Breakfast with Santa is one of those traditions we started when my youngest was born. We use to go to IKEA for their breakfast but then we heard that Santa was visiting the Rainforest Cafe for breakfast. My kids love visiting the Rainforest Cafe, we even visited at the beginning of the month for my 4-year old’s birthday, so we had to book as part of our 25 Days of Christmas.
Breakfast started at 8:00 a.m. which meant getting everyone up early on Saturday, but some how going to see Santa was all the motivation they needed. At least having breakfast so early meant we could actually get a parking spot at Yorkdale in December.
When we arrived there was already a fairly long line outside the restaurant but the kids were easily entertained by a poor shopkeeper who was cleaning the shelves in the store’s window display.
We were taken to our seat but given no instruction about what to do or expect that morning. After looking around we found there were two buffet tables so we decided to grab our breakfast before things got too busy. When we normally eat at Rainforest Cafe the food offered on the main menu isn’t bad, I’m partial to their coconut shrimp, but their kids meals have always been poor. Even how they present them on the plate is disappointing, like someone just dumped the items from a microwave bag. The buffet was along the same lines: scrambled eggs, bacon, french toast strips (which were really more like deep-fried doughnut sticks), hash browns (those preformed shapes found in fast food restaurants) and pancakes so tough you could probably bounce them on the floor. The saving grace is they did offer little cereal boxes and apples.
Eventually our waiter came around to ask for our drink orders. It seems since we were already eating poorly the Rainforest Cafe wanted us to drink poorly too. You could have a Coca-Cola product or a small glass (as in shooter size) of apple juice. Milk you ask? Sure if you wanted to pay for it.
As we sat and ate the restaurant got busier, more tables filled. An hour into the breakfast (which was scheduled to run from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m.) there was still no sign of Santa or Cha Cha (the Rainforst Cafe frog). I did start to notice a long line of people winding their way around the tables where people were eating. This couldn’t be people lining up for the buffet. Curious I walked to the front of the line to find a roped off area with two chairs. Turns out this is where Santa and his elf helper were going to sit. Of course no one told us we would have to line-up. Past Santa breakfasts we’ve been given a number and went up when we were called. Even the Santa Cruise we did last weekend we were given a group. When the group was called we could go and stand in a small line. That gave us the rest of the cruise to enjoy activities. At the Rainforest Santa Breakfast I was expected to rush through my food so I could stand in line and wait to see Santa like in the mall. And since I wasn’t told this is what we were suppose to do, the line was far too long for us to wait in.
We paid our bill (almost $60 Cdn) and left.
Sadly what should have been a fun way to celebrate the Christmas season turned into giant frustrating and disappointing morning. Even the cache of meeting Santa at the Rainforest Cafe couldn’t save this event. I think this is a great idea but the Rainforest Cafe could learn a thing or two from other successfully run Santa Breakfasts:
- Better Communication from the Staff. Let guests know what to expect and when. People may be aware that it’s a buffet but the hostess should reiterate this, point out where the buffet tables are and invite guests to start when they’re ready or wait for their waiter, whatever the process is. Also, the kids are here not for the food but for Santa so maybe letting them know when to expect him.
- Better Food or Price Structure. Just because a Santa Breakfast is aimed at kids doesn’t mean you should not think much about the food you’re serving. Try making fresh home fries instead of freezer hash browns. How about some whole wheat toast. If you must use a pancake mix, use one that requires you to add milk and eggs; the difference will be incredible. And if you do want to serve cheap, freezer food, then don’t charge me $11.99 Cdn ($6.99 Cdn). The food at IKEA’s Santa Breakfast is pretty low-end but at least I’m only paying $5 Cdn for each person, adults and child alike.
- Better Organization for Santa and Cha Cha visit. Assign guests a number or group for their Santa visit. This ensures other patron’s aren’t bugged by families lining up all around their table (who can enjoy breakfast with their family when your table is surrounded by strangers). This also means guests can enjoy their breakfast and not be in a panic to shovel their food down so they don’t have to wait in a long line-up for Santa. And to be honest, if I’m paying $60 for the privilege to eat and meet with Santa, I don’t expect an hour-long line-up. There also didn’t seem to be any structure to the lines. Cha Cha the frog just seemed to be bombarded by guests with no staff to assist and the group of people made it difficult to get around the restaurant.
- Better Inclusion of Santa at Breakfast. As I mentioned earlier, the kids are here to see Santa (or Cha Cha), the breakfast is secondary. The hostess or waiter made no indication as to where Santa was or when he would appear. When Santa finally emerged, halfway through the breakfast, he made a bee-line for his seat. There was no big announcement or grand entrance to let kids know. Wouldn’t you want to get kids excited that Santa has arrived. Santa didn’t seem to greet anyone or be happy to be there. Perhaps Santa could walk around and just say hi to people, toss out a ‘HO HO HO’, seem enthusiastic to be there, then go to his seat.
Will the Rainforest Cafe take into consideration any of these points to improve their Santa Breakfast next year? Probably not. But it also means we won’t be back next year either. And sadly the whole Santa Breakfast has sort of turned me off the Rainforest Cafe for a bit too.
How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.