A lot has changed in Disney World since the parks began their phased reopened in 2020 after the unprecedented closure at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While many restaurants, stores, and most hotels have since welcomed guests back, there are still quite a few things that haven’t returned to “normal” throughout the parks and resorts. And, as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we’ve started to notice a pattern when it comes to unexpectedly closed stores and dining spots — here’s what we know.
Over the past year, we’ve stumbled upon some unplanned closures of stores, snack kiosks, and even EPCOT festival booths that were reportedly related to staffing issues. For example, back in June, a Flower & Garden Festival booth was closed during one of our visits due to staff shortages and we recently spoke with a Cast Member who explained that an ice cream snack cart in Disney’s Hollywood Studios was supposed to be open but could not because there was no one to staff it.
Additionally, in Disney Springs an employee told us that many of the stores have needed to alter their normal hours of operation due to “issues with staffing” and we’ve even noticed that many distanced greeting locations with characters have been missing recently in the parks.
But, could Disney World really be facing so many staffing shortages? Well, you might remember that Disney had to furlough and let go of many of their Cast Members during the resort’s closure in 2020. And, though Disney has asked most of these impacted Cast Members back, it is possible that they may have been unable (or opted not) to return.
The shortage of workers has even been noted in other industries with the Wall Street Journal reporting in 2021 that U.S. job openings were at a record level heading into the summer. But, even with low-wage work in high demand, the supply of workers remained low.
Disney hasn’t said much about the number of Cast Members who have returned (or how many more they need to hire), but according to Disney’s CFO, Christine McCarthy, they were hoping to have the domestic parks “fully staffed up” by the end of 2021. It’s unclear if this goal was met at this time.
One thing indicating that staffing shortages are still a problem for Disney, however, is the large signing bonuses that we’ve seen offered at recent job fairs.
Additionally, the shortages that are being reported across the parks and Disney Springs could be more directly related to COVID-19. Workers United Local 50, which represents food service workers at the Disneyland Resort, recently posted to Facebook explaining that Disney’s “response time on COVID submissions” sent in by Cast Members eligible for pay for missed shifts “are delayed.”
They didn’t share whether the backup is related to a large number of Cast Members requesting pay after contracting COVID-19 or some other reason, but they wouldn’t be the only industry hit by shortages due to COVID-19 cases among staff. Over the holidays and into the beginning of 2022, thousands of flights have been canceled due to COVID-19 cases among crews, and staffing shortages are also being reported in schools due to teachers contracting the virus.
So, while Disney has not commented on the staffing shortages, you will likely stumble upon some unexpected closures or altered operational hours when you’re visiting that could be related.
Another potential cause of the unplanned closures we’ve been seeing in Disney World is stock problems.
For example, in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Beverly Sunset Shop has been closed since November 2021. When we spoke with a Cast Member, they shared that the store was low in stock and that they did not have enough inventory to put into the store so they had to close it.
The store remains temporarily closed, but the Cast Member told us back in November that it would likely be a couple of months before they reopened.
We’ve also seen the impacts of stock shortages at stores that have remained open in other parks. For example, at EPCOT, the Mitsukoshi Department Store recently had a large area blocked off and empty because the items that would normally be there are out of stock.
Plus, even finding a Star Wars lightsaber has been hard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios as both Tatooine Traders and Dok Ondar have been sold out of much of its stock over the past few months.
It seems that Disney has been trying to combat these stock issues by adding purchasing limits to most items at stores in the parks. But, even with the limit of 2 of each item per guest, we’re still seeing empty racks and store closures.
So, if you’re visiting Disney World soon, you’ll want to keep in mind that you may stumble upon some closures that you didn’t know about. We’re keeping an eye out for what locations are impacted by the staffing and stock shortages, so be sure to stay tuned to AllEars for the latest!
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What are you hoping Disney World brings back soon? Let us know in the comments!