A year after closing amid the pandemic, Disneyland plans to expand with new rides, restaurants, and entertainment

disneyland covid
Visitors take selfies in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle during the last day before Disneyland closes because of COVID-19 in Anaheim, California on March 13, 2020.

  • “DisneylandForward” is a multi-year planning effort that will lead to an expansion, a spokesperson told Insider.
  • The expansion might include themed lands based on Disney movies such as “Tangled” and “Peter Pan.”
  • Disney first needs to receive an updated development approval from the city of Anaheim to expand the resort.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Disney is planning to expand its California theme park with new rides, restaurants, and attractions – but to do that it says it needs the city of Anaheim to agree to redraft decades-old planning restrictions.

The multiyear expansion, called “DisneylandForward,” was revealed Thursday. The plan is light on details or timings, but could include themed elements based on hit Walt Disney movies like “Tangled,” “Frozen,” and “Peter Pan,” a Disney spokesperson told Insider.

Plans for expanding the 500-acre resort in Southern California come a year after Disneyland was shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s hard to believe it’s been an entire year since the Disneyland Resort closed its park gates to guests,” said a website dedicated to the expansion. “We’ve taken this time to look forward,” the company said.

The naiscent plans could include new theme-park attractions, dining, and retail and hotel space, the company said. The expansion will be paid for privately and Disney will not seek any public funding, the Disneyland Forward website said. Disney also does not intend to request more square footage for hotel rooms.

Before the project can move forward, Anaheim city officials must agree to update planning restrictions from the 1990s meant to guide the growth of the Disneyland resort and surrounding businesses.

“With bold planning and leadership, Disneyland Resort could be poised to grow again, bringing jobs and new lands and adventures to Anaheim,” says a website dedicated to the project.

The city’s mayor had a warm response to the plan, Deadline reported. “I welcome fresh thinking about how the Disneyland Resort evolves and how we best maximize this resource for our city,” Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu said in a statement to the news site.

Disney submitted the proposal to the Anaheim City Council on Thursday and the planning and approval process with the city and local community is expected to be completed by 2023, Disney spokesperson told Insider.

Disney said last week that it will reopen Disneyland Resort theme parks – Disneyland park and Disney California Adventure park – on April 30 with limited capacity.

The reopening comes with a new theme-park-reservation system that requires visitors to reserve their spot prior to park entry. Reservations are limited because of state COVID-19 guidelines and only California residents may visit the parks for the time being.

Over 10,000 furloughed employees will be be called back to work with the park’s reopening, according to Disney CEO Bob Chapek.

Disney World park has been open since July in Florida, where COVID-19 related restrictions are looser, but attendance was lower than expected compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to data published by Deutsche Bank in August.

The company struggled with the financial impact caused by the pandemic. Disney lost $2.4 billion in income in the fourth quarter of 2020 because of park closures.

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In a bellwether case, restaurant chains in Midwest US are taking their insurer to court, claiming that business interruption insurance should cover their pandemic losses

Empty restaurant
Three groups of restaurants are pursuing legal action.

  • Three groups of restaurants are taking their insurer to court over lack of cover for pandemic losses.
  • The restaurants claimed that their coverage should have been triggered when the pandemic started.
  • A judge has ruled that the restaurants should be able to move forward with their legal action.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A federal district court judge has ruled that three groups of restaurants operating in four US states should be able to move forward with legal action, which claims that business interruption insurance should cover their pandemic losses.

The restaurants’ revenues were hit as states introduced COVID-19 safety protocols including social-distancing requirements, restaurant capacity limits, and even the temporary suspension of both indoor and outdoor dining.

Restaurants being run by Valley Lodge in Illinois, Rising Dough in Illinois, and Big Onion Tavern Group in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Tennessee all took action against Wisconsin-based insurer Society Insurance. The cases were initially filed separately before being combined into a multi-district bellwether case.

The insurance company tried to dismiss the cases – but the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois turned this down, meaning that the restaurants will be able to take the issue to court.

“The case serves as an accountability mechanism,” Shannon McNulty of Clifford Law Offices, who is co-lead counsel in the case, told Insider.

The restaurants alleged that under their insurance policy with Society Insurance, they had coverage that should have been triggered last March when the pandemic started.

Society Insurance, in response, said that this pandemic coverage isn’t included in the language of the policy.

Society Insurance had told the restaurants in an email in March 2020 that “a quarantine of any size … would likely not trigger business income or extra expense coverages under our policies.” It also said “a widespread governmental imposed shutdown due to COVID-19 would likely not trigger the additional coverage of civil authority.”

The insurance company added that COVID-19 would be “unlikely” to trigger contamination coverage because it isn’t a foodborne illness, and that exposure that their food products had to COVID-19 would not count as a spoilage-covered cause of loss.

In a 31-page ruling viewed by Insider, the court found that the restaurants’ insurance policy “does not contain a specific exclusion of coverage for losses due to a virus or pandemic.” The restaurants said that is a standard exclusion in the insurance industry.

“The fundamental questions at stake in this litigation are how properly to classify the interruption that has happened here, and whether this particular interruption is covered under the policy,” Edmond Chang, the judge leading the ruling, wrote.

The court said that “exclusions are narrowly or strictly construed against the insurer if their effect is uncertain.”

“The decision is highly significant for businesses, particularly here in the Midwest, who have suffered financial losses due to the pandemic and paid insurance premiums to protect against those losses,” McNulty said.

“The court correctly found no coverage under the civil authority, contamination, and sue and labor provisions of Society’s policy,” Society Insurance told Insider. “But Society is disappointed that the court allowed the claims for business-interruption coverage to survive early motions to dismiss and for summary judgment.”

“This is an early, preliminary ruling, and does not resolve the merits,” it said. “Society will continue to vigorously defend its interests in the litigation.”

The court classed the multi-district case as a “bellwether” case, but it’s part of a much bigger wave of coronavirus-related litigation covering everything from individual businesses to industries, lawmakers, and even entire governments.

Strip clubs in New York City have sued Gov. Andrew Cuomo for keeping them closed during the pandemic and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton threatened to sue the city of Austin if it didn’t lift its mask mandate. In addition, a Dutch court ordered the government to scrap the country’s COVID-19 curfew.

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How ghost kitchens’ business models could threaten the future of traditional dine-in restaurants

Pasta Cooking in Industrial Kitchen.
Dark kitchens were already gaining popularity before the pandemic.

  • Dark kitchens are gaining popularity, enabling restaurants to cut costs during the pandemic. 
  • Spanish broadcaster RTVE estimated 25% of home food deliveries now came from dark kitchens. 
  • If the trend continues, traditional dining establishments will likely find it difficult to recover.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the food industry forever and brought new trends with it.

Among them are “dark kitchens” or “ghost kitchens.”

Dark kitchens consist of premises where food is prepared for home delivery or collection but do not have a dining area or waiters.

The business’s customer service and dining area rental aspects are removed, cutting costs and enabling a direct relationship with consumers.

The concept was already gaining popularity before the pandemic, taking over fast-food chains and supermarkets.

Many restaurants also share premises and facilities to cut costs even further.

Over the last year, dark kitchens have grown exponentially in popularity.

Grocery giant Kroger announced in October that it was opening more dark kitchens to meet surging delivery demand, and Chipotle outlined plans to open its first dark kitchen in November, although the chain has been using digital kitchens within its restaurants for some time.

In many ways, dark kitchens have been the saving grace of the pandemic, allowing restaurants to continue operating despite restrictions that ban diners from visiting their establishments.

25% of food deliveries during the pandemic come from dark kitchens, according to Spanish broadcaster RTVE.

It’s not just restaurants that are catching on – it’s delivery giants too.

Food delivery firm Deliveroo, now worth $7 billion, said it would spend its latest funding win of $180 million partly on investing in dark kitchens.

This will enable them to increase their profit margins hugely as they will no longer be dependent on delivery commissions from restaurants.

However, there are concerns that dark kitchens could threaten traditional dining establishments, as they cannot compete with the larger profit margins, quicker deliveries, and lower prices offered by dark kitchen restaurants.

If they do not return in numbers equivalent to pre-pandemic levels, it will be difficult for restaurants to recover from the losses incurred over lockdowns and closures will be inevitable.

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Former Trump DC hotel chef said that suppliers ‘were suddenly sending’ rotten produce and lower-quality meat after he started working there

BLT Prime Trump
The BLT Prime restaurant at the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC.

  • BLT Prime, the Trump DC restaurant hotel, often received rotten produce, according to a former chef.
  • According to the Washingtonian, food suppliers sent the chef “rotten produce and subpar cuts of meat.”
  • Rudy Giuliani was a regular presence at the restaurant and treated his table like a workspace.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

While the BLT Prime restaurant at the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC was marketed for its upscale sensibilities, it often received spoiled produce, the steakhouse’s former executive chef told Washingtonian magazine.

With former President Donald Trump out of office and living at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, several employees spoke out about their experiences at the hotel.

After Bill Williamson, the executive chef of BLT Prime at the Trump International Hotel from February 2018 to March 2020, joined the restaurant, food suppliers whom he had successfully worked with in the past “were suddenly sending him rotten produce and subpar cuts of meat and fish,” according to Washingtonian.

“I guarantee someone in that warehouse picking this product saw where it was going and was like, ‘Oh, f— it, give ’em this stuff,'” Williamson said.

Former executive chef Shawn Matijevich, who worked at BLT for part of 2017 and 2018, said that a green supplier whom he used in the past stopped working with him, saying their “conscience” precluded them from servicing the hotel restaurant.

Williamson also noted that Rudy Giuliani was a frequent presence at BLT Prime and had a regular table, despite performing more work duties than perusing the restaurant menu.

“It was pretty much his office,” he told Washingtonian. “He was doing more paperwork there than eating. Some days, he’d be there all day.”

While the coronavirus pandemic forced the restaurant to temporarily shutter last year, once restrictions were gradually lifted, supporters of the former president were often spotted dining sans masks, which forced staffers to ask guests to use their face coverings.

“I doubt as many restaurants in the city have to put up with grown men rolling their eyes when we ask them to put on their masks,” a former employee said.

According to the magazine, several employees are concerned that they may not be able to find new positions if they list the restaurant on their résumés.

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