With Disney facing a super weird summer and fall (most likely), we’re thinking the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival will look different than it has in previous years.
Since its inaugural year in 1995, the Epcot Food and Wine Festival has continued to grow in size and popularity. It’s an annual event that many Disney fans (us included!) look forward to exploring year after year.
But it seems likely that the festival will undergo some changes this year. We’ve seen the health and safety measures that were implemented with the reopening of Shanghai Disneyland and Disney Springs. So, how might the Food and Wine Festival be different?
While we’re still waiting on an official announcement from Disney regarding the kick-off date for the Food and Wine Festival, in years past, it has started in late August. Here are some of the changes we could see at the festival this year.
Changes to the Ordering Process at Food Booths
If you’ve been to Epcot during the Food and Wine Festival, then you’ve seen first-hand how crazy-long the Food Booth lines can get — and guests are packed into those queues tight! If physical distance is still a focus by the time the festival begins, then Disney will likely need to adjust the process for ordering at the booths.
One solution that might be used is line spacing like we’ve seen throughout Disney Springs locations, which shows guests where to stand.
We could also see the use of mobile order expanded to the Food Booths. While many of the counter service restaurants in Disney World allow guests to mobile order from their phone without waiting in line, it hasn’t been used at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival booths before. BUT, the festivals at Disney California Adventure DO utilize the mobile order system already, and it seems to be pretty successful. So, Disney World could opt to go this route as well to cut down on the need for queues.
In previous years, forks, knives, and spoons have been available in self-serve dispensers near the booths. Since this is a high-touch point for guests, there’s a chance the self-service cutlery system could be adjusted this year. Instead, Cast Members may hand out utensils to guests along with the menu item they ordered.
We could also see Disney encourage guests to bring their own reusable flatware. We’ve seen bamboo utensils offered as part of the Festival merchandise last year, so it’s possible this could be expanded this year. That way, there wouldn’t be a need to touch cutlery that had already been handled by someone else.
Want to see all of our favorite menu items from the 2019 Food and Wine Festival? Click here for our Best of the Fest list!
Tables are a hot commodity at Epcot festivals — it already feels like there aren’t enough of them and we often see guests using trash cans as make-shift tables (VERY guilty of this too!). If distancing requirements still keep people six feet apart, we could see even fewer tables at the festival this year — or none at all!
Tables would be a high priority item for constant cleaning and sanitizing. With that in mind, more custodial Cast Members would be needed in order to closely monitor and sanitize the tables after each use. Across all of Epcot, that could equal a LOT more custodial Cast Members!
In Disney Springs, many locations are encouraging their customers to use contactless payments, including Wine Bar George in Disney Springs. Mobile order would allow for easy contactless payment, as guests are charged through the credit card tied to their account. But if cash registers are still utilized, we’ll likely see guests encouraged to pay using their MagicBand, or another touchless payment method.
On the other side of the transaction, we could also see a shift towards emailed receipts. Many retailers offer the option to email a receipt to their customers, so Disney could consider a similar measure to remove another point of contact (plus, less paper waste!).
Check out the full list of Food Booth menus (and photos!) from the 2019 Epcot Food and Wine Festival!
Festival Special Events and Seminars
The Food and Wine Festival also gives guests the opportunity to dive deeper into the culinary arts with seminars, demonstrations, and special events like the Party for the Senses. Social distancing requirements could trigger changes to these events including reduced capacity and staggered seating.
The high-contact elements of some events could also be removed — in other words, we might not see book signings or chef meet-and-greets like we have at previous festivals.
Eat to the Beat Concert Series
One of the popular festival events that guests flock to every year is the Eat to the Beat Concert Series held in the American Adventure Pavilion. This is another case where we could see reduced capacity at each concert. Given the popularity of these events, that also calls into question how Disney would manage attendance.
Disney offers Eat to the Beat Dining Packages that include guaranteed seating at the concert, so they could allow only guests with a dining package to enter. If standby seating is still offered, Disney might implement a virtual queue system to distribute remaining seats.
Click here for more info on the Eat to the Beat Concert Series — including the 2020 performers that have been announced so far!
Fewer Guests in the Park
The Food and Wine Festival can get intensely crowded. Disney might have to cap attendance at a lower number to ensure social distancing can be maintained.
The Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force has suggested that large theme parks reopen at no more than 50% capacity during Phase 1 and 75% capacity during Phase 2. Phases are a moving target based on the progression of case numbers, so it’s unclear where Food and Wine will fall in this. But this backs up the possibility of capped attendance.
If total attendance is reduced, it could possibly be easier for Disney to manage limited capacity at festival events like seminars, demonstrations, and the Eat to the Beat concerts.
Read more about the reopening guidelines suggested by the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force here
At Disney Springs, currently the only part of Disney World that is open, face masks are required for both guests and Cast Members. By the time Food and Wine rolls around, masks might still be required.
While guests are permitted to take their masks off to eat, it could be problematic for Disney to enforce this policy throughout the festival with so many guests strolling around.
We look forward to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival every year. But this year, there will likely be some significant changes to the way the event is run. We’ll keep an eye on how the phased reopening of Disney Springs progresses and of course, we’re on the lookout for any official announcements from Disney.
What changes do you expect to see at Food and Wine this year? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!