Hungry guests at Walt Disney's (DIS 0.17%) Florida resort have a new place to conquer their rumbling bellies, and Toy Story fans will finally get a table service experience. Roundup Rodeo BBQ officially opens on Tuesday at Disney's Hollywood Studios, a welcome addition to the always busy Toy Story Land. Most of the initial reservations were quickly snapped up when they became available last month.
True to its name, barbecue is the cuisine of choice at the Toy Story-themed experience. There won't be actual characters from the iconic Pixar franchise making the rounds to meet sauce-faced fans, but it doesn't mean that guests aren't paying a premium to take in the family style fare. Disney is charging anyone older than nine $45 for the experience. Younger patrons pay $25 (or nothing at all if they are less than 3 years old). Even with its seemingly stiff cover charge, Disney isn't going to have a problem filling its tables. The world's most popular theme park operator is going to make even more money now.
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I was able to go behind the scenes last week, chatting with story imagineer Geoff Line and Disney chef Jerry Gonzalez to get a feel for the new eatery. The setting is Andy's backyard where he has set up his toys for a rodeo competition. There are no costumed characters, but colorful life-sized props and occasional audio clips voiced by the franchise stars will keep everyone entertained between the forkfuls.
Speaking of forkfuls, the meals are served family style. All tables get the same plate of cheddar biscuits and three bowls of starters. A large plate of four barbecued meats -- or four plant-based offerings, if requested -- follows. Guests choose four of eight available appetizers, and then each diner gets a dessert.
If you read my Rodeo Roundup BBQ overview through the eyes of a potential diner, flip the script and approach it as a Disney shareholder. This new restaurant is going to be a high-turnover machine. It could've charged $10 more a head and had cast members don Woody, Buzz, and Jesse costumes, but that would only keep diners at the table for 90 minutes or more until all of their favorite characters came around.
There's also a method to the family style madness. Food can arrive quickly when every table gets the same first few rounds. The waitstaff can focus on upselling the premium-priced signature beverages. There's no lull of finicky patrons taking forever to browse through a traditional menu. No one is going to be rushed out of Andy's backyard, but it's easy to see folks spending half the time here as they would in the park's other popular table service establishments. It should be one of the resort's most lucrative restaurants, and that can only help Disney's booming theme park operations.
Disney's modest but better-than-expected 8% revenue growth in its latest quarter was fueled almost entirely by its theme parks and consumer products segment. Consumers aren't flinching at higher prices for the escape from reality that national theme parks and regional amusement parks are offering. It's a good time for leisure stocks, and it will remain that way as long as the economy doesn't get a snake in its boots.