Pros and Cons of Disney World Table Service Dining

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There are many hundreds of places to eat at Walt Disney World, from mobile carts and food stands to five-star gourmet signature venues. But some of the most iconic and well-known dining spots at Disney World are table service restaurants such as Sci-Fi Dine-In, Chef Mickey’s, or ‘Ohana. As buzzy as table service dining can be, it’s not right for everyone at all times. Here are some pros and cons of table service dining at Disney World.

Appetizer sampler. Spice Road Table, EPCOT.

Pros

  • The food can be great. Many Disney World table service restaurants have outstanding food. If you consider great meals to be key part of your vacation enjoyment, then booking table service meals should be high on your agenda.
  • The themeing can be great. Many Disney World table service restaurants are elaborately themed either in terms of decor, entertainment, or both. For example, 50’s Prime Time Cafe at Disney’s Hollywood Studios feels like you’re sitting in a mid-century kitchen with black & white sitcoms in the background while your server treats you like one of the family. That’s an experience better than some of the rides.
  • You might be able to get into the theme parks a bit earlier. Some theme park restaurants offer breakfast reservations starting before the park officially opens. If you time it right, you might be able to eat early and then be in a great position to head to the rides quickly when they open.
  • You get a break out of the heat. Taking a mid-day break is often the way to maintain your sanity during a long day of park touring. If heading back to your hotel for a rest isn’t in the cards, a sit-down lunch can be the next best thing. An hour off your feet in an air-conditioned environment is heaven when it’s 90+ degrees outside.
  • You have a guaranteed place to eat. Quick service meals are usually, well, quick. But there are times, such as during busy holiday weeks, that the quick service options back up and getting fast food can be challenging. With a table service reservation booked, your dining option is secured.
  • You have more ability to customize your food. Many quick service foods come “as is.” Table service restaurants tend to be more accommodating with things like switching a side dish or omitting a sauce.
  • You have a preference for a particular cuisine. Some cuisines are only available at table service restaurants. For example, if you want a real steak, you have many options, but they’re all at table service locations.
  • You want an adult beverage with your meal. At the Magic Kingdom theme park, the only place to buy alcohol is with your food at a table service restaurant. If you’re at the Magic Kingdom and like to have a glass of wine with your dinner, you’ll have to eat table service.
Tapas. Jaleo, Disney Springs.

Cons

  • You have to plan far ahead. In many cases, if you want to eat at a table service restaurant, you’ll have to book a reservation weeks, if not months, in advance. If you’re not a planner, or if you’ve planned a last minute trip, your life may be easier if you just skip table service meals.
  • You might not be able to listen to your body’s hunger cues. Making reservations far in advance often means that you’re eating at times when you’re not hungry, or that you’re waiting to eat when you’re already starving.
  • Prices might be high. While some quick service meals can be pricey and some table service meals can be economical, in general, table service meals are more costly than quick service meals. If you’re on a budget, avoiding table service meals can help.
  • You’ll incur cancellation fees if you don’t show up. Disney requires a credit/debit card number to secure table service dining reservations. Missing your reservation means you’ll be charged $10 per person penalty fee. If you like to play things on the fly or tend to be late for things, you might want to avoid pre-booked table service meals.
  • Your meal might take a while. The fastest table service meals take about 45 minutes, with many taking up to three times that long, depending on how busy the restaurant is and how many courses you order. If you’re traveling with an impatient toddler, choosing faster dining options might help you avoid a meltdown.
  • You’ll have less ability to be spontaneous with your park touring. Because of the possibility of incurring penalty fees, you may need to stick with your dining reservation, even if you’ve decided you’re no longer in the mood to visit a particular theme park or other dining location.
  • You may have less time for rides and attractions. In addition to the time it takes to dine, getting to some restaurant locations can take upwards of an hour. The combination of travel time and dining time and can limit your attraction experiences, depending on how long your trip is.

Do you enjoy table service dining when at Walt Disney World? How often do you take time for a sit-down meal? Let us know in the comments.

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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

4 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Disney World Table Service Dining

  • November 21, 2021 at 12:26 pm
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    For older guests like us, traveling without kids, who have done our favorite rides many times, table-service dining is as anticipated as any ride – though we do look forward to trying Remy, and hope to finally snag a slot on Rise. And maybe next year I’ll finally get on that MK train!

    Reply
  • November 21, 2021 at 12:27 pm
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    This was a comprehensive list. One other thing I might add as a “pro” is that a table-service meal can be a great way for a large traveling party to do something together. In our family we tend to split up for touring (different age groups and interests) but we always enjoy getting together to eat and table service group meals are usually less rushed and more relaxing for us, giving us a better chance to catch up on what everyone has been up to and adjust plans as necessary.

    Reply
  • November 21, 2021 at 4:58 pm
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    TS does better than QS with trying to modify meals for guests with food allergies.

    Some TS places/times have characters. They are modified, currently (distanced, no autograph signing), but if you need to see characters – and get an unmasked photo with them – you can do that at TS places.

    Reply
  • November 21, 2021 at 5:42 pm
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    We kick off every trip with a TS at our resort- Ohana or Whispering Canyon. Great way to shake off the travel, soak in the resort, and get set for the vacation.

    Reply

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