How to Reduce Waiting Time at Disneyland

I was in California during the holiday period. During most of that time, the lean advocate inside me was in hibernation while I was on vacation. But he woke up and had a few things to say during the day we spent at Disneyland.

First, a word of advice: Never go to Disneyland during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s a great place, and we had a good time. But with all the kids off from school, thousands of people in town for the Rose Bowl, and beautiful weather, the place was mobbed. There were several days that week when the park closed early because it had reached maximum capacity.

What this meant was that the most popular rides had waiting times of up to 90 minutes for much of the day. On one ride, after we were done, we had to wait in line to get out. That never happened to me before.

Disney does have a program called Fastpass, where you can get a pass several hours in advance for quick entry into a ride, though you can only use it for one ride at a time. That helps, but it has its limitations.

As a lean person, whenever I experience long lines, I can’t help but look for improvement opportunities. When the park is as crowded as it was during our trip, it would be unrealistic to think the lines can be eliminated. But I do have a few minor suggestions.

First, a couple of points about food service. We had lunch at the Hungry Bear Restaurant, which is essentially a fast food place. You give your order to a cashier, then pick up the food at a counter.

Each cashier was at a standalone register dealing with two lines, going past the register on either side. I’m not sure that was the most efficient system, though it seemed to work reasonably well.

But delivery of the food at the counter was a lot slower than any fast food restaurant I’ve ever seen. The problem seemed to be the hot food, such as burgers and fries, rather than the cold sandwiches and salads, which were pre-packaged. I couldn’t see what was happening with the hot food, but I think Disney could learn a few things from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King or any other successful fast food chain.

Later, we stopped at another fast food place for some snacks. The cashier had to walk about 15 feet from the register to get one of the items we ordered. Now there’s an obvious problem.

I also have some thoughts related to the purchase of tickets to get into the park. Disneyland sells both “Annual Passports” and one-day passes. You can buy the passports online, but not the one-day passes. Why not? If I can print an airline boarding pass online, why not a park ticket?

When you get to the park, the only way to buy any kind of ticket is by waiting in line for a cashier (a wait of more than half an hour). It seems to me that Disney could help streamline the process by also offering self-service kiosks for at least some categories of tickets.

I know Disney employs some pretty sharp engineers. Maybe they have good reasons for not doing these things. Or maybe they just never thought about it.

Even the happiest place on earth should be pursuing continuous improvement.