Bistrot Chez Remy: Imaginative Themed Dining Earns Disney A THEA Award
Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Thursday, March 12th, 2015
One of the biggest struggles that theme parks face is how to integrate retail and dining with their carefully thought out attractions and live shows in a way that enhances – rather than detracts from – the guest experience. Dining and retail are important in two ways: they’re a vital part of the park’s infrastructure and they’re major revenue drivers. Shops and restaurants can also be an unforgettable part of a theme park visit. While finding creative ways to take these spaces to the next level through imagination and theming is a becoming a major trend, it can be challenging to find truly standout examples. No one is doing it better than Disney, and this year the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) is recognizing their work for Bistrot Chez Remy.
Bistrot Chez Remy earned Disneyland Paris a 2015 THEA Award for Outstanding Achievement in the themed dining category. Bistrot Chez Remy is a 370-seat restaurant that was inspired by the scenes and recipes of the Disney/Pixar classic film Ratatouille. The restaurant is strategically placed to greet guests as they exit the ride, Ratatouille: L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy. According to media interviews, the Imagineering team (under the guidance of Tom Fitzgerald) developed this ride because the movie Ratatouille was a big hit across Europe. The ride officially opened in July 2014, and took an estimated five years to complete.
From a design perspective, the look and feel of the broader Ratatouille attraction isn’t an exact replica of the Parisian cityscape. Instead, it draws its inspiration from the fantastical version of the city that was explored in Ratatouille. Everything is cartoonish, warm, and welcoming. But some of the fundamental design details are true to French culture. For example, the exterior of Bistrot Chez Remy’s veranda is red, as are many Parisian restaurants.
As the THEA judges noted, “The exterior of the attraction looks like a typical Parisian café, but on closer inspection, one realizes that this is the world of Paris from the film, where there are no straight lines – a perfect blend of fiction and reality.” Layering together the inspiration from both the movie and local French traditions increases the richness of the experience and provides a deeper meaning for guests.
The restaurant itself is family-friendly and serves a menu of French bistro cuisine. Rather than building Gusteau’s restaurant which was central to the film’s plot, the Imagineering team decided to bring to life something entirely new. Disneyland Paris has created a dining experience that’s built by the lovable feature character, Remy the rat and his friends. As a result, the design plays with the size of objects and scale throughout the restaurant to give the impression that guests are rat-sized as they dine. This imaginative approach to theming is really brought to life through painstaking attention to detail.
As the THEA judges noted in their case study, “It is a truly charming and thematically thorough dining experience, where oversized objects are reused in every possible way to create tables, chairs, architectural elements, and props. The backstory is conveyed through newspaper articles, old photos, and trophies displayed in the waiting area. Once guests enter the main dining room the shrinking illusion is clever, consistent, and full of wry jokes. Giant versions of miniature cocktail umbrellas, chairs based on champagne caps, a giant colander chandelier with Christmas lights overhead, huge bistro plates as dividers between seating areas, everything is very well-conceived and delivered to create an illusion that is both convincing and coyly self-aware.”
Ultimately, the judges note that the venue exhibits “thoroughness, conceptual clarity, dedication to narrative detail, and exceptional finish.” As an example of themed dining and the Disney approach to bringing numerous fantasy worlds to life in the dining sphere, it’s a perfect blueprint for success and highlights where others struggle. Themed dining is more than just décor. To create a truly memorable themed dining experience, the world you’re bringing to life has to permeate the very DNA of the restaurant.
Exceptional themed dining has to begin with a conceptual experience – or maybe a question. “What would it be like if our guests were rat sized diners in a classic French bistro?” Every aspect of the process, from designing the space, choosing the layout and furniture, adding in design touches, developing a menu, and envisioning service can then be created with that central premise in mind. We don’t know about you, but on our next visit across the pond we can’t wait for a taste of Ratatouille!
Images sourced courtesy of Disneyland Paris, Disney and More, Coaster Riders