Eat This, Not That – Personalized Quick Service Advice for Walt Disney World

If you’re a regular Walt Disney World visitor, you probably have your favorite spots to eat. I love grabbing a waffle sandwich from Sleepy Hollow and eating by the castle. Or picking up a pastry from Les Halles for dessert as we finish up a stroll around the World Showcase. And if I’m eating lunch at Animal Kingdom, you will almost always find me at Flame Tree Barbecue. Sure, it’d be fun to branch out and try new things. But I tend to stick to my comfort zone. I could easily pull other highly-rated counter service spots. But that just tells me what everyone else likes. What about what I like?

Good news – I have data about me! I know what I already like. And if you’ve visited WDW before, you have that same data about you. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could use our own data to find some semi-personalized recommendations about what we might enjoy if we tried it on our next visit? Today we’ll look at some of the most highly-rated quick service locations and see what you should (or shouldn’t) try next if you like those spots.

Explain the Math!

Here’s your fancy term for the day: conditional probabilities. A conditional probability is the chance of something happening, given what you know about a prior event or outcome. So in our analysis today, that “prior outcome” is whether you liked a certain counter service location. We’ll use that information to calculate the new chance that you’ll like some other location.

So what do we need to calculate? First, we calculate overall satisfaction at every counter service spot at WDW. That’s our base case. If we know nothing about you, those overall averages are going to be our very best guess about what you might or might not like. I get those from every single WDW post-visit survey that gets submitted through TouringPlans.

But now let’s say I do know something about you. As soon as I get one data point about you, that changes everything. Because now I can filter my overall data to be more similar to you. For example, if you like Pizzafari (don’t point fingers here, I know there are some of you out there), I can pull surveys for just people that like Pizzafari. Now you might trust the results more, because the satisfaction scores at every other restaurant will be coming from other Pizzafari fans like yourself. You can ignore the taste of all of those Pizzafari haters.

I pulled conditional satisfaction scores for every single counter service location, given that you gave a thumbs up to any other counter service location. There were 106 counter service spots in my list. So that means I pulled 11,236 different satisfaction scores. I did 11,236 comparisons against the overall satisfaction scores to see if they were significantly different. If it wasn’t significantly different, no big deal. That means your Pizzafari fandom doesn’t impact whether or not you’re likely to enjoy Restaurant X. But if it does, then we know something interesting. What are the two types of interesting things we could find out?

1. Positive Correlation: If I like Restaurant A, I am significantly more likely to enjoy Restaurant X. This doesn’t mean I’m guaranteed to like it. I’m just more likely to enjoy it than the average WDW visitor. These will show up under “Eat This”.
2. Negative Correlation: If I like Restaurant A, I am significantly less likely to enjoy Restaurant Y. This doesn’t mean I will hate it. I’m just less likely to enjoy it than the average WDW visitor. These will show up under “Not That”.

Animal Kingdom

• If you like Creature Comforts …
• If you like Tamu Tamu Refreshments …

• Eat This: Harambe Market. This one may have more to do with convenience, location, and atmosphere than actual cuisine.
• Not That: PizzeRizzo and Pizzafari. Looks like if you enjoy eating in Africa, the whole mediocre pizza thing probably isn’t your jam.
• If you like Satu’li Canteen …
• Eat This: Les Halles. This is a relationship I personally wouldn’t have made off-hand. Which makes it an interesting one. Les Halles already has a pretty high satisfaction rate. But if you like Satu’li, you’re even more likely to be a fan of French pastry.
• Not That: Beach Club Marketplace, ABC Commissary, PizzeRizzo, Casey’s Corner, and Cosmic Ray’s. This is the first time we’re seeing a big cohort of food-court-ish options pop up. We’ll probably see it a few more times. But if you’re a Satu’li fan, avoid this group.

Hollywood Studios

• If you like The Trolley Car Café …
• If you like Ronto Roasters …

• If you like Docking Bay 7 …
• Eat This: Satu’li Canteen, Flame Tree BBQ, and Dockside Diner. The first two here make sense to me. Satu’li and Docking Bay both have food and atmosphere that is supposed to transport you. Rib fans have options at Flame Tree and Docking Bay. Dockside Diner .. is a mystery to me. Maybe there is a crowd of people that likes to eat anywhere with “Dock” in the name?
• Not That: Snack Shack, Catalina Eddie’s, Golden Oak Outpost, and Fuel.

EPCOT

• If you like Les Halles …
• Eat This: Tamu Tamu. Huh, what? I am a self-professed pastry groupie. So Les Halles is near the top of my counter service list. But I’ve never tried Tamu Tamu. There are some interesting pastries on the breakfast menu there, so maybe I will give it a shot on our next trip.

• Not That: ABC Commissary, PizzeRizzo, Pinocchio Village Haus, Cosmic Ray’s, Pizzafari, Backlot Express, and Restaurantosaurus. Our food court cohort is back! If the authentic French pastry shop makes you happy, don’t go near the standard food court fare.
• If you like Refreshment Port …
• If you like Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe …
• Eat This: The Mara. Another interesting one for me. I enjoy both, but wouldn’t have associated them on my own.
• Not That: PizzeRizzo, ABC Commissary, Pizzafari, and Cosmic Ray’s. Our not-good old friends, the food courts and pizza places.

Magic Kingdom

• If you like Main Street Bakery …

• Eat This: Landscape of Flavors, Capt. Cook’s, Trolley Car Café, BoardWalk Bakery, Starbucks – Disney Springs, and Harambe Market. Now this is a fascinating mix. Trolley Car makes the list, but Creature Comforts doesn’t. There’s another bakery in there, but also … Harambe Market?!
• Not That: None! There are no significant negative correlations for Main Street Bakery.
• If you like Columbia Harbor House …

Disney Springs

• If you like Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop …
• Eat This: Sommerfest, Yak & Yeti, Sunshine Seasons, and Capt. Cook’s. This is a pretty eclectic mix!
• Not That: PizzeRizzo and Satu’li Canteen. This might be the only Disney dining list where PizzeRizzo and Satu’li Canteen are found together.
• If you like Blaze Pizza …

• Eat This: Landscape of Flavors. The menu here has been totally gutted since Art of Animation reopened, so you may want to sit on this advice for a while.
• Not That: Docking Bay 7, Dino Diner, Polite Pig, Pinocchio Village Haus, Catalina Eddie’s, Sand Bar, ABC Commissary, Promenade Refreshments, and Java Bar.
• If you like Earl of Sandwich …
• Eat This: Sunshine Seasons, Landscape of Flavors, Flame Tree BBQ, Riverside Mill Food Court, B.B. Wolf’s, Yak & Yeti, Cookes of Dublin, and Main Street Bakery. I’ll admit, before the whole Disney Springs rebranding, Earl of Sandwich was my go-to counter service spot at Downtown Disney. I haven’t been there in years, but there are a few other places on this recommended list that I also like.
• Not That: ABC Commissary and PizzeRizzo. How many times can I write PizzeRizzo in one article? Probably a few more …

Resort Dining

• If you like Beaches & Cream To Go …
• Eat This: Riverside Mill Food Court. Before their closures, Riverside Mill and Sassagoula both offered hand-scooped ice cream options.
• Not That: Lotus Blossom Café, ABC Commissary, PizzeRizzo, Pizzafari, Refreshment Port, and Cosmic Ray’s. If you like typical ice cream flavors, the caramel-ginger and lychee varieties at Lotus Blossom are apparently not for you.
• If you like Le Petit Café …

• Eat This: Sunshine Seasons. I’ve got nothing on this one. Let me know if you think of a good connection to explain the correlation!
• Not That: Avalunch, Lowtide Lou’s, Leaning Palms, Cosmic Ray’s, Lottawatta Lodge, and Pizzafari. Lesson here? If an Aristocat-themed café is your style, don’t expect to find anything satisfying at a water park.
• If you like Geyser Point Bar & Grill …
• Eat This: Harambe Market.
• Not That: ABC Commissary, Pizzafari, Cosmic Ray’s, PizzeRizzo, Backlot Express, Dino Diner, and Primo Piatto. The pseudo-food-court contingent makes another appearance. But Primo Piatto surprises me. Perhaps this is a battle of the burgers and Geyser Point is the winner?

What Does This Mean For You?

1. We tend to analyze things like overall average satisfaction a lot around here. But no human is exactly average. We each have unique tastes. And just like any other data, satisfaction data becomes more powerful when you put it into context and turn it into actionable information. In this case, the context is what you know you already like.
2. Any two dining locations could correlate for any number of reasons. Maybe they have similar atmosphere. Or convenient locations. Perhaps they both serve macaroni and cheese, which is the only meal your toddler will eat after a long and tiring day. And sometimes we might identify correlations that we just struggle to explain. That’s why it’s fun to pull these numbers and then discuss to see what we can figure out together.
3. Since I pulled all of the highest-satisfying locations at each park for this post, PizzeRizzo shows up a lot in what to avoid. But even that is useful information. It typically appears in a list with Pizzafari and Cosmic Ray’s and Restaurantosaurus, etc. So if your family enjoys those places, you know what to stick to.

Did any of the correlations here surprise you? Do you have a personal favorite that doesn’t show up in the post, but you’d like to know the correlations? Let us know in the comments! And stay tuned for table service recommendations on Saturday.

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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

15 thoughts on “Eat This, Not That – Personalized Quick Service Advice for Walt Disney World”

• Every time you post one of these, I always think “I guess that’s the last one, because what’s left to analyze?” And then here’s another one! Please keep them coming, they are always fascinating and fun to read.

The negative correlation between Blaze and Polite Pig jumped out at me. Battle lines have been drawn in town Center, apparently?

• Becky Gandillon

Thanks, Andy! Let me know if you think of any cool questions to try to answer with data. I’m going to be starting up an “Ask Me Anything” series, so I’d love to add things to my list.

I had the same thought for Blaze/Polite Pig. The only thing that made sense in my head there was perceived value. Polite Pig can get expensive quickly.

• I’ll say that I am (obviously) an avid reader of the blog, but that I’ve never actually seen or taken the TP survey. Is there an easy way to view the survey without taking it? Seeing the questions that people have been asked in the survey could inspire questions for your Ask [You] Anything.

In all the hotel analyses, you were talking about satisfaction scores on a 1-5 scale. Does that same thing apply here? Or do people give simple thumbs-up/down feedback for dining locations?

• Having taken the survey myself I can agree that it is really long! I didn’t much like the binary scale for restaurants either, as sometimes a place was just okay and didn’t warrant a negative or a positive. IE I might eat there again if the mood struck me but I’d pick other places first.

• I love this one! Even the surprises mostly make sense, and I’d say overall it’s pretty easy to start categorizing readers correlations into columns like ‘adventurous eaters,’ ‘comfort eaters,’ ‘quality eaters,’ and ‘PizzeRizzo haters.’ Except that last category seems pretty large…

• Becky Gandillon

PizzeRizzo haters do seem like a large group, right? But it does have an 80% overall satisfaction rating. So we can’t all be the haters. It just correlates negatively with a lot of the most popular counter service places. PizzeRizzo lovers have their own cohort of spots that they like.

• Heathernoel

This is so much fun! I am like you in that we stay within our comfort zone – love the correlations to help us branch out a little bit!

• Becky Gandillon

Thanks Heather! It’s so hard if you only go once every couple of years to avoid your tried-and-true favorites. It just seems too risky.

• Are there any correlations with Rainforest Cafe? (Other than the other RC location and T-Rex?) That’s a restaurant that I seem to like more than most others, so I’m curious what those with my same tastes are drawn to.

• Becky Gandillon

Ah, Jeff, you’re cheating and skipping ahead to Table Service! But I’ll allow it 🙂

The Rainforest Cafe (AK) Rainforest Cafe (DS) is REALLY strong. The strongest positive correlation of any pair of table service restaurants. Overall satisfaction for the DS location is just 77%. But if you give the AK location a thumbs up, that rockets up to a 96% satisfaction! Not surprising … but it helps me trust the data.

Unfortunately, both Rainforest Cafes only significantly positively correlate with each other and with T-REX. Nothing else makes the list. Negative correlations exist, though – they say you should avoid The Edison and Homecomin’.

For now I’ve only correlated Table Service locations with other Table Service locations, and Counter Service locations with other Counter Service locations. Having them cross over would be really cool and helpful (for example, in case you can’t get in at your favorite table service place and need a counter service backup), but I haven’t brought myself to do that HUGE number of correlations yet.

• I’d love to see the full correlation matrix if you have a link to it.