Even a wizard like Harry Potter needs a good meal now and then.
The same holds true for the numerous Harry Potter fans that are descending on Orlando this summer following the grand opening of Universal Orlando Resort’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
With the Wizarding World reportedly being one of the industry’s most expensive attractions to date, pressure surely was high to control costs. Since most guests were eagerly anticipating the signature Harry Potter ride based on the Kuka robocoaster system, one alternative corner that might have been easier to cut was food service. Yet, instead of simply decorating a buffet with Potter memorabilia, the creative minds behind the boy wizard franchise opted to heavily invest in the immersive theming of Three Broomsticks, which is the main dining option at Wizarding World.
From Butterbeer to Pumpkin Juice, guests at Harry’s world in Orlando can experience an authentic Potter meal unlike anywhere else on the planet.
Recently, the Large Park Report toured Three Broomsticks and came away impressed with the culinary experience that the Wizarding World’s signature dining stop offers Muggles of all types. Yet, unlike the magic in Harry’s universe, the success of Three Broomsticks is more the result of hard work and strategic planning than the mere waving of a wizard’s wand.
Meeting Magical Expectations
What happens when you are selected to design the kitchen and equipment layout for one of the amusement industry’s most anticipated restaurants ever?
Tom Galvin, the principal behind the Winter Garden, Fla.-based Galvin Design Group, encountered this very question after his firm was hired by Universal Orlando to lead the kitchen planning for Three Broomsticks. For Galvin’s team, the answer was simple: be prepared for the highest of expectations.
Harry Potter fans are known as an intensely loyal group of followers, well-versed in almost every detail of the world created by Potter-author J.K. Rowling. Add in the fact that Rowling herself was given extensive creative input into the development of Wizarding World and it’s clear that no part of the project, including Three Broomsticks, would be immune from careful scrutiny.
That’s why, according to Galvin, “it became real clear early on that Three Broomsticks must be true
to the movies and books.” While many of those details were left to the front-of-house designers who created the stunning visual look of the restaurant, the back-of-house operations would ultimately be the infrastructure that delivered the dining for this hybrid restaurant that offers both counter and table service options.
Galvin Design was in a tricky position though. Universal wanted Three Broomsticks to be larger than originally designed. J.K. Rowling, however, had insisted that the Wizarding World accurately portray the scale of the places that she created in the Potter books and movies.
This meant that, physically, Three Broomsticks would be smaller than one would expect for the only restaurant in Wizarding World. At the same time, the number of guests would likely be very high based on the huge interest in the project.
This made the importance of efficient operations a paramount feature of Three Broomsticks. Galvin Design quickly realized that the equipment selection and layout would need to be flexible and capable of a diverse set of uses.
Their prediction was soon confirmed when, in late 2009, less than nine months before the Wizarding World opened, Universal advised Galvin that, in addition to lunch and dinner, Three Broomsticks would also need to serve breakfast for guests. This was a significant change, especially when it became clear that the breakfast menu would require a variety of hot items, including traditional English breakfast staples.
Fortunately, for Galvin Design Group, they had embraced a key strategy: “Expect the Unexpected.”
For a long-time industry veteran like Tom Galvin, unexpected changes and modifications are nothing new. Being flexible in developing solutions is something that makes his firm well-respected in the industry, explained Galvin.
That’s why, when told of the decision to add breakfast, Galvin went about developing creative solutions like adding a griddle top to the restaurant’s broilers in order to utilize the existing kitchen design for Three Broomsticks without having to make major changes late in the game.
This type of creative solution-making is something that Galvin insists is the result of the firm’s long-held belief that “a successful kitchen design must be a flexible one.” Anticipating potential changes, and planning for them on the front end, can lead to huge backside benefits. Even if the changes never come to fruition.
For such a highly anticipated restaurant as Three Broomsticks, this was especially at the front of the firm’s mind. Indeed, according to Galvin, “my biggest concern was that the restaurant [would be] too popular and not designed to handle the massive crowds” that many were predicting for the Wizarding World.
At the same time, the company balanced this clear thinking with the reality that, while the project could expect a huge rush in the beginning, like any effort, attendance would eventually even out into a more predictable seasonal ebb and flow.
“The key is balancing against incredibly busy peak times and less busy non-peak times,” explained Galvin. “You don’t want to overdesign but also must avoid under design.”
As a result, Galvin’s team focused on adding infrastructure ahead of the curve rather than having to go back and engage in expensive renovations after the fact. One example of this approach involved adding extra wiring for more Butterbeer (a staple drink in Harry’s world) machines than were originally installed.
This advanced planning represents the firm’s smart strategy at work as Butterbeer sales have been one of the Wizarding World’s biggest early successes. Indeed, it would not be a surprise at all if more machines were added in the future to meet demand. If this occurs, the decision to pre-wire extra capacity will end up being a relatively inexpensive move that saves big bucks in the future.
With so much at stake in such a high profile project, Galvin and his team adopted another important strategy: keep in regular communication with the client and always proactively work with the equipment operations.
In the case of Three Broomsticks, this was critical because the restaurant incorporated a wide variety of new technologies such as its advanced combi oven designed to reduce food waste (and, thus, save money) while providing even better taste for the products.
To help keep operations efficient, Galvin personally met with the restaurant’s chefs throughout the project to keep them informed of the features for this new technology and how best to maximize their operation from a technical perspective. The lesson learned here is that keeping the various restaurant personnel, from chefs to technical designers and planners, on the same page is one way to help avoid confusion and unexpected problems as the project nears completion.
A Home Run for Harry’s Restaurant
With the Wizarding World of Harry Potter now open, Three Broomsticks has encountered hordes of hungry Harry Potter fans descending on it throughout the day. While the detailed theming of the restaurant is certainly amazing, all of the beautiful design features would be for naught if the food quality and operations failed to meet expectations.
For the Galvin Design Group, the three-pronged strategy of advanced planning, remaining flexible, and keeping open lines of communication with the client is one morsel of magic that operators throughout the industry would be wise to emulate. –
(For more information on Galvin Design Group, circle 251 on card.)
Reach contributor Chad Emerson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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