Hall of Fame

Recognizing individuals who have contributed to the good of the industry throughout their career.


2013 Hall of Fame: Martin Cowley, Senior Manager, Design and Construction, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts


On the same note, Downtown Disney, located just outside the park gates, was built as a way for people to experience Disney without purchasing a day pass. The conglomeration of stores and restaurants also caters to
Anaheim's convention center business.

Even at 9 p.m., a dance party and concert in the "Hollywood" part of Disney California Adventure lights up the sky with blue and magenta strobe lights. It's true: The party here really doesn't stop.

The other day I caught a commercial about Walt Disney World. A quick glimpse of young girls wearing princess outfits in a restaurant flashes across the screen — a reminder of a princess dining concept Cowley discussed. Suddenly hands reach for colorful cupcakes set on white dessert plates. In one split-second shot, it's amazingly clear: Cowley and his incredible team helped create the entire experience.

Now, that's a story.

Martin Cowley at a Glance

  • Years at Disney: 24
  • Years in the Industry: 40-plus
  • First Disney Title: Manager, Equipment Systems
  • Favorite Disney Character: Mickey the Sorcerer from "Fantasia"
  • Favorite Disney Movie: Other than the classics, films by Pixar, namely "Finding Nemo"
  • Favorite Disneyland restaurant concept: Blue Bayou, if he has to pick
  • Proudest Disney-Related Career Moments: Seeing Disney California Adventure and the Hong Kong park come to life after years in the making. Receiving the Bronze and Gold, Spirit of Disneyland.
  • Stress Reliever: Golfing
  • Favorite Disney Ride: Space Mountain

A Q&A with Disney's Martin Cowley

FE&S: What is the experience you're looking to create at Disney through these various food and beverage options?

MC: We want to exceed their expectations. There is always a pre-set expectation when people visit our properties. And it is different from our competitors. For some reason, the Disney properties have a different aura about them, so we want the guest to feel there is a value there.

FE&S: What drives concept creation?

MC: The theme of the show drives the unique elements that are Disney specific. For example, on the Disney Cruise Line, the Animator's Palate is a unique experience. The room is set in black and white when you enter. As the dinner progresses, the music from the movie begins to play, and the art goes from black and white to color. Servers will slowly change their attire to incorporate color. By the end of the meal the room's awash in colorful art from the characters. It is a fully immersive experience.

FE&S: How do you select equipment?

MC: In terms of equipment and design, we will spend the extra money to get the right piece for the right application that will last. We put equipment through some tough challenges. Production must be consistent day by day, hour by hour. Multiuse equipment helps us keep non-revenue-generating areas smaller. We also spend more money on equipment that's out where the guest is.

FE&S: Can you describe the foodservice concept development process?

MC: We start off with a basic blue-sky process where we outline the service — whether it's table service, a buffet or snack bar. Once we decide on the service, then we start looking at numbers: guest concentration, traffic patterns and hourly meal capacity. This data translates into such details as registers, number of seats, table turns, etc. From there, the number of seats gets translated into square footages for the FOH and BOH. Then, we go through functional area breakdowns, from the prep kitchen to warewashing. Sometimes, this is defined because it is a pre-existing space.