Walt Disney Parks and Resorts are known for many things - family entertainment, impressive rides, even quality fine dining. But beer? Not the first thing that comes to mind, but that may be because you weren’t paying attention.
Winner of the 2014 Vibe Vista Award for best beer program in the hotel, casino and cruise line segment, Disney now estimates that about half their impressive beverage sales come from beer, according to Stuart McGuire, food and beverage concept director and beverage director for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
“Unique attributes of our program include great American craft beer selections and more Cicerone Certified Beer Servers than any other single site employer. These distinctions helps us differentiate our program and ensure a great experience for beer lovers, from novice drinkers to beer connoisseurs and everyone in between.”
Disney boosted that awareness among the various food and beverage managers through their inaugural Craft Beer Expo, wherein about 150 of them were gathered to taste more than 50 American craft brews pre-selected by execs for potential inclusion on menus. As a result, regional beers have been added where it makes sense; units in Florida, for example feature East Coast and local brews from such suppliers as Cigar City and Abita, among others. Beer flights, rotating tap handles and seasonal specialties, even selections of organic brews, have been warmly received.
The beer program has also been advanced with a new menu format, one that categorizes beer according to style, with informative descriptions including location and alcohol by volume. Each operator can pick from a selection of about 30 beers each quarter to add to their seasonal list as well.
Training of staff has been incorporated as an on-going initiative; all servers undergo annual training, but since including a voluntary Cicerone training program, more than 130 U.S. based Disney personnel have been certified.
The results are impressive: an increase in beer sales last year by more than 16 percent. “We feel like we have reached all of our objectives with an exciting beer program that is unparalleled in terms of its diversity and breadth of offerings, making Disney a world-class beer destination,” says McGuire. And the VIBE Vista judges clearly agreed.