Many of the great photos on this review are courtesy of Krista Joy from Disneyways.com! Please visit her and help support this great blogger. She made my day by taking photos while I enjoyed learning all about this kiosk!
|Yours truly at the grand opening of the Food Allergy Information Kiosk at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park|
Today was truly one of those magical days at the Walt Disney World Resort. As a guest with a special diet, I can’t tell you how thrilled I was for the grand opening of a new Food Allergy Information Kiosk at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. As someone who navigates the resort gluten & dairy free (and with Crohn’s disease), it’s certainly wonderful to see that Disney is adding these new kiosks to improve special diets services to guests in the parks & resorts. When I heard that the opening was taking place on Sunday, August 4th, I knew I had to be there! And it did not disappoint. I got there bright and early at rope drop to check it all out! And while other guests were busily heading to Expedition Everest or the Kilimanjaro Safari, I was heading to the new kiosk, called the Garden Kiosk. It is open daily from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. which is fantastic for Disney guests!
|Welcome to the kiosk!|
The kiosk was a little tricky to find, but now that I know where it is at, I’ll be sure to head there. If you are on Discovery Island, head to It’s Tough to Be a Bug and keep going straight. To the far side of ITTBAB, you’ll see a whole section of kiosks and that’s where the new Garden Kiosk is. You’ll see the prominently displayed sign that says, “Allergy Dining Tips.” and lots of special diets pre-packaged products. Friendly cast members will be on hand to assist you as well–both with your food purchase and for tips, tricks and assistance in your Disney dining experiences.
|Note many items are on the Disney Dining Plan as a snack credit|
The first thing you notice is the sign. Guests can purchase a variety of snack options here at the kiosk. Pretty much everything is gluten free and dairy free. If you have a question about a product, ask a cast member and they’ll be able to help you with ingredients. They are also currently having a basket of items that are available for purchase at the kiosk, so you can check the ingredients as well.
|Variety of snacks|
I was super excited to see a couple of my favorite companies here at the kiosk. Enjoy Life Foods & Babycakes NYC. ELF is available at many locations throughout the parks & resorts and the great thing about them is they cover the top common allergens. And they’re tasty too! And of course, we all know and love Babycakes NYC for their terrific variety of gluten free & food allergy friendly items all made in a dedicated facility right at Downtown Disney–so you’re getting lots of yummy fresh baked goods from them. On the grand opening day, they had the mini cupcakes 4 packs as well as the Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yum! I would love to see them increase the products they have at this location (can you say a potential satellite Babycakes stand?!) Update: On my second visit, I noticed they had the crunchy ELF cookies individually wrapped (which was nice) and some additional flavors of the Lundberg Rice Chips.
|UPDATE: Notice the Fiesta Lime & Honey Dijon Rice Chip Flavors & the ELF Crunch Chocolate Chip Cookies!|
|Chocolate Chip Cookie|
|Enjoy Life Cookies|
Another item that they had on the menu is gluten free beer. It’s fortunate and unfortunate because it’s Omission Beer. While Omission is quite delicious (having personally had it personally)–many folks are quite uncomfortable drinking this beer choice because it is made traditionally (with wheat) and then has the gluten removed. Though it does carry the standard of having 20 ppm or less, many folks don’t feel it’s worth taking that risk (nor can I blame them!). That being said, I did mention to the cast members that perhaps they could consider providing a couple of different GF beer options. Update: When I spoke to CM Andrea on 9/21/13 she said that they are switching from Omission Beer to Redbridge & Angry Orchard Hard Cider in the near future. I think this will certainly make most folks feel more comfortable, though personally I’m not much of a fan of Redbridge. I will definitely enjoy an Angry Orchard Hard Cider though. I’d like to see some great GF beer brands like New Planet or Bard’s.
As it happened while I was at the kiosk, I was extremely lucky and thrilled to meet several Disney cast members who were instrumental in making this kiosk happen. Alex and Brandon both worked in execution and training throughout the park and Chef Michael was the mastermind behind the kiosk. And what a treat it was to chat with them and to have them give me the grand tour, sample items and even take photos. They answered all of my questions and then some. I learned a great deal about the inception of this kiosk and how they made the magic come alive for guests with special diets. CM Alex was so thrilled when I introduced myself and he made sure to introduce me to Chef Michael, Brandon and several other key Disney CMs. They were really glad that someone was not only excited about the kiosk but wanting to know more info and to share it with others. This was as much of a big day for them as it was for me!
|Cast members Alex, Chef Michael, and Brandon — true dream makers!|
Chef Michael came up with this idea about a year ago. As one of the chefs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, he and the Disney Company are seeing (as we know!) an increase in food allergies and sensitivities and other special diets which are being requested by guests. Chef Michael really wanted to see a new more efficient way to reach out to guests with dietary needs to help them make more informed choices when dining in the AK park. His idea for a small kiosk has turned into this amazing new Food Allergy Information Kiosk! One of his goals is to increase awareness about special diets and to improve the guests experience as a special diets diner. This was a huge undertaking for the Walt Disney World Resort and it took a year to make this kiosk happen from start to finish. And it’s not done yet! The launch of this kiosk is test that may potentially turn into other kiosks at the other parks. Update: As of right now, there’s no indication that they will have food allergy kiosks in other parks, but the good news is that it’s looking like the one in AK is staying for the time being! One of the things Chef Michael is hoping to see is a dedicated line queue in each quick service location at DAK for special diets. He says this helps guests know where to go and have a dedicated team working with them in addition to getting resource information at the allergy information kiosk. I love this idea. It’d be nice to go to a line, have someone on hand and have the Disney CM team all know that your food is dietary automatically. Plus it’d be great to chat with others with special diets while you’re waiting in line. I hope this part of his idea comes to fruition! But, in order for these great ideas to happen Disney does need your feedback and patronage at the food allergy info kiosk. Come, visit–check it out and give them feedback! By giving your feedback and telling Disney what you like and don’t like will help them improve and perhaps make even bigger changes to the kiosk. Maybe one day they’ll have freshly prepared food as opposed to pre-packaged items! The sky is the limit if this is a success. And I have no doubt that it will be.
Chef Michael truly is passionate about this kiosk and you can tell when he talks about it. Even though he had many other tasks, he took time out of his schedule to chat with me and personally show me around the kiosk and show me the products, as well as the allergy binders. Truly remarkable.
|Allergy binder tour|
One of the other great cast members on hand was Brandon. Brandon would be there all day coordinating and making sure guests had a terrific experience from start to finish. And while many of the cast members in the kiosk assisted with certain dietary questions and purchases, Brandon was there to make sure that a guest dining in the theme park had a magical meal. In fact, during this test launch he was personally escorting guests on grand opening day to their restaurant destination (if it was immediately after visiting the kiosk). Talk about service! While we joked he was a Disney stalker for the day, truly the fact that Disney CMs want to make sure that your experience is exceptional is terrific. This is just another extra step in making sure this kiosk and special diets service is exceptional. Though I can’t imagine this will happen every time you go to the kiosk, I can imagine that Disney will come up with creative ways to find out if your experience was terrific.
|Brandon to the right–making Disney magic happen!|
Speaking of terrific service–I want to give a big shout-out to those cast members working the kiosk. As I learned from talking to these ladies, they really have gone above and beyond to learn about special diets and train.
|Jayme & Andrea, cast members extraordinaire!|
Both Andrea & Jayme have gone through extensive food allergy training. In fact, prior to the kiosk, they actually worked specifically with special diets in the parks at other locations where they received training. Once they were moved to the kiosk, they received additional special diets training. I found them to be extremely knowledgeable in food allergies and intolerances which was terrific. You can tell that they both really enjoy what they are doing and working with Disney guests.
Andrea was kind enough to go through not only the sheets but also the grab and go pamphlets that they provide. When you arrive at the kiosk, they do carry sheets labeled, “Allergy Friendly Dining Tips” (see HERE for a copy)
Update: While I will say that I like this type of grab and go sheet, it doesn’t cover all allergens. I had previously noted here on the blog that this wasn’t an accurate sheet. When I stopped by again, Andrea mentioned that these are “as is” items from the regular menu and not the customized dishes that guests can also get. For instance, while the regular chicken nuggets listed are not GF, you can order the allergy friendly chicken tenders. It’s important to still consult with the food allergy binders & managers on hand. The sheet primarily focuses on gluten free items. It does list items that are “allergy friendly” for certain allergens. This doesn’t consider though some modifications (like a cheeseburger without the cheese can cover dairy allergens). Of course, this sheet is subject to change too. I think it’s a nice little reference point that you could bring with you in your bag. And of course, as I have mentioned, definitely check with those ingredients binders and cast members for assistance.
|Andrea walking me through the sheets|
As we chatted, Andrea also showed me all the allergy binder in depth. Even though I had a tour from Chef Michael, it was terrific to hear Andrea’s knowledge and understanding of this. She was great! We talked about specific snack choices in the park and she gladly helped navigate those pages. Here are some of the pages she went over with me:
One of the cool things I learned, for example is that Pizzafari can offer me Udi’s pizza with a variety of dairy free cheeses. Who knew they had like 4 different kinds of dairy free/vegan cheeses on hand?! That’s the advantage of this kiosk. I’ve never ventured into Pizzafari because I really didn’t think I had any choices, so it’s very cool to find that out here in the kiosk. I think that’s where the kiosk will be so very useful. It’s a great way to make an informed choice about where you want to dine. I might have chosen Pizzafari over Flame Tree for example because of this but might not have known about it if I had only visited Flame Tree. So, you can definitely see why this kiosk is great. And much needed! Update: On my recent visit, Andrea pointed out some other items available at Pizzafari, including Daiya Cheese, which I hadn’t noticed the last time! I was so excited to see Daiya listed! She also showed me that they have a ton of breakfast pastry options like Kinnikinnick muffins & donuts, as well as Udi’s blueberry muffin too! It was great to see that I could pop in there for breakfast and get my favorite Kinnikinnick Chocolate Chip Muffins!
Overall, I can’t say enough great things about this kiosk. Yes, there are some things I’d love to see added–like freshly prepared foods and other options for special diets. I’d love to see a variety of things–including non-sweet items. There’s so much potential. And that’s where you, the readers come in. Help Chef Michael and the team make this kiosk a success. Let’s prove to Disney that this is a much needed and desired service in the parks. Let’s make sure they open in all the parks at WDW! So stop by, visit, check out the goodies and say “hi” to this amazing team of Cast Members for me. I know I’ll be back time and time again each visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. I can’t wait to share an actual dining experience from that start at the kiosk the next time I’m there.
Updates: Here are just a few final updates on the kiosk as of 9/22/13. For those who have been asking, Babycakes Donuts will be coming! I had been told by readers that the donuts were already there, but were not anymore. Upon investigation, I learned that they were there…for one day! And they sold out in a matter of a few hours. The good news is that they will be coming in the near future, so stay tuned. I’m hearing tons of great feedback from those of you who have visited the kiosks, and I hope you will continue to visit. I know that I will! And I want to say a shout-out to CM Andrea, who has been diligently manning the kiosk along with CM Jayme. Andrea will be leaving the kiosk to go to another position! I found her enthusiasm and dedication to be unparalleled! We’ll miss you at the kiosk!
Oh and in case you missed my cheesy 30 second video, here it is on YouTube: http://youtu.be/zBSwvHfJdaw
|See ya real soon!|