In a move that is surprising, but somewhat expected, Disney recently announced that the Fast Food chain McDonald’s will be closing at the Downtown Disney location as of April 30, 2010. In its place, a Latin chicken quick-service restaurant called Pollo Campero will be opening.
The move is a continuation of a process started by Disney years ago. Looking back about a decade, McDonald’s and Disney seemed like best buddies in the business world with a very cooperative relationship. When Disney released a new movie, McDonald’s was right there to help advertise for it in their local stores. Disney themed merchandise including Happy Meal premiums, glasses, ornaments, etc. were all part of the package that McDonald’s put in front of its customers daily.
Disney World, for its part, offered several McDonald’s locations on property for its guests. These included a few stand alone stores like the location by the All-Star resorts and the one before Animal Kingdom. Two locations were also integrated into the Disney experience like the one at Downtown Disney and a location inside the Animal Kingdom called Restaurantosaurus located by the Dinosaur ride which was sponsored by McDonald’s. Several fry cart locations were even found in the parks offering guests McDonald’s fried and soft drinks.
McDonald’s even opened a field research lab in the Animal Kingdom where it brought some of the bones of the largest complete specimen of a Tyrannosaurus Rex ever discovered, which it had bought for $7.6 million. Nicknamed “Sue”, the skeletal remains were worked on in front of Disney guests by technicians from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago where Sue is found today.
But, around 2004, the relationship started to fall apart. The marketing agreement between the two corporations was not renewed. Speculation led many to believe that it was because of the poor performance of the Disney movies at the time, but many also thought that Disney wanted to distance itself from the fast-food chain who was under fire for not having healthy menu options.
Whatever the cause, the McDonald’s presence in the parks has been slowly disappearing. The fry carts are gone and Restaurantosaurus stopped serving McDonald’s products in 2008. The closing of the Downtown Disney location is just a continuation of this process.
Those with families seem the hardest hit by the news. Many counted on the McDonald’s at Downtown Disney as a place to recharge with their kids after some shopping and fun. Prices were higher than the average McDonald’s, but still a value when compared to most other dining options on property.
Pollo Campero, for its part, is still slated to offer a quick-service environment, but with meals based mostly around chicken instead of hamburgers. The international chain started in 1971 and opened its first restaurant in the US in 2002. Today, more than 50 stores are located in the country.