There seems to be a lot of shock since the news “broke” yesterday that the Planet Hollywood at Disney Springs (once known as Pleasure Island) would undergo a massive renovation that will require the restaurant to shut down. The Orlando based company made the formal announcement about the redo in February. (I told you it was coming 10 months prior to that in this article from April 23, 2014.)
Maybe the real reason for the surprise is the number of employees who will be let go when PH closes in January: 468. As a spokesperson for the Planet told me, “It takes a village to run a restaurant this size.” Still, that’s a startlingly large number of people (none of whom, by the way, were caught off guard when they were told last weekend about the upcoming closing.) Some of the Planet Hollywood workers will be offered positions at other company-owned restaurants, such as Buca di Beppo or Earl of Sandwich, and some are expected to be offered positions at Disney properties.
But here’s something that hasn’t been reported.
When the renovated restaurant reopens, it will employ even more people than it is laying off in January. The new restaurant, which will be designed to look like a planetarium observatory, will be even larger than the Earth-shaped building it will replace. Exact employment numbers were not immediately available.
Although Planet Hollywood’s headquarters are here, its first restaurant was not the one at Downtown Disney. New York was first, and there were six locations worldwide before the groundbreaking ceremony for Orlando’s restaurant in November of 1993. That event included founder Robert Earl, original investors Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and then Disney-chief Michael Eisner. Eisner announced at the ceremony that a deal had been struck to build Planet Hollywoods at all of Disney’s parks, including, initially, Disneyland, Euro-Disney, Tokyo Disneyland and a planned history-themed park in Virginia. Only the Euro-Disney (now Disneyland Paris) PH opened. (And who remembers the plans for the history-themed park in Virginia?) There currently are six remaining Planet Hollywood restaurants. At one time there were 80 around the real planet.
Flashback to bankruptcy, restructuring; dissolve to present day.
When the Disney Springs restaurant closes at the beginning of January, it will have been open almost exactly 21 years. It opened just after the first of January in 1995 following one of the most impressive spurts of last-minute construction work I’ve seen over the years. Most of the servers hadn’t even seen the dining room until the first day of business.
By the way, the original design of the Orlando restaurant was to have included a seamless mirror surrounding the lower part of the globed structure, which was supposed to look as though it was floating in the water feature it was constructed over. That design element was never completed, probably because someone noticed how unattractive the retention pond was. Maybe the Springs will freshen that up a bit.