One of the special experiences of a Disney vacation is table service dining. Everything from signature dining to character dining and dinner shows is a part of planning a Disney vacation.
Due to the phased reopening of Walt Disney World, there are a lot of changes coming to the table service dining experiences at Disney. Restaurant capacity, food service style (buffet or family-style), menus, character interactions, and more all have to be addressed.
Here is an overview of what we know so far in this evolving situation.
Table Service Dining
The first step we saw Disney take was to cancel all dining reservations and remove all dining plans from reservation packages. We believe this was a necessary step in order to start over with dining. I know for some this was very disappointing, upsetting, and concerning. I’m sure this was not an easy decision for Disney to make either. I believe this was the right call though, and let me explain why.
When you make a dining reservation you do it based on a certain expectation of that dining location. You have seen the menu, character experience, etc. You made a reservation for that experience.
Disney also made a certain amount of reservations per time frame that they felt they could accommodate. Now, your experience may be different and they may not be able to accommodate your reservation time due to lower capacity.
Cancelling all the dining reservations gives Disney the chance to start over with new capacity.
It also gives you the opportunity to review the menu and current offerings and see if it is a good fit for your family.
As far as dining plans being removed, we also understand this change. Until they have a plan for the restaurants, what is available, and what experiences are offered, how can they determine the appropriate allotment of dining credits and price points? You don’t want to pay the same price for the dining plan if the offering is different. They need to regroup on the dining plans and then make the appropriate adjustments. Do I think dining plans will come back? Yes, I do. They may look different or they may be a different price point. They may even come back as we know them now after dining resumes to a similar experience.
We expect guests will be able to make dining reservations again and believe table service dining will be back. Hopefully the ability to make dining reservations will return soon. It will be different now though. It is still unknown what restaurants will be available, what menu changes there will be, and if there will be changes to characters or buffet dining. We are waiting for these details. Dinner shows will not be offered initially and when dining reservations resume, you will be able to make them 60 days before your trip (instead of the traditional 180 days). The 60-day booking window is exciting and we hope this is a long-term change, but do not have any information on that at this time. We look forward to seeing more information on the dining offerings coming soon.
At this time many restaurants in Disney Springs are open and although you cannot make dining reservations directly through Disney, you can make reservations with the restaurant or through OpenTable. Many of these locations are owned by third parties and have their own guidance on reservations. Due to limited seating, we recommend calling ahead or making a reservation. Keep in mind they may have a limited menu.
Quick Service Dining
Quick service dining is not expected to change too much at Walt Disney World once it reopens. Using the mobile order option in the My Disney Experience mobile app will be very important to reduce contact and wait times.
Mobile order is not available at all quick service locations and we do not know yet if it will be expanded to those locations or if those locations will not be open initially.
As more information on changes to quick service dining becomes available, we will have the updates for you.
As always, we are in close contact with Disney to be sure we have the most up-to-date information for our clients. We don’t believe all these changes are permanent so we highly recommend the “wait and see” approach for travel in the fall and beyond. We also highly recommend booking your next Disney vacation with an agency, like Magical Memory Planners, that is an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner so you are sure to have the best experience navigating these changes.
Contact us to get started if you are looking to plan an upcoming Disney vacation.