Dining is always a hot topic at Disney World, and it’s an ever-moving target. Dining location availability changes based on attendance expectations or staffing shortages. Menus constantly switch things up to deal with supply chain issues, or to provide the next cool new shareable item that makes all of the bloggers go gaga. And table service restaurants at Disney World are expensive places. You’re dropping a lot of money to eat somewhere that you read about 6 months ago, or enjoyed 6 years ago. And it could be totally different. We’ve tried to help you make good decisions, by comparing satisfaction to price, or to reservation availability, offering similar options to things you already enjoy, or suggesting spots that might appeal to specific party types. But now is time for something different – something that will help us be able to adapt to the ever-changing dining dynamic. How? By introducing the Disney World Table Service Power Rankings!
What are these power rankings? Well, at their heart, they are numbers that allow us to compare every table service restaurant at Disney World in an approachable way. And they consider all of the table service satisfaction scores we’ve ever received (over 275,000 of them!), but they emphasize the most recent results. That means that they more accurately reflect what’s been happening lately, so you’ll better know if a particular spot has been trending better or worse than it has in the past, and how it compares to every other location. Then you can use our increasingly-popular Reservation Finder to grab that elusive reservation at the places you want to try.
Explain the Math!
When you get back from your WDW vacation (that you probably booked with one of our awesome TouringPlans Travel Agents), you’re invited to fill out a post-visit survey. That’s where we get all of our satisfaction data to be able to do these sorts of analyses. One part of that survey has you give each dining location that you ate at a “Thumbs Up” or a “Thumbs Down”. On the back end, I can pull all of that data and group all responses for each restaurant. Then I look at the percentage of responses that were “Thumbs Up”, and that’s generally how we calculate overall satisfaction at that restaurant.
But this number doesn’t emphasize recent reviews. A review from yesterday factors in just as much as a review from 9 years ago, if I don’t introduce some arbitrary cutoff. In the world of Disney, even a review from 2 years ago shouldn’t matter as much as a review from yesterday. So for our Table Service Power Rankings we’re going to introduce a weighted average. If you already read our Resort Power Rankings, you know the drill. If not, we’ll walk through what a weighted average is here.
For the Disney World Table Service Power Rankings, we want to keep the weighting pretty simple. We want recent reviews to keep their full “weight” (and therefore impact on the full score), but as we go further back in time, we want to take away “weight” so that older reviews have less impact on the final score. For Power Rankings, we’ll narrow the full weight “window” down to the past 3 months. Any reviews from that time period get to keep their full weight. They count as a whole response. But, beyond that, we will 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
What do those numbers mean? Basically, reviews from the past three months are six times “heavier” (or more important) than reviews from 15-18 months ago, when we calculate the final score. That means that our Table Service Power Rankings don’t totally ignore the past, but recent reviews influence it a lot more. When we revisit these rankings again in the winter, we can see what changes happen compared to the fall, and that will give us lots of information about recent changes in satisfaction. For today, we’ll compare the Power Rankings with the all-time average, to see what differences pop up that way.
Which Restaurants are at the Top of the Table Service Power Rankings?
- From the start, we see that just because a restaurant makes the top 10 … unfortunately doesn’t mean that you can eat there currently. As of the time we’re writing this article, Hoop-Dee-Doo and Jiko haven’t yet reopened following their pandemic closures.
- It also goes to show – if you want good food options nearby, the best resort for you this fall is Animal Kingdom Lodge. You’ve got three of the top ten table service locations at your resort. Can’t beat that.
- Disney Springs also makes a strong showing with Wine Bar George (our review team will gladly tell you why), Jaleo, and Homecomin’. Out of this top 10, Jaleo had the biggest increase in power ranking compared to overall average. All-time, Jaleo is the 17th-best table service restaurant. But it’s been on a recent upswing, bringing it up to 5th in the Power Rankings.
- If you’re looking for excellent table-service fare inside a park, your best choice this fall appears to be Teppan Edo, the only in-park spot to make the top 10.
- As interesting to me as what makes the list is what doesn’t. Where is my family’s favorite character meal, Topolino’s Terrace?! While it has the 4th-highest overall average, its recent reviews bring it down to 12th place in the Fall 2021 Power Rankings. That’s not something we would’ve known without the weighted average. Definitely going to be keeping my eyes on that one.
Which Restaurants are Making Positive Moves in the Table Service Power Rankings?
- In order to make the top list, a restaurant’s weighted average from Fall 2021 had to move it up the ranks by at least 15 spots compared to its all-time average. That means that compared to all other table service spots, its recent reviews have been much better compared to its all-time reviews. So these may not be the top restaurants, but they’re ones you might want to give another shot if you didn’t enjoy them in the past.
- Ale & Compass used to be a pretty big disappointment (you can read a review from 2017 here), but it seems to be finding its footing post-pandemic with a lot more positive reviews coming its way. So instead of ranking 71st all-time (ouch), it comes in at a much more respectable spot 41 this fall.
- Animal Kingdom Lodge is the place to eat for top table service favorites. But Swan/Dolphin looks to be making some moves. Kimonos, bluezoo, and Il Mulino all improved 25 spots compared to their all-time averages. Kimonos is now almost in the top 10, raising from 39th all time to 14th in the Fall 2021 Power Rankings.
- As far as in-park dining is concerned, Skipper Canteen (Magic Kingdom) and Hollywood Brown Derby (Hollywood Studios) have gotten more positive reviews recently and are moving up in the Power Rankings.
Which Restaurants are Making Negative Moves in the Table Service Power Rankings?
- Cape May Cafe reopened in May of 2021, and since then has been pretty disappointing. Cape May without the characters just isn’t impressive. You can read our most recent review from June here. If you enjoy all-you-can-eat mediocre seafood, then give it a shot. Otherwise, maybe wait until characters come back.
- Narcoosee’s also saw a big drop. Reviews since its reopening seem to agree that all of the food is “okay”, but for the prices you pay to eat there, “okay” doesn’t really cut it.
- Be Our Guest started out as really popular and really highly rated when it first debuted. It’s still a hard reservation to get, but either the quality is suffering, or the concept has worn itself out with the masses.
- Toledo is pretty similar in concept to Jaleo. But if you’re staying at Coronado Springs (or perhaps another Skyliner resort with easy access), Toledo is definitely easier to access. Chrissy recently had a good experience there, but overall Jaleo is still superior, and maybe Toledo has been suffering as a result.
What Does This Mean For You?
- Animal Kingdom Lodge is the place to go for reliably great table service dining. You can’t dine at Jiko right now, but bide your time at Boma or Sanaa and you won’t regret it. Plus follow @JikoYet to at least get some laughs while it’s still closed.
- And while Animal Kingdom Lodge is the best, Swan/Dolphin is the surprising winner for “most improved”. Perhaps not a dining destination yet, but don’t count those restaurants out.
- If you visited Cape May Cafe, Narcoosee’s, or Be Our Guest a couple of years ago and can’t wait to go back, just be prepared to manage your expectations. Things there might not be quite as great as they used to be.
Do you have an old standby favorite table service restaurant at Disney World that has disappointed you recently? Or a previous bad experience follow by a surprisingly positive one? Did any of the results surprise you, or do you have any predictions for the Winter rankings? Let us know in the comments!