest area of the new Fantasyland.  The giant ice cream cookie will be served at Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square and the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street.  Another possibility is that the current menu at the Main St. Bakery may stay mostly intact.  According to the official Disney Blog, as of today, they said that the Main St. Bakery will still serve the brownies, cookies and seasonal cupcakes that they currently offer.

Like most of you, I really wished they would have picked a different location other than the Main St. Bakery to place a Starbucks, but I can get over it.  I just don’t like the idea of losing our favorite treats at a great location along Main St USA (if that happens).  Eating a warm cinnamon roll while hearing the Main St. Singers when the park opens is really magical.  If Starring Rolls should end up a Starbucks at Hollywood Studios I’ll feel disappointed as well (I love that location), but I’m sure The Writer’s Stop could still serve our favorite pastries or maybe Starring Rolls would keep a lot of their current menu items.

In the end we could possibly see our favorite locations like the Main St. Bakery, Fountain View Lounge, Starring Rolls (rumored), and an Animal Kingdom outlet change their name to Starbucks.  The inside of these locations will look a bit different with non-traditional Starbucks signage, but still keep to the theme around them.  Our favorite pastries and treats could be moved out of these locations and displaced at other eateries throughout the parks, or they could stay in at the same location.  In the end, I guess that will be ok.  What we could lose is the convenience of our favorite treats at one location and eating them in a spot inside the parks that is very magical.

Are you in the mood for a warm cinnamon roll?  Head to the New Fantasyland.  Are you craving a giant ice cream cookie sandwich?  Walk next door to the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor or over to Liberty Square.  I’d love a Butterfinger cupcake.  Let’s go over to the Writer’s Stop.  These are the sacrifices we may have to make.  However, the truth is we really don’t know for sure until the menus are posted.

I know Disney has commercialized the theme park experience even further with the inclusion of Starbucks, but the bit of good news is a good cup of coffee is now available at a convenient location.  Isn’t that what most of us have been wishing for quite some time?  The phrase “Be careful what you ask for” seems to come to mind.  We got what we wanted, but we didn’t get it exactly how we wanted.

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Category: Disney World, Editorials

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  • http://Comcast smithlr

    We love the Main Street Bakery. It has so many good eats that you don’t find elsewhere. I don’t drink coffee, so I don’t care about Starbucks. There are many other places to put Starbucks. Just leave the Main Street Bakery alone.

  • MRZR1

    Change is good!! Let’s all calm down and deal with it. Starbucks is excellent quality coffee and 100% better then Sanka or Nescafe. I am positive that Disney will not put us all in harm’s way by “ruining” the Main Street Bakery. Disney is a high class organization and they know what they are doing – lets trust them like we have for the past 40 plus years.

  • Jeff

    Before Nestle-Nescafe coffee became a sponsor, Walt Disney World had great coffee. Note: there are places at WDW to escape the black tar coffee known as Nescafe, where they roast their own at Starring Rolls, Writer’s Stop and Kona Cafe and others.
    Just like until a decade ago or so, WDW had the greatest bacon in the world, now it is the worst.
    With these exceptions, however, the food at WDW is delightful and an attraction on its own.

  • http://www.TeaWithMcNair.com McNair Wilson

    As a former Disney Imagineer I am always entertained by the outrage from “Disney Purists” who believe that they alone know what should and should NOT be in Disney theme parks. At the same time they fail to realize that the very parks they so love and seek to protect from outside intruders (Starbucks) have ALWAYS had corporate sponsors—from DAY ONE (17 July 1955.) These sponsors—Carnation, Lowry’s, Sunkist, Nestle, Frito-Lay and numerous biggies, like GE, GM, Coke, Pepsi, Kodak, FedEx, Goodyear—all have made Disney parks possible. As for the “D-Purists” concerns about Starbucks et al sullying the flawless look of Disneyland and others by “commercialisng” the parks, the Walt Disney Co., Inc. IS a huge COMMERCIAL enterprise.

    I have been a part of numerous decision-making meetings at Imagineering and the Studio when we were considering all sorts of “corporate partnerships” for restaurants and other in-park shops and attractions. Everyone of those potential partners was keenly aware that all design decision were ultimately DISNEY’S alone. This includes menu offerings, and selection of every element from floor tiles to ceiling fans. GREAT EXAMPLE: the new Starbucks on “Buena Vista Street” in California Adventurs. There actually are a couple of “Starbucks” logo’s on the exterior of this very large new eatery, but the place is highly themed (including cast member costumes themed to the 1930′s) and the place is called “Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe” (a reference to Disney’s big hit cartoon of that era “Three Little Pigs.”)

    So, let’s all calm down and trust Imagineers, and others, to craft places that fit seamlessly into each park—whether is is Starbucks or the new Victoria Secret shop in Fantasyland ((just kidding).

    But DO let park operations know no to discontinue your favorite cupcake. They real do appreciate that input.

  • RawPaw75

    Having visited the Main Street Bakery on a number of occasions with my family and tasted some delightful treats, the news of the Starbucks takeover was quite a shock. The thought of no longer standing in front of the cabinets wondering which cake or pastry to have whilst holding up the queue is a sad one. However, I guess change has to come to all things eventually. The introduction of a great brand of coffee will be very welcome. Hopefully the interior won’t be modified too much as it will still need to be in keeping with the ‘old style’ look of Main Street. I was glad to read about my favourite Cinnamon Rolls being kept on, even though it’s in a new location. Let’s hope the change is a good one and meets with our approval – I’m sure it will.

  • BriarRosie

    I planned to reserve judgement until the renovation is finished. I thought that making the change would be fine if the general theming doesn’t take away from the rest of Main Street, and they still serve some of the favorites. Granted, the bakery has taken away popular items, like the French toast loaf. People moaned and groaned about that for ages. I am glad the coffee will be changing.

    As for Fountain View, I’m thrilled they are changing the place back to a coffee shop. I was truly bummed when it went to an Edy’s ice cream venue. I used to go there for a sweet roll and coffee first thing in the morning, and now I’ll be able to do so again.

  • jkredman

    My main desire is to see Main Street USA keep it charm. As for Starbucks itself, I like Starbucks. I like Starbucks coffee and I often use their locations as a temporary office. So I guess my one request is that this Starbucks NOT provide Wi-Fi. I visit WDW to hide from the office. Help me keep it that way.

  • jets2008

    In response to McNair Wilson, above, the former imagineer:
    You, better than anyone else, should know this isnt a matter of “Disney purists” complaining, but rather, something that has been passed on from Walt Disney himself. Disneyland and now Disney World (especially the Magic Kingdom)was developed to be different than any other theme or amusement park. It was created to transport all people to a different place and time, at least for a little while, a much slower, relaxed and simpler time. Main Street does exactly that. To transform Main Street into mothing more than separate franchises, like Starbucks, completely demolishes that principle of Main Street and it becomes any other place. While it is true Disney has always utilized corporate sponsers (they could not affors the park without such), thta is different than placing a franchise within the parks. Having a ride sponsered by GM or Goodyear is not the same as placing a GM dealership or a tire store within the park. The Disney corporate number crunchers did not announce that Starbucks was to sponsor the bakery; they announced it will become a Starbucks. While they may be slightly backtracking from that decision, it does not change the fact that corporate did not, for one second, contemplate the feeling most people have when they visit “The Happiest Place on Earth.” And that is really a shame!.

  • http://www.richhill.k12.mo.us DisDug71

    Lurker no more. That’s right, this story has prompted me to reply, not just read and enjoy. And with that information comes my thoughts and feelings:
    Does anyone have a sketch or artist’s rendering of what the “new” bakery/coffee house will look like? Because that could be a game changer for me. If this change is executed like the “new” Tomorrowland was, God help us all because it’s going to look like cr*p if that happens.

    Right now I’m of two minds. Main Street is Main Street circa 1900, therefore the Main Street Bakery, no matter how odd in layout (a square room with a flat counter, really, that’s the best design you could come up with?) is to be preserved and refreshed or enhanced over time, not “flipped” like a 1960′s ranch on one of those home/garden TV shows.

    And yet the addition of _real_ coffee, no matter the brand (Starbucks, Duncan Donuts, Seattle’s Best, Caribou, etc.) is welcome comfort in an overpriced coke and bottled water haven. And if a little redesign is what it takes to satisfy my caffeine addiction, I may, repeat _may_ be okay with the outcome, providing it isn’t like visiting a quaint, historic old town square somewhere and seeing the “modern” bank building built in the 1970s sticking out like a hideous sore thumb.

    Don’t mess with my escapist back-in-time moment, and give me that steaming hot cup of latte goodness while you’re at it.

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