On May 1, 2015, Disney’s Hollywood Studios marked its 26th birthday with…not much at all, aside from the removal of construction walls around the giant hat’s former home. But while there was no big celebration like there was for last year’s silver anniversary, DHS did gain one unpublicized addition last week. As Rikki Niblet reported, a new food ordering mobile app is currently testing at two locations in the park, and I stopped by on the (not so) big day to give the new system a whirl. To save some typing, suffice to say that things did not quite go according to plan. Keeping in mind that this new service is still in the testing phase, you may decide to stick with buying your Studios snacks the old-fashioned way by the time you finish reading about my experience.
Backlot Express Mobile App Food Ordering
After arriving at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the late afternoon and enjoying a showing of MuppetVision 3-D (the digital projection looks great, but the Statler and Waldorf animatronics need assistance stat), I pulled out my iPhone and attempted to order a burger on my way to the Backlot Express.
I’d installed the Express Order app at home, and already inputted my contact information. As I walked past Star Tours, it took only a few taps to select my entree, confirm my choices, and pay for my meal with Apple Pay.
The first sign of trouble came when I entered the restaurant and discovered it was abandoned. The manager who happened to be closing out a register regretfully explained that they had already closed, a full 2 1/2 hours before park closing.
I would have been aware of that fact if I had inspected the Times Guide I picked up at the park entrance. But more crucially, the mobile app was also unaware of the early closure, and eagerly accepted my payment for a dinner it couldn’t deliver.
The restaurant manager proved a model cast member, and offered assistance in receiving a refund. I tromped to Catalina Eddie’s for an unexciting deli sandwich, as I awaited the second phase of my experiment.
Fantasmic Mobile App Snack Ordering
While Backlot Express was only offering to prepare my pre-ordered food for pickup, the mobile app’s Fantasmic features claimed to go a step further. With the assistance of bluetooth technology, you should be able to order a snack from inside the Fantasmic stadium and have it delivered directly to your seat.
At first glance this seems like a genius idea. I used FastPass+ to secure a seat at Fantasmic. But even though I arrived near the beginning of the entry window the amphitheater was already a sea of insanity; the queues for snacks and drinks were doubly cray-cray.
So I found a single spot about 2/3rd of the way to the side and placed an order for a Mickey-shaped pretzel. I would have preferred some candied nuts, but the snack selection in the app is currently far more limited than the menus at the concession carts.
Then, as I clicked to check out, I encountered another unhappy surprise: a mandatory $3 per order delivery fee, which is only disclosed after making a selection.
Biting the bullet for the sake of theme park journalism, I went against my cheapskate instincts and pressed my thumbprint to accept the bloated bill. At this point, the app asked me to acknowledge when I was inside the Fantasmic stadium.
Unfortunately, I was already seated at the show, a fact that my phone refused to recognize no matter how I swiped and tapped.
Feeling trapped in a techie twist on Monty Python’s “Argument Sketch,” I kept insisting that I was at Fantasmic, and my phone cheerfully refused to believe me. Alas, my Mickey pretzel remained undelivered and uneaten.
DHS Food Order Mobile App Testing Conclusion
As Donald Rumsfeld so sensitively observed, stuff happens. Though my batting average with the DHS food ordering mobile app is currently in the basement, I’m not going to bash the concept’s potential. I’d love to be able to bypass the quick service queues on crowded days, and if you have a large family it might be worth $3 not to have to manhandle an armload of munchies. I even think that the app’s layout and navigation is more responsive than the clunky My Disney Experience app (into which this ordering system might eventually be absorbed).
The part that bugs me is that the app is designed to accept payment for goods before they are in the guest’s hands, but doesn’t currently appear to have sufficient safeguards ensuring said goods can actually be delivered. More importantly, I couldn’t locate any built-in mechanism for requesting a refund, or even find out who to contact.
At this writing — over 96 hours after to use the app — one of the two charges I attempted is still “pending” on my credit card. I’m grateful the other charge disappeared, and hopeful the other will also, and I don’t know whether my issue is the fault of Disney, the app developer, or Apple. But if you’re watching your credit limit carefully, or your kids want to eat without hearing about buggy apps, you’ll want to skip this experiment and leave the guinea pigging to the professionals for the time being.