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

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Do you have a favorite reservation that you try to get during every WDW trip? Recently, for my family, it’s Sanaa. We love staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge. And we LOVE that bread service. Butter chicken? I’ll eat that every day. What does that say about my taste? And what other reservations should I try to get, and will I be more likely to enjoy? I could pull overall popular restaurants. Or ones that I have a better chance of finding a reservation for. Or some that are a good value.

Some members of our family seemed to prefer Sanaa dessert to the bread service. Someday she’ll see the light.

But what I’d really like to figure out is what people or parties like me also like. So where do other bread service fans go when they’re not at Sanaa? How can I put all of that powerful satisfaction data into the context of what I personally like? Let’s explore together and find good alternatives for the table service restaurants that currently have the most active Reservation Finder requests. In case you can’t get a reservation, at least you might have a good, data-drive backup option.

Explain the Math!

Just like in the counter service analysis from earlier this week, we’re using 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 table service restaurant. We’ll use that information to calculate the new chance that you’ll like some other restaurant.

So what do we need to calculate? First, we calculate overall satisfaction at every restaurant at WDW. That’s our default. If we don’t know anything about you, those averages are going to be our best guess about what you could or could not like. I pull that information from every TouringPlans WDW post-visit survey.

But let’s say I do know something about you. Even if I have just one data point about you, that changes everything. Because that means I can filter all of that data to be more like you. For example, if you like STK Orlando (you are part of a pretty small crowd), I can pull surveys for just people that like STK Orlando. Now you could trust the results a little more, because the satisfaction scores at every other restaurant will be coming from other STK aficionados like yourself. You can ignore the taste of all of those STK haters.

I pulled conditional satisfaction scores for every table service restaurant, given that you gave a thumbs up to any other restaurant. There were 198 table service spots in my list. So that means I pulled 9,604 different satisfaction scores. I did 9,604 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 STK fandom doesn’t impact whether or not you’re likely to enjoy Restaurant X. But if it does, things get 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”.

Eat This, Not That

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater: 867 active reservation requests

Eat This: Whispering Canyon Café

Not That: Hollywood & Vine

I’m going to go ahead and say the cuisine correlations aren’t what’s important here. Sci-Fi and Whispering Canyon are both … cheesy? In a good way, if that’s your thing. Bonus – Whispering Canyon has short-notice reservations available 67% of the time based on recent searches. On the flip side, if you’re all about that immersive theme like a drive-in, the character meals at Hollywood & Vine aren’t going to be appealing.

Topolino’s Terrace: 761 active reservation requests

If you love Mickey (and Minnie!) waffles, plus bacon that you can dip into chocolate, Topolino’s is the place for you. Just take me along too!

Eat This: Tony’s Town Square and Hollywood Brown Derby

Not That: Be Our Guest

Topolino and Tony’s?! Stop the post right here. Topolino’s the very highest-rated restaurant on property right now. And Tony’s … is not. That was my first reaction. But take a step back with me. Topolino’s and Tony’s have similar cuisine – we’ll call it approachable vaguely Italian. They’re just worlds apart in quality and price. On the other hand, Topolino’s and Be Our Guest are both expensive. But one is the obvious winner in satisfaction. And the other is Be Our Guest.

Beaches & Cream Soda Shop: 574 active reservation requests

Eat This: Rose & Crown Dining Room

Not That: Cinderella’s Royal Table, Tony’s Town Square, Hollywood & Vine, Chef Mickey’s, and Rainforest Café (AK)

Once again we’re positively correlating on theme-focused spots. Beaches & Cream and Rose & Crown are both meant to transport you to very specific themes. It makes sense to me to see them together even though those themes are different. But character meals and some other popular-but-below-average-satisfaction restaurants should be avoided.

‘Ohana: 556 active reservation requests

The insta-famous ‘Ohana noodles

Eat This: Whispering Canyon Café

Not That: Hollywood & Vine, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and Tony’s Town Square

Oh hey, do you like large amounts of food close to (but not) Magic Kingdom, in spots that are also really popular with families? Cool. ‘Ohana and Whispering Canyon are for you. But if you really really love those ‘Ohana noodles, don’t expect to find anything as Instagram-riot-worthy at H&V, CRT, or Tony’s.

Chef Mickey’s: 537 active reservation requests

Eat This: Whispering Canyon Cafe, Yachtsman Steakhouse, ‘Ohana, Trail’s End, and Be Our Guest

Not That: None! There are no significant negative correlations with Chef Mickey’s

Alright, the Eat This list is a pretty odd mix. Interactive service with AYCE skillets. Fancy steakhouses. Noodles. Frontier buffet. Beast sightings. Maybe you all can enlighten me regarding these relationships in the comments.

Be Our Guest: 332 active reservation requests

To be fair to Be Our Guest, the Gray Stuff is delicious.

Eat This: ‘Ohana and Jiko

Not That: None! There are no significant negative correlations with Be Our Guest

Interesting pair of correlations here. I love one of these restaurants, and I think the other is decidedly “meh”. I’ll let you guess which is which.

Cinderella’s Royal Table: 291 active reservation requests

Eat This: Akershus and Chef Mickey’s

Not That: None! There are no significant negative correlations with Cinderella’s Royal Table

Not going to like, I fully expected all character meals to correlate with all other character meals. But not all character meals are created equal. If I was going to lump two together, though, they would’ve been Cinderella’s Royal Table and Akershus. Happy to see the pair show up here.

50’s Prime Time Café: 214 active reservation requests

At 50’s Prime Time Café, you too can eat dinner in a 1950s kitchen … while watching people eat dinner in a 1950s kitchen.

Eat This: Beaches & Cream Soda Shop, Whispering Canyon Café, and Kimonos

Not That: Tony’s Town Square

50’s Prime Time and Beaches & Cream seem like another thematic match made in heaven. And Prime Time and Whispering Canyon share intentionally faux-obnoxious service. Kimonos, though. That’s a curveball. And in my opinion, Prime Time does comfort food well, while Tony’s has really spotty quality.

California Grill: 214 active reservation requests

Eat This: Boma

Not That: Rainforest Café (AK), Hollywood & Vine, Planet Hollywood, T-REX, Tony’s Town Square, Chef Mickey’s, Be Our Guest, and ‘Ohana

Another positive correlation that I wouldn’t have made myself. California Grill and Boma have decidedly different atmospheres, but both have high-quality food. The negative correlations are pretty solidly mediocre-or-worse quality food for the prices paid.

Yak & Yeti: 184 active reservation requests

Eat This: None! There are no significant positive correlations for Yak & Yeti.

Not That: Chef Mickey’s, Tony’s Town Square, 1900 Park Fare, Rainforest Café (AK), Cinderella’s Royal Table

If you like Yak & Yeti, that actually doesn’t distinguish you from the “average” WDW visitor as it relates to what else you might like. But it does tell something about spots you should avoid – like some character meals.

Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’: 151 active reservation requests

Fried chicken meal at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ at Disney Springs. YUM.

Eat This: Sanaa

Not That: Rainforest Café (AK), Rainforest Café (DS), Hollywood & Vine, Chef Mickey’s, Biergarten, Tony’s Town Square, and Cinderella’s Royal Table

Maybe the positive correlation here is thanks to having good chicken. Or really awesome bread products! I would’ve loved to see a grouping of all of the restaurants that have spectacular bread. I love me some carbs.

Sanaa: 102 active reservation requests

Eat This: Boma

Not That: Rainforest Café (AK), Chef Mickey’s, Hollywood & Vine, Tony’s Town Square, Rainforest Café (DS), T-REX and Chefs de France

Sanaa and Boma are clearly related by both location and cuisine. They’re very different experiences, but I personally very highly recommend both. The negative correlations also generally make sense here. I’ll call out Chefs de France as an intriguing one, though. Both are intended to be authentic cuisine to their respective cultures/locations. In my opinion Sanaa does that well, and Chefs de France falters.

What Does This Mean For You?

  1. Overall satisfaction ratings may not mean much to you because they’re the result of combining the subjective tastes of tens of thousands of people. That’s fair. But once we put those satisfaction scores into the context of what you already like, things start to get more applicable.
  2. In general, character meals correlate pretty well to one another. But not all character meals are created equal. Do your research to figure out what’s right for you.
  3. Lots of popular table service restaurants correlate positively with Whispering Canyon Café, which has much more accessible reservations. Transportation to a resort is harder than eating at a park, but in this case it could be worth the effort.


Do any of the correlations surprise you? Or inspire you to try someplace new? Do you have a favorite restaurant that didn’t make the list and you’d like to know the correlations? 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

6 thoughts on “Eat This, Not That – Personalized Table Service Advice for Walt Disney World

  • The majority of suggestions were (I’m sorry) ludicrous. As someone who goes to Disney almost every year, I disagreed with most of them. If you like the good, down-home comfort food of the south (Chef Art Smith’s) you should go eat the exotic African food of Sanaa? Because Topolino’s is quasi Italian food, you should eat the cliche Italian foods at Tony’s? And I don’t even get the alleged correlation between California Grill & Boma. They’re on two different levels, food quality-wise & offer completely different cuisines. California Grill & a place like Narcoossee’s, Citricos or Topolino Terrace would have made more sense. Just because someone eats at one & then at another, doesn’t always mean a lot in Disney. Picky eaters will rate differently than adventurous eaters. Foodies will rate differently than non-foodies.

    • Peg, I’m inspired to quote one of my favorite characters, “You feel what you feel and your feelings are real.” And you had no way of knowing this, but I lost my 6th grade spelling bee on the word ludicrous, and I’m still disappointed about it. So you hit me where it hurts 🙂
      But seriously, my favorite thing about data is that it can be used to start conversation and make us all think differently about things. Out of everyone that gave California Grill a thumbs up, 96% of them gave Boma a thumbs up (which is significantly higher than the general population). For an example from your list, that number is 92% for Narcoossee’s (which is not significantly higher than the general population).
      I’m definitely not going to say that the correlations make sense for everyone. But it’s interesting to see how different people rated the same sets of restaurants.

  • I’m sorry. I literally did stop at Tony’s. That’s ridiculous (to put it nicely).

    • Data is funny sometimes. Overall, Tony’s only has a 74% satisfaction rating. But if you narrow that down to people that gave Topolino’s a thumbs up, that bumps up to 86% satisfaction. And the sample sizes are big enough to be statistically significant. So there’s _something_ going on there. The fun part is discussing why 🙂

    • I totally agree!! I love, love, LOVE Chef Art Smith’s but not Sanaa (too exotic for me).

      • So you’re a statistical anomaly! (which can be a lot fun). Of people who gave Homecomin’ a Thumbs Up, only 4% of them gave Sanaa a thumbs down. So 96% of people that like Homecomin’s like Sanaa.

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