Back in the before-times … no, not those before-times. I’m talking about before the pre-Genie madness of the past couple of weeks. Yeah, those easy times. Back then I started a series of Fall 2021 Power Rankings. First were the WDW Resort Power Rankings, and then the WDW Table Service Power Rankings. And then I got sucked into the black hole of Genie there for a while. But it’s time to get back to some of that important number-crunching to help you make decisions outside of the realm of the Genie.
Quick service locations at Disney World constantly shift around. They change their menus so that your favorites (or least favorites) from past trips aren’t there anymore. They try out new items for special occasions. So how are you supposed to know where you should go on your next trip? That’s the goal of these power rankings. We’ll rank each quick service location across WDW so that you can easily compare across locations. But we also want to take into account recent changes in satisfaction, so we’ll be doing that by mathematically emphasizing the most recent results from our satisfaction surveys. That means you’ll be able to be able to see how locations have been trending (better or worse) recently, and how they compare to other locations too.
Explain the Math!
Once you take your WDW vacation and then get back home (I hope you used the wonderful TouringPlans Travel Agents), you can fill out a post-visit survey to tell us about your trip. That’s where we pull all of our satisfaction data from for these fun analyses and posts. And one part of that survey invites you to give each dining location that you experienced a “Thumbs Up” or a “Thumbs Down”. Then I can sum up all of that data and group it by the dining location. That lets us see the percentage of responses that were a “Thumbs Up”. And that’s the number that we present as the overall satisfaction at that location.
But that overall satisfaction doesn’t take into account when the survey was filled out. A review from yesterday holds just as much weight as a review from 3 or 4 years ago (in those before-times), if I don’t introduce some arbitrary cut-off. In the ever-changing world of Disney quick-service dining, even a review from a year ago shouldn’t matter as much as a review from yesterday. So for these Quick Service Power Rankings we’re going to use a weighted average. If you already read the Table Service Power Rankings, you know what’s up. If not, we’ll go over it again here.
As with the other Power Rankings, we’re going to keep the weighting pretty simple. We want the most recent reviews to keep their “full weight”. That means they’ll keep their full impact on the final score. But as we go back in time, we want to remove “weight” from those scores so that the older scores have less impact on the final score. We’re going to make our “full weight” window the past three months, and then we’ll implement the following weighting system:
- 3 to 6 months ago – 1/2 weight
- 6 to 9 months ago – 1/3 weight
- 9 to 12 months ago – 1/4 weight
- 12 to 15 months ago – 1/5 weight
- 15 to 18 months ago – 1/6 weight
So what does that mean? It means that a review from yesterday (or 2 months ago) have 6 times more impact on the final score than a review from 16 months ago. That translates to a Quick Service Power Ranking that doesn’t ignore the past, but does get impacted more by recent reviews. When we come back to these rankings in a few months, we can see what changes happen to the Power Rankings. And that will give us a lot of new information about recent changes in satisfaction. For today, we’ll compare the Power Rankings to the all-time average, to see what differences pop up there.
Which Locations are at the Top of the Table Service Power Rankings?
- What jumps out at me is Animal Kingdom’s dominance on this list. I’m a sucker for quick service at EPCOT, but Creature Comforts, Satu’li Canteen, and Tamu Tamu take the top three spots. Not a shabby start.
- On the flip side, Magic Kingdom is the only “area” to not have any quick service locations make the top 10. That doesn’t surprise me at all – most quick service locations in the Magic Kingdom are pretty lackluster overall.
EPCOT’s two spots that make the top 10 come in at spots four and five. If you can visit EPCOT without stopping in Les Halles, you are a stronger person than me. Those pastries call to me. Loudly.
- Hollywood Studios’ lone entrant in the top 10, Ronto Roasters is next on the list. If you read our Hollywood Studios double head-to-head recap, you know that Genie is sending a lot of people to Ronto Roasters for lunch. At least it’s a satisfying location for now – we’ll see if it stays that way as it deals with the crowds descending upon it.
- Rounding out the top 10 are two Disney Springs locations (Ghirardelli and Polite Pig) and two resort locations (Oasis and Geyser Point). What have we learned here? If you want good resort quick service dining, go to some place with “Bar & Grill” in the name in the Magic Kingdom resort area.
Which Restaurants are Making Positive Moves in the Quick Service Power Rankings?
- In order to make the top list, a location’s weighted average from Fall 2021 had to move it up the ranks by at least 18 spots compared to its all-time average. That means that compared to all other quick service spots, its recent reviews have been a lot better compared to its all-time reviews. So these may not be the top restaurants overall (in fact, they’re not even close), but they’re ones you might want to give another shot if you didn’t enjoy them in the past.
The Java Bar is basically a grab-and-go location at the Swan that also serves up breakfast sandwiches, as well as other sandwiches and salads throughout the day. It’s ranked 97th (out of 122) all time, but the weighted average brings it up to 68th. Not a place you should seek out just because. But it’s good news if you’re staying at the Swan anyway.
- Out of all of the biggest positive movers, Marketplace Snacks in the nearest to the top of the quicker service power rankings list overall. You wanna know why? Because of Dole Whips and rum. Marketplace Snacks serves a variety of Dole Whip desserts and pineapple rum floats. Nothing to dislike there. Except, if you’re like me, and you don’t like pineapple. I’ll swaperoo that for chocolate, thanks.
- It’s interesting that of this list, only two of the most improved quick service locations are in parks. There are just as many on this list in Old Key West alone. I don’t know if that says more about how things are going in the parks or how things are going at Old Key West. Turtle Shack and Good’s Food To Go are both much improved, but still pretty low on the overall list.
Which Restaurants are Making Negative Moves in the Quick Service Power Rankings?
- In order to make the naughty list, a location’s weighted average from Fall 2021 had to move it down the ranks by at least 22 spots compared to its all-time average. That means that compared to all other quick service spots, its recent reviews have been a lot worse compared to its all-time reviews. So if your past favorite shows up on this list (eek, I hope it doesn’t), don’t expect it to be the same the next time you visit.
- The biggest decrease we see is at Everything POP, which ranks 53rd overall all-time, but drops down to 87th overall when we weight recent reviews more heavily. That’s a big deal. The menu there has been scorched since reopening after the pandemic, and this food court that used to be a little bit of a dining destination now … isn’t.
- The next-biggest drop is at Gasparilla Island Grill. Its menu hasn’t been quite as annihilated as some across property, but the drop in score is probably a misalignment of expectations. Quick service at the Grand Floridian needs to be something special to impress the people paying to stay there. And while the food here post-reopening is okay, it’s certainly not something special.
- The Snack Shack and Typhoon Tilly’s both haven’t reopened, so them appearing on this list says something about their declining quality pre-pandemic. It’s interesting to note, but it may not impact what these locations are like if and when Typhoon Lagoon reopens.
- Overall, there are many “food courts” at the resorts that show up on this list or just barely missed the cut. Post-pandemic cuts have hurt these types of locations the most.
What Does This Mean For You?
- The park that reigns supreme for quick service dining is definitely Animal Kingdom. Lots of good quick service options there. So if you are looking for a day in your vacation to skip a table service meal, it’s a good choice. (I’ve actually never had a table service meal at Animal Kingdom … shh … too many other good options.)
- In a world where food courts at resorts are plummeting in satisfaction, the Swan and Old Key West seem to be holding their ground and might be becoming more appealing places to stay if convenient quick service at your resort is really important to you. We’ll keep an eye on them to see if that trend continues in our next update.
- Pop Century is a hugely popular value resort. It’s (generally) affordable and has good Skyliner access and updated rooms. But if you’ve stayed before and raved to friends and family about the great food court – stop it. Don’t do that anymore. And reset your expectations before your next visit.
Did any of today’s results surprise you? Do you have predictions for big winners or movers in the Winter update? Are you interested how another Quick Service location ranked that I didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments!