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HEARD ON THE BEAT / TOURISM

Wolfgang Puck Wants Inside New Disney Park

May 25, 1999|E. SCOTT RECKARD | E. Scott Reckard covers tourism for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7407 and at scott.reckard@latimes.com

Wolfgang Puck Food Co., which serves up fast food, cafe fare, sushi and fine dining at the Downtown Disney shopping and entertainment center in Florida, expects to be part of the $1.4-billion Disneyland expansion in Anaheim as well.

But the way discussions with Walt Disney Co. are developing, Puck is more likely to wind up in the new California Adventure theme park than outside in the Anaheim version of Downtown Disney.

The Florida operations do "unbelievably well" but have one drawback, Puck Food President Frank Guidara said. "Daytime is not a strong point. Because people are in the parks all day." So in Anaheim, "We're talking about going into the park itself."

Puck, the chef behind Spago, Chinois on Main, Granita and other noted restaurants, "is a treasure," Guidara said. "He's a very, very special individual and I think the Disney company understands that. So it would make sense to incorporate Wolfgang into a park with a California experience theme."

The Anaheim expansion includes the second park, just south of Disneyland, with the Downtown Disney complex of stores, restaurants, theaters and nightclubs between them. Disney officials are withholding official comment on potential tenants until contracts are signed. So far, two companies have struck deals to operate inside the park: the Robert Mondavi Winery and Boudin Sourdough Bakery.

A theme park restaurant would be distinctly different from the Puck cafes familiar to mallgoers in Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Irvine and Orange, Guidara said, declining to elaborate. He praised Disney operations chief Michael Berry and other theme park officials as "just the best, great people to work with." But the discussions are far from complete, "and you never know, we may wind up back out in Downtown Disney."

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