There's a new restaurant coming to Disney's (NYSE:DIS) least visited theme park. The new eatery at Disney's Hollywood Studios is rat-themed, but surprisingly not to Pixar's hit Ratatouille. When PizzeRizzo opens in the fall, a pizzeria based on the wisecracking rat character from the now Disney-owned Muppets franchise will give guests at the park a new place to eat. It replaces the old Pizza Planet restaurant and video-game arcade.
A quick-service venue paying homage to a rodent may seem like an unsavory notion. It conjures up images of health code violations at worst, or at best Pizza Rat, the subway rodent that starred in a viral video after working its way down a subway stairwell with a slice of pizza. However, this is Disney. It all started with a mouse, and some of the resort's most expensive mealtime offerings are character dining experiences where Mickey and Minnie visit tables for photo opportunities. Why wouldn't a rat take the baton?
It's going to be a long way back for Disney's Hollywood Studios
The theme park can certainly use the two-story pizzeria with expansive indoor and outdoor seating. It closed one high-volume quick-service restaurant and several food kiosks earlier this year to make room for the upcoming Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land expansions, and those areas won't open again for several years. A lot of rides, shows, and attractions have also closed down to make room for the new areas. Those voids may be harder to stomach than a lack of eateries, but it adds insult to injury when folks need a place to eat at a very incomplete park at the moment.
Animal Kingdom overtook Disney's Hollywood Studios to become the resort's third most visited theme park in 2010, according to industry tracker Themed Entertainment Association, something that made the movie-themed destination dead last among Disney World's four parks. It's been that way ever since. It slipped out of medal contention long before iconic attractions including Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure, Studio Backlot Tour, and Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show closed down.
The park has been longing for something fresh for ages, and the next couple of years until either Toy Story Land or Star Wars Land begins, dazzling guests will be difficult. Massive chunks of the park are now walled off for a park that was already struggling. A new Star Wars-themed fireworks show and expanding the capacity of one of its few remaining rides are appreciated developments, but unlikely to be enough to drum up turnstile clicks or extend vacation plans.
It also doesn't help that Disney World attendance trends turned negative earlier this year. The park's attendance has increased by 11.6% over the past six years, according to Themed Entertainment Association. That may not seem so problematic, but it lags the growth at Central Florida's more popular parks. It's also becoming very likely that attendance at Disney's Hollywood Studios will decline in 2016. The perfect storm of a dip in international visitors and Disney's own ill-timed spike in ticket prices will pinch the media giant's lucrative theme-park business.
The fall arrival of PizzeRezzo is a smart addition that extends the reach of the Muppets courtyard, but it may be the only place making more dough at Disney's Hollywood Studios this year.