By Michael Black

As we begin to wrap up another run of EPCOT’s International Food and Wine Festival, I felt compelled to share some of my feelings about the event. Each year that goes by I become a little more jaded about the festival.  I don’t know if I attribute this to the fact that my patience in general is a little lacking from previous years or if it truly is taking a turn for the worse. I would like to take a minute to describe the top 5 reasons I believe to be the cause of my  frustration and also explain why none of these reasons matter at all in the grand scheme of things.

FW3#1 Crowded

If you are heading out to EPCOT Thursday thru Sunday during the Food and Wine Festival you might as well forget about having a carefree stroll around World Showcase. It is a test of endurance just to get through one pavilion, let alone enjoy yourself through the 11 pavilions that World Showcase provides. 

Why it doesn’t matter

To complain about crowds at Walt Disney World is ridiculous.  There will always be crowds and that is just something that everyone understands. At this time EPCOT really doesn’t have a whole lot to offer and The International Food and Wine Festival breathes new life into the park.  I hear people talk about how much they are looking forward to the event, how much fun they had, and I see the evidence of this on social media when I visit the park.  The fact that the crowds frustrate me is not important as long as other park guests have no problem with it.  Disney can find a way to grab more cash to further any future projects that may be underway.  A win/win really. If I don’t like the heat then I just need to stay out of the kitchen.

#2 There are Booths EVERYWHERE

Every year I believe Disney finds a new spot for Food and Wine Booths.  This year they took over a space that in previous years was a nice play area for children to relocate the country of “Cheese” and decided to use The Odyssey as a tribute to Craft Beer to name just a few.  I feel that these booths take away from the overall feel of World Showcase and ruin a little bit of the “show”, not to mention the fact that it adds to my #1 point in allowing less space for the larger crowds to maneuver.

Why it doesn’t matter

People love these booths!  They plunk down tons of cash on a gift card that goes on their wrist so that they can easily spend their money at the next booth.  The lines are crazy long at each booth. The lines that I have seen look to need wait times attached to them.  Adding more booths is just a matter of adding capacity to shorten all of the other lines.  Disney would not add booths without doing everything that they could to ensure that they matched the pavilion in which they were housed and that the impact that they would have on the overall experience would be minimal. Everyone else is ok with the booths, so we will move on.

FW1#3 Very Small and Overpriced Food and Wine Offerings

It would not take long for someone to blow through $50 at these booths and still be hungry.  If grocery stores or restaurants outside of Disney were to charge these prices for this small of a portion people would go crazy.  Not to mention that we are talking about food in paper cups and trays that you have to eat standing up in the Florida heat.  These are not 5-star dining conditions.  I once paid almost $6 for a piece of lasagna that took 2 bites to eat.

Why it doesn’t matter

Guest are not paying for the food, they are paying for variety. When you sit down at a restaurant or even order at your favorite drive-thru the menus have been carefully selected to provide value to the customer but also profit for the restauranteur.  When you limit the amount of items it is very easy to keep costs down by needing less ingredients, etc.  The amount of options that are available for guests to try at the International Food and Wine Festival cause the prices to need to be a bit higher.  Not to mention it is a bit more labor intensive to serve smaller portions to a larger amount of people.  The biggest reason goes hand in hand with #1 and #2, people will pay it and are excited to do so on a large scale.  Disney could more than likely charge even more and guests would pay.

#4 Larger Number of Intoxicated Guests

This past weekend we went to Food and Wine to enjoy the evening and take in the Eat to the Beat concert.  As we were struggling to make our way through World Showcase to get to the American Experience Pavilion which is home to the American Garden Theater my 12 year old was run over by an overly intoxicated guest.  This man plowed right into my son and as my son stayed upright this man basically bear hugged him so that he (the guest) would not fall over. My 12 year old became the stability for this grown man. This upset my son to the point of tears and angered me and my wife as parents.  EPCOT is always a place where there is a large amount of drinking but during The Food and WINE festival it is exponentially worse.  You can just smell the alcohol in the air as you walk around.

Why it doesn’t matter

Walt Disney World is thought of as a place that is for children.  There is not even alcohol allowed at Magic Kingdom Park except in one restaurant.  For this reason adults get a chip on their shoulder and want to know where they can go to have fun and by have fun I guess they mean to drink themselves silly.  They are on vacation right?  EPCOT has become that place because of the amount of alcohol available there and the fact that EPCOT is not the most kid friendly park so the adults don’t have to feel as guilty partying it up there.  Name an event “Food and WINE” and you give guests yet another reason to live it up and not worry about the consequences.  I would assume that these guests believe that my family has no business being at EPCOT during the festival and anything that happens would be a result of bad parenting on my part to expose them to that environment.  For this reason my frustration doesn’t matter.

FW2#5 Takes a notoriously kid-unfriendly park and makes it even more kid-unfriendly

EPCOT is not the 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd park that I hear mentioned as a Walt Disney World park that parents are excited to take their children.  On more than one occasion I have heard parents say that they were skipping EPCOT altogether.  I normally would argue with this because I think that there is plenty for children to do at EPCOT, but anyone who attends the International Food and Wine Festival would quickly realize all of their initial fears of the park.  This reason is a combination of the previous four and makes the park extremely kid-unfriendly. Large crowds working their way through more confined spaces while intoxicated doesn’t really scream kid-friendly.

Why it doesn’t matter

Kids have so much more at Walt Disney World that is for them.  Parents of young children have nothing to complain about because the amount of kid-friendly at Walt Disney World is through the roof. If you have young children you should know better than to even think about going to EPCOT during the International Food and Wine Festival.  If you are planning a trip and would like to expose your children to the culture and educational aspects of World Showcase, there are many other times of the year to schedule your trip.  Locals such as us really have no argument because we can just stay away until after the festival is over.  Let everyone else have their fun. Look at the bright side, maybe there will be less crowds in other parks with that many people waiting in line for their Food and Wine.

There you have it, my 5 reasons why EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival is frustrating and why it doesn’t matter.  Many guests may feel the same way I do, but an overwhelming majority of guests do not.  For that reason I will deal with the frustrations.  If I decide that it is something that I would like to experience and I will, and stay away if not.  I am glad that so many people enjoy the festival but the only thing I can say that I enjoy are the concerts.  This event is one of the most popular events at Walt Disney World and I am sure that it will continue to be.  My opinion of Food and Wine may change as my children grow older and my frame of reference changes.  I certainly hope so, because I would love to see what everyone else seems to see.

Michael Black