- Name of Restaurant:
- Boatwright's Dining Hall
- This is the in-hotel restaurant for the Port Orleans Riverside Hotel, one of the many resorts on the Walt Disney World property in Orlando, FL. The hotel is $200/night and up, and the entrees were $12 minimum, averaging about $15, maxing out at $20. Figure that the PPA is probably $22-$25.
- Your waiter:
- Speed of service: [9 then 2]
- Lacking. They set us up a table quickly, and had us seated in under 2 minutes. It was 6:30-ish and at the time we sat down we were the only table in that particular dining room, so the speediness here isn't saying much. But, the service after that was ... less than energetic.
- Accuracy of service: 
- Everything we ordered came out as ordered, with the exception of a carafe of regular soda that should have been diet. However, see the Comments section for a detailing of the horrendous ordering ordeal.
- Attention: 
- Barely Minimal. There was no "How does everything taste?" check-in, and in fact we did not see our server for a good 30 minutes after the entrees were delivered. Also, our server only delivered 1 of the 8 plates, the rest were delivered by someone else. Our server was not visibly busy, but the layout of the restaurant prevented us from seeing if she was busy with other tables in other sections. Another server who had several tables in our section bussed our entree dishes after we had been done for a good 10 minutes, and did the dessert suggestive selling. We declined, and a few minutes later our server came out, bussed one last plate, and again asked if we wanted dessert, apparently oblivious to the other server's efforts.
- Personality: 
- Again, minimal. We were all in a good mood, having just enjoyed a day at Disney, and our server just did not pick up any cues to try to join in on our fun. She didn't even ask how our day at the theme parks went. (Which, honestly, I would figure would be the first question to pretty much every table at a restaurant in a Disney resort.) I'm not saying she needed to join in our revelry, but she made absolutely no attempt to match or work with our mood.
- Aesthetic: 
- Very nice. No complaints here.
- I've never had a worse dining experience.
First, a little background. I live in Orlando and am a waiter at a local restaurant. My girlfriend also works in the industry, as do my sister and her husband, all three of which were there. The other 4 people were also relatives of mine, on vacation from up north for 3 days of Disney. Figure $900+ for theme park tickets for all of us, plus another $800 worth of hotel rooms, and add on even more for other meals over the course of the vacation, and we're dropping a ton of money at Disney. We're not asking to have our feet washed while we eat or anything, but after $2,000+ spent and looking at another $200 for this dinner, we at least expect decent service. No such luck.
Starting off, the host was visually dismayed when we told him we were a party of 8. Not in a Deanna Troi "I think he's hiding something, Captain" kind of subtle way, but with a large frown and a sneer. There was no line or wait, so it's not like we were holding anyone up, nor did we have anyone under 16 in our party, nor were we loud or disorderly or in any way disruptive. Quite the contrary, we were all in good spirits after having a fun day in the parks. I blew off the host's attitude, but it should have been my first clue.
They had us seated quickly, just taking a half minute to push two tables together for us. (The section with the larger tables was 10 feet away, but was apparently closed off. We were still in a good mood at this point, so we didn't think much of it.) Polly, our server, took our drink orders while we pored over the menu. Trying to save her a trip, I told her which appetizer we'd want when I gave her my drink order. I asked the other end of the table if they also wanted an appetizer, and when they hedged for 10-15 seconds, a very dismayed look crept onto Polly's face. Again, I blew it off.
The menu had only a few items (maybe a dozen) but with a wide variety, which you would expect given the prices. Unfortunately, there weren't any simple chicken or pasta dishes for the picky eaters. The kids' menu had simple stuff, so 3 people at our table just decided to order off that. When the drinks came back, someone asked if we could order off the kids' menu and was told flatly that we could not. Being in the industry, and working at a restaurant with a similar policy, I understand why such rules are in place. I don't agree with them at all, but I understand them. My dad took it in stride and casually told the Polly that those 3 people would just not order anything, seeing as how there wasn't anything on the menu they would even come close to eating, and pop over to the smaller restaurant next door and grab some food there and bring it back. No big deal. (This is inside a hotel, remember.) Polly seemed horrified by this notion, and instead voiced her abhorrence of the stupid rule, and zipped off to chase down a manager to talk it over with us.
The manager who came out looked like a KM or maybe AKM, but wasn't really dressed like a FOH manager. My father pointed out that we were ordering 5 other entrees as well as appetizers, and we'd be willing to pay a surcharge or whatever, we just wanted to be able to have everyone at the table eating. The manager relented and said he'd send Polly back out to retake the order. There would, of course, be some sort of upcharge for making them "adult-sized". We'd never asked for, nor wanted, a change of portion size, but we just went with it. He zipped back into the kitchen.
Polly came back out a minute later and started to retake the 3 orders. One wanted the kids' shrimp, no problem, just an extra charge for the adult size. (Whatever!) But, the other two still could not be reordered, as they wanted the kids' grilled cheese, which had no adult-size version. (???) Polly was completely unwilling to even suggest an alternative, no matter how many times we said we didn't care how she worked it or what the upcharge was. In the end they just ordered the item on the (adult) menu that seemed least offensive to them, a 4-cheese ravioli dish. We were starting to get annoyed, and some at the table were downright embarassed that we had to get a manager and jump through so many hoops just to order the food off the menus. (I was the only one at the table that had an exception to my order, as I wanted a baked potato with my entree instead of cheese grits. Everything else was ordered without any substitutions.) But, again we moved on and went back to having a good time talking about our day.
The food came out fairly quickly (under 10 minutes) and was exactly what we had finally nailed down as an order. The "adult-size" shrimp ended up being a dozen medium shrimp and the rest of the 12-inch plate filled with fries. Disappointing, but we just snarked at it and moved on, determined to enjoy our meal. The ravioli, while I thought it was quite good, was indeed a bit too potent for the people that had ordered it, so they ate it slowly and picked at it. The rest of us really enjoyed our entrees.
Time passed and there was no sign of Polly. Thankfully, she had left a few carafes of drinks, so we didn't actually need her for anything. We finished our meals and continued to chat. About 10 minutes after the last of us had finished (me, as I helped to finish off the unwanted ravioli), another server who had a few other tables in the section came over to bus our dishes for us. (Technically, with so many food service folks at the table, we already had everything in piles, so she really just had to take the piles.) We had talked to her earlier, as she had passed with a dessert tray and we had asked about it. She followed up on that and asked if we wanted desserts, but we were all full, and quite frankly our irritation level was enough that we weren't willing to spend any more money there. We declined (nicely) and she went off to get us a to-go box for the leftover fries and to find Polly for us to get our check.
Polly came out several minutes later. (The other server had brought out the to-go box almost immediately.) She bussed the last plate, and immediately launched into a cold sell for desserts. We mentioned that the other server had already asked, and again declined. Polly went off to print our check for us. She returned a minute later, dropped off the check and did her usual disappearing job without saying much of anything. A few of us had been taking odds on whether or not she was going to add the gratuity to the check, and indeed she had. We were dismayed that she hadn't pointed this out to us, but then admitted that we don't always point it out to our customers when we do it.
While looking for the grat we noticed something else: they had charged us for the salmon entree (the most expensive entree at $20) in lieu of the kids' shrimp ($5). When Polly came back we asked about this, and she nodded and said that was the upcharge, as there was no way to ring in "adult shrimp" and since they were both seafood that's what she did. We just wanted to get out of there and be rid of the place, so we paid and left without making any more hassle. That was the final straw, however.
We left the restaurant and marched straight to the Guest Services desk to relay our tale. The manager there ended up taking off something like $5-$10 off the bill, or the difference between double-charging the shrimp instead of calling it a salmon entree. (Easy to do, since it was all charged to the room anyway.) We repeatedly said that it wasn't about the money, it was about the stupid rule and the horrible service, but we seriously doubt anything will ever be done about it. (The total check was something like $180, so we weren't exactly blown away by the generous offer, either.)
I constantly say how much I hate the Disney machine and how horrible they are, but every now and then I put a toe in to test the waters, get it bitten off by a shark, and am reminded why I feel that way towards them. I honestly don't think I've ever had a worse dining experience.