If you are a Walt Disney World Resort newbie, the insider lingo can get overwhelming. Yes, the Disney website is helpful for Guests looking to book a Disney vacation. From drafting a dining plan for your family to booking a Disney Resort to adding extras to an upcoming Disney vacation, the Walt Disney World Resort website is a fantastic resource. Still, navigating the world of mobile ordering, deluxe dining, and table service meals can get confusing. If you need basic pointers and some Disney dining definitions before you click confirm on your restaurant reservation, you came to the right place. We got you covered!
Perhaps the most common question about Disney dining is how to understand the differences between restaurants at Disney World. A quick glimpse at the Disney website will reveal no shortage of delicious dining options at Walt Disney World. From Satu’li Canteen in Animal Kingdom Park to snagging a Dole Whip in Magic Kingdom to character dining at a Disney hotel – it can be hard to know where to start.
The seemingly endless meal possibilities may even be a bit overwhelming for Guests weighing out the best food for their vacation. Let’s break down the significant differences between Disney World table service and quick-service dining so you can make the best choice for your Disney vacation.
This first point may seem obvious; quick service meals are faster than a table-service meal experience. Quick-service dining is sometimes called counter service, fast casual, or casual dining by Disney Resort insiders. Quick service meals are a perfect fit for Guests on the go looking to grab a delicious bite to eat between attractions with no required planning, and minimal wait times.
Quick-service dining options generally involve Guests making selections from a shorter menu at a walk-up restaurant, food cart, or food truck and waiting a few minutes as the order is prepared and released to you at a nearby window. This dining format will result in quick food wait times and cut out the time spent reviewing the menu at a table service restaurant and waiting for a Cast Member to return with each course of your meal.
Mobile order is another option to streamline quick service fining at many spots around the Disney World Property. Using mobile order through the Disney app on your phone will allow you to review the menu and order your food on the way to your restaurant of choice. After you arrive at your chosen restaurant, the app will alert you when your food is ready. This means you can spend more time enjoying your meal and save time.
Table service dining at Walt Disney World is more than just a meal. Character dining, signature dining, dinner shows, and fine dining all fall under the umbrella of table service dining. Table service dining is defined by the dining experience as much as the food. Meal duration will be longer at a table service restaurant. Be sure to clock off two or more hours for a table service dining experience to ensure you can enjoy your meal. You will need to secure an advance dining reservation before you visit a table service spot. Reservations can easily be made online or through the Disney app.
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Theme & Cuisine
While this point may not always hold entirely true, I tend to categorize quick service and table service meals by food theme. Unlike other theme parks, Disney Parks do a stellar job of surpassing the quality of meals so often associated with theme parks. While you will find plenty of hot dogs and funnel cakes to go around you can also enjoy amazing food at quick-service eateries at Disney World.
Quick service restaurant foods like lobster rolls at Columbia Harbour House, succulent roast meats at Satu’li Canteen, and juicy roasted chicken and vegetables at Sunshine Seasons are just a few perfectly themed quick service meals in Disney Parks that pack a flavor punch.
Table service meals are also well-themed but tend to be more complex in food type and dining experience. Table service dining offers meals that include sides (although a la carte options are available at some restaurants) and is a little more complex than food at quick service restaurants. You’ll be able to step into different cultures when dining in World Showcase at restaurants like Chefs de France or Teppan Edo. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you can chow down with a character dining experience of American food at Hollywood & Vine.
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Several table service restaurants on the Disney property ramp up the glitz by requiring Guests to stick to a dress code. Restaurant attire guidelines are reasonable. Some guidelines ask men to wear collared shirts and that Guests refrain from wearing casual garments like swimwear. If you have questions about specific attire guidelines at your dining spot, check out the Disney website before booking.
While only a handful of Disney restaurants have attire guidelines, it is pretty common to see Guests more dressed up at table service restaurants. Quick service establishments have a much more “come as you are” vibe that welcomes swimsuit cover-ups straight from the pool, shorts-clad Guests in a Disney Park, and Guests running down to the Resort quick service cafeteria to grab a morning coffee before the kids wake up.
Disney World newbies that think of table service dining might automatically think of character dining. While every table service restaurant is not a character meal, all character meals are found at table service restaurants. Guests looking to dine with characters should search for character dining on the Walt Disney World website to learn which table service meals they need to pursue to meet their favorite Disney pals while enjoying top-notch cuisine.
The great news is that character dining options are available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Disney Resorts and Disney Parks around the property. Disney character breakfasts are a cheaper way to explore character dining. Cinderellas Royal Table, Ohana, and Garden Grill are all great spots to enjoy a character breakfast with your family.
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A detail that quickly comes to mind when comparing table service with quick service is the cost. Table service restaurants are more expensive than quick service dining. In addition to the increased cost of dining at a table service restaurant, a minimum 18% gratuity is charged to groups dining with six or more Guests. Quick service dining does not require gratuity and gives Guests a chance to mix and match meal offerings a bit by purchasing individual items and not a whole meal.
If you are looking to save money by sharing meals or are searching for other ways to cut costs on Disney dining, check out our treasure trove of articles on the subject. You can enjoy both quick service and table service meals on a budget while choosing the best cuisine and restaurant theming for your family’s preferences.
We hope these tips have been helpful as you navigate the world of Disney dining!