Disney World Table Service Power Rankings Winter 2021

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The world is weird right now. (Very tempted to start every blog post like that from now on). And that means Walt Disney World is weird right now too. Especially the whole dining situation. Even in “normal” times, menus would shift, prices would increase, and popularity of certain locations would change. Now add in the very real pressures of figuring out staffing and potential reopening of dining locations, plus supply chain issues that mean even the most reliable menus may be … not so reliable anymore, and the landscape of dining at Disney has never been crazier.

That’s why overall satisfaction numbers don’t really tell you what’s really been happening recently at your favorite (or least-favorite) table service restaurants. If you only loved Ohana when it didn’t have noodles, and then the noodles came back, well, then you shouldn’t be so excited to visit next time. To help solve this problem of wanting to know how restaurants have been doing lately, we introduced our inaugural Walt Disney World Table Service Power Rankings about 3 months ago. We’re going to revisit them every season just to see what’s been happening, and how that might impact where you decide to eat.

I think we can all agree that Boma is objectively enjoyable, no matter the staffing or supply chain issues that may impact it!

Explain the Math!

After you get back from your most recent WDW vacation that you booked with the amazing TouringPlans Travel Agents, you’re invited to fill out our post-visit survey. That’s how we get all of our satisfaction data that enables these sorts of analyses. One section of that survey has you rate each dining location that you visited with either a “Thumbs Up” or a “Thumbs Down”. Then, I can pull all of that data and group together responses for each restaurant. That lets me look at the percentage of responses that were “Thumbs Up”, and that’s typically how we calculate overall satisfaction at that restaurant.

But this overall percentage doesn’t emphasize the most recent reviews. A review from yesterday counts just as much as a review from 9 years ago, unless I don’t introduce some cutoff. And I think we can all agree that in the world of Disney, a review from even 2 years ago shouldn’t matter as much as a review from yesterday. So for these Table Service Power Rankings we’ll be using a weighted average. If you already read our Resort Power Rankings or the Table Service Rankings from the fall, you already know how we do this. If not, we’ll walk through what a weighted average is below.

For all of our Power Rankings, we want to keep the weighting simple and easy to understand. 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
  • Etc.

What does all of that mean? Reviews from the past three months are six times 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 spring, we’ll be able to see what changes happen compared to the winter, and that will give us lots of information about recent changes in satisfaction. For today, we’ll compare the winter Power Rankings with the fall, to see what has changed over the past 3 months.

Which Restaurants are at the Top of the Table Service Power Rankings?

Top 10 Table Service Power Rankings – Winter 2021
  • Compared to Fall 2021, we only have one addition to the top 10, and therefore one option that fell out of contention. Topolino’s Terrace clawed its way back up from 12th all of the way to 5th. That’s one of the biggest increases of any table service location! I’m going to just go ahead and assume that everyone was astounded at the news that it had dropped, so they submitted their positive reviews that they had been withholding. Because it’s fun to pretend that I have that kind of power.
  • Someday, my beloved Jiko will reopen. Until that time, I will continue remembering it fondly.

    Topolino’s climb comes at the expense of California Grill. It was almost tied with Teppan Edo for 10th place, but barely got edged out. Still, I don’t view this as anything close to a warning bell for California Grill.

  • Victoria & Albert’s also “climbed” into 1st place. But as you can tell from the graph, it’s an incredibly close race between all of the top 4. And it isn’t actually reopened, which means that any shifts are due to the other reopened restaurants, and older reviews being weighted slightly differently as time progresses.
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge is still the place to be – it’s home to 3 out of the top 10 table service restaurants in all of Walt Disney World. That’s a crazy concentration.
  • Unfortunately, 3 out of our top 10 still have not reopened following their pandemic closures. Hoop-Dee-Doo, Victoria & Alberts, and Jiko are still closed. I’ve been telling everyone that our family’s next trip will be scheduled as soon as the Harmony Barber Shop opens. I may have to extend that same qualification for Jiko opening.

Which Restaurants are Making Positive Moves in the Table Service Power Rankings?

Top Power Ranking increases for Table Service restaurants compared to Fall 2021
  • Mickey celebrating his return to the Top 10 (probably)

    Interestingly, and maybe not surprisingly, 4 of the 6 restaurants listed here as making improvements in the winter were on our “negative moves” list in the fall compared to all time! Cape May Café, Narcoosee’s, Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill and AMC Dine-In Theatres all have plummeted pretty far compared to their all-time averages. They’re still not back to where they once were, but this could definitely be a case of pandemic-era/post-reopening slumps that are starting to revert back to more normal operations and expectations.

  • The two exceptions to that list are Topolino’s Terrace and Grand Floridian Café. Topolino’s Terrace has always been one of the most highly-rated table service restaurants since its opening, so its disappearance from the top 10 in the fall seemed pretty anomalous. It could just be a blip, but we’ll keep an eye on whether it stays in the top 10.
  • Grand Floridian Cafe isn’t as highly rated, but it did climb its way back into the 90% satisfaction group for the winter. I think the relatively recent ability to expand the menu back out to something closer to its original has helped things significantly here.

Which Restaurants are Making Negative Moves in the Table Service Power Rankings?

Top Power Ranking decreases for Table Service restaurants compared to Fall 2021
  • Just like we had some negative movers from the fall making rebounds this quarter, we see a little bit of the opposite effect as well. Il Mulino and Hollywood Brown Derby were both big positive movers when compared to their all-time average, but now show up as having a winter slump.
  • I think Ravello benefited from having better food and a chance at character interactions when both things were difficult to find in the post-reopening area with most Disney-operated dining locations. Now that other table service spots are seeing more of a recovery, Ravello has less to offer.
  • This once serene view is now only more enjoyable if you are an engineer that wants to figure out the inner workings of the Harmonious barges – guilty.

    Spice Road Table has always suffered from shockingly small portions for the cost, but benefited from its great location and views of the lagoon. Now with Harmonious leaving the lagoon littered with big mechanical objects during the day, that benefit is slightly marred during daylight hours. And things aren’t improved at showtime since you can’t get a good view of the central “ring” and its visuals from the patio here. Score are likely just losing their location inflation and more appropriately reflecting the food and cost.

  • I’m a little surprised to see the dip here for Sebastian’s Bistro – it regularly gets positive feedback as being a good value with quality food. Perhaps we (and other) have hyped it just too much and people have unrealistic expectations. Or it’s another case of other locations getting back to normal and competing with what Sebastian’s was already able to do well.

What Does This Mean For You?

  1. As always, check back in before you make reservations for your next trip to see what might be new or different at some of your favorite spots. You don’t want to be disappointed to learn that your favorite dish has dropped off of the menu!
  2. Keep your mind open and don’t be afraid to try out new locations, especially if they are showing high satisfaction.
  3. Popularity doesn’t necessarily equal quality or satisfaction. Table service restaurants with the top satisfaction aren’t the ones that are getting the highest volume of reviews. You may need to get creative and eat at a resort or Disney Springs instead of in the park if you want a really satisfactory meal.

Did any of the results in our winter rankings surprise you? Did you have an experience at any of these restaurants that was particularly awesome or awful? And do you have any predictions about what we might see in the spring? Let us know in the comments!

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Becky Gandillon

Becky Gandillon was trained in biomedical engineering, but is now a full-time data and analytics nerd. She loves problem solving and travelling. She and her husband, Jeff, live in St. Louis with their two daughters and they have Disney family movie night every Saturday. You can follow her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/becky-gandillon/ or instagram @raisingminniemes

11 thoughts on “Disney World Table Service Power Rankings Winter 2021

  • January 12, 2022 at 12:24 pm
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    Great as always Becky, would love to see the full weighted list sometime.

    Which restaurants were the biggest movers (+/-) in Magic Kingdom?

    Also, will Counter Service Power rankings follow in the next few weeks?

    Reply
    • January 12, 2022 at 8:20 pm
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      In the Magic Kingdom, the top positive movers were Be Our Guest (65th to 62nd) and The Crystal Palace (42nd to 40th). The top negative movers were Skipper Canteen (booooo, 26th to 30th) and Tony’s Town Square (94th to 97th).

      And good news, Counter Service Rankings will post next week!

      Reply
  • January 12, 2022 at 1:33 pm
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    I commented on your Dec 22nd article about Genie+ but wasn’t sure if you saw it since my post was 2 weeks after the article. I had an idea about a potential way to use the wait time data Touring Plans has to see if you can compare Standby lines with Genie+ to older Fastpass waits. I was hoping you might be able to flesh out the idea with your data expertise and maybe find some interesting comparisons!

    Reply
    • January 12, 2022 at 8:21 pm
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      I did see that comment – I apologize for not replying. I like the concept, but any time we compare across time we’re in danger of for some reason accidentally comparing unlike days/times and not realizing why they were unlike and then drawing incorrect conclusions. Not saying that it’s impossible, it’s just something that we’d have to be very careful with.

      Reply
  • January 12, 2022 at 5:30 pm
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    Interesting. We have our first deluxe stay coming up in a couple of months, at AKL. Food was definitely one of the motivating factors :p Though I’m pretty disappointed Jiko is still closed. I really thought it would have reopened by now. I wish I knew what was going on, or when it was likely to reopen.

    Reply
    • January 12, 2022 at 8:15 pm
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      Glad that you’re going to get to enjoy AKL – it will be glorious! And as long as you experience Sanaa and Boma, don’t feel too too bad about Jiko.

      Reply
    • January 14, 2022 at 10:20 am
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      DL! Jiko is reopening February 17th!!! I’m going to say we as a community commenting on this blog made this happen. But you’ll get to experience the full force of what AKL has to offer, and I’m excited for you 🙂

      Reply
      • January 14, 2022 at 11:55 am
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        YESS!! Awesome news. Thank you! 🙂 And yes, it was totally the good community vibes that did it lol.

  • January 14, 2022 at 12:23 am
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    I take the survey every time, but I find it very difficult to rate restaurants on a binary scale. I really wish there were multiple options to chose (abhor, dislike, meh, like, love, etc). For me, a restaurant has to really make me upset to go into the thumbs down category, but sometimes it wasn’t good enough for a thumbs up either so I just end up not rating it.

    Reply
    • January 14, 2022 at 8:13 am
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      Thank you for that helpful feedback, Maggie!

      Reply
  • January 21, 2022 at 4:15 pm
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    Personally I think the resturants that are not open shouldn’t be on the list. What’s the point in adding them if they are not open, especially when this is talking about winter 2021.

    Reply

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