DiningUniversal Orlando ResortWalt Disney World (FL)

Comparing Disney & Universal Full Service Dining Options

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Here at Touring Plans, we love Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando equally. Both resorts complement each other’s strengths, like chocolate and peanut butter. In this series of articles, we will compare the Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando offerings directly to help you better prepare for your next vacation. Today we’re looking at the two resorts’ full-service restaurant offerings.

General Information

Antojitos (photo by Brandon Glover)

Full-service dining is synonymous with sit-down dining – guests are assigned a table and a waiter comes around to take orders and tend to the table. Both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando have several dozen full-service restaurants spread between their respective theme parks, hotels, and entertainment districts.

We recommend booking Walt Disney World dining as far out as possible, up to 60 days at the time of writing. Universal Orlando dining fills much later, so we recommend booking a week before your vacation for must-do meals.


Jaleo's paella pit
Jaleo’s paella pit

There is no way around it – Walt Disney World has more diversity in dining than Universal Orlando. Each resort has familiar American food, pub style, fusion concept, Italian, and Mexican options.

But Walt Disney World hotels and Disney Springs go above and beyond the standard American fare for locals and tourists alike. Several WDW restaurants have Michelin Plate awards and the cuisine ranges from Spanish paella to omakase fixed menu dinners, dining on top of the world to deep in a Canadian cellar, and everything in between.

Compare this to Universal Orlando where the restaurants are copies of popular American chains with a Universal twist. This isn’t a Cheesecake Factory it is a Chocolate Emporium and there’s walk around characters.


Disney’s Contemporary Resort is located at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kent Phillips, photographer)

You might have the most incredible, well-priced meal but still walk away displeased if you were overlooking a dumpster. Thankfully Disney and Universal’s restaurants have fantastic atmospheres and zero views of dumpsters. Restaurants are modern, clean, and use high-quality dishware and linens – no matter if you are dining with Lilo or Penelope Toothsome.

We do find Disney’s signature dining is a step above Universal’s high-end options with atmosphere and views. Settings like the top of the Contemporary, along an African savanna, on a space station, or inside a castle. We think Disney’s atmosphere is a step above Universal’s.

Character Dining

Here’s a category the mouse wins handily. Walt Disney World offers over a dozen character dining opportunities, from breakfast buffets with the Fab Five to upscale princess dinners in Cinderella’s Castle. A wide array of characters, price points, and meal options are available. (Touring Plans – Character Meals).

Universal Orlando offers three character dining experiences year-long:

A Grinch character breakfast is offered in November and December as part of the Holidays at Universal Orlando season.

For the sheer diversity and quantity, we give Disney the nod here.

Special Diets

(photo by Brandon Glover)

Good news – Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando menus have become leaps and bounds more accessible for those with special diets. Every sit-down restaurant now offers vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Chefs at both resorts are open to working with all guests to find a dish for their diets. For more information on special diets and food allergies read our articles:

“Ok Joe,” you might be thinking, “but where is the DATA?!?” Do not worry as part two next week will cover all the pricing, guest satisfaction, and quality statistics to shake a box-and-whisker plot at.

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Joseph Matt

Joe covers theme parks through the lens of his quality engineering day job. He has over five years of writing experience at Touring Plans and has gone on dozens of trips to Orlando over his life. When not at amusement parks you can find Joe at breweries, enjoying live theater, playing video games, and cooking.

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