Toughest Dining Reservations to Find

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One of my favorite TouringPlans features is the Reservation Finder. It probably wouldn’t surprise you to find out that I’m a crazy detailed planner type. I’m up at the crack of dawn on the day I qualify to make reservations for our next trip. But there’s always a particular meal that just isn’t available when I want it to be.

In the “old” days, I’d set a reminder to go and re-check once every day or two on Disney’s site. Occasionally I’d get lucky and stumble on a time that worked with my plans and be able to book it. But more often than not, if I didn’t nab it at reservation drop, I didn’t get to go. Now I just plug the one or two spots that weren’t available into the Reservation Finder and let TouringPlans robots (I like to imagine they’re cool animatronic robots, okay?) do the work for me.

The Reservation Finder! (animatronic robots not pictured)

If you’ve visited WDW post-reopening, you know that the dining situation isΒ significantly different than before the parks closed last spring. Scores of restaurants remain closed (for now). And locations that are open are operating at reduced capacity to allow for appropriate distance between parties. So what might you encounter when trying to make dining reservations now? Thankfully, we’ve got lots of data from those reservation robots that tells us what to expect.

Explain the Math!

Good news! The math this week is pretty straightforward. For any reservation request, the Reservation Finder can either successfully find a qualifying reservation, or it can expire. We need a simple measure to quantify the ease of finding a reservation. So we will use the percent of reservation requests that are successful. To calculate that, we take the number of reservation requests that end in finding a reservation and divide it by the total number of reservation requests.

  • If there were 50 reservation requests for breakfast at Boma (sad face), and only 8 of them were successfully found by the tool, that gives us an “ease” score of 16%. Reservations that are really tough to get will have low percentages.
  • If there were 50 reservation requests for dinner at Via Napoli, and 47 of them were successfully found by the tool, that gives use an “ease” score of 94%. Reservations that are relatively easy to get will have high percentages.

Now, just because the tool successfully found a qualifying reservation doesn’t mean you automatically get the reservation. You’ll get an email and/or text, and you have to take action to book the spot before someone else does. So tool success doesn’t necessarily equal your success.

And our data is inherently biased. Because you can go make your own reservations, by default any requests plugged into the tool tend to be more difficult to get than reservations as a whole. Chances are you’re just booking those easy ones yourself instead of taking the extra time and effort to use our tool. But we’re going to address this (slightly) by comparing our biased data to … our own biased data. By looking at differences in results prior to closure and since reopening, we can see where the biggest shifts are happening.

Toughest Reservations to Get Under “Normal” Operations

In the 2 years leading up to the park closures last Spring, the Reservation Finder received almost 272,000 WDW reservation requests. Wow. At the highest possible level, we can look at how many of those were successful. It turns out, almost 250,000 of them were successful. That’s almost a 92% success rate. Pretty stellar.

But there were some meals that were particularly difficult to book:

  • "Brunch At The Top" offers stunning daytime views of the restaurant and Walt Disney World Resort.
    “Brunch At The Top” – the toughest reservation to get before the parks closed last spring!

    Breakfast (brunch) at California Grill was easily the toughest dining reservation to get across WDW property pre-closure. Only 987 out of 1670 reservation requests were successful, or 59%.

  • The next-toughest reservation pre-closure was dinner at Raglan Road. Now this result is most likely skewed by circumstances. You can book Raglan Road either through Open Table or Disney’s site. So if you come all the way to the Reservation Finder, you’ve probably exhausted all other options. This seems to be true because in 2 years, there were “only” 356 reservation requests. Of those, 238 were successful, or 67%.
  • Did you ever want to eat lunch in Italy? Lunch at Via Napoli was also a tough find, with only 300 finds out of 418 requests, or 72%.

Overall Reservation Climate Post-Reopening

Enough of the baseline. Let’s get to what matters! Overall, there have been over 45,000 “valid” reservations requests since the parks opened. Since things were so fluid post-reopening, there ended up being quite a few requests for restaurants that ended up not even being open on the day requested. We don’t want to include that it our evaluation of “toughness”. So as a baseline, the restaurant had to be open in order to qualify. Of all of those requests, just over 33,000 were successfully found, or 72%.

Already we’ve dropped from overall success of 92% to 72%. So if you feel like reservations are harder to get than ever, you’re not crazy! Although fewer people are visiting, fewer spots are available and competition for reservations is fierce.

Toughest Reservations to Get Post-Reopening

  • Post-reopening, you’ll be part of the lucky few if you can get a reservation at Oga’s Cantina

    No matter which way you slice it, “dinner” (or after-dinner drinks) at Oga’s Cantina is the most difficult reservation to get post reopening. Out of 2,581 requests for dinner-time reservations, 1,305 were successfully found, or 51%. Ouch. For the record, lunch isn’t much better, at 58% success. Pre-closure, success rates were around 91-92%, no matter when you wanted to visit.

  • The next toughest reservation is dinner at Hollywood and Vine. This is one of a only a few character meals that has reopened. And table service in general is in high demand at Hollywood Studios as guests look to rest their feet after waiting for the headliners. Out of 896 requests, only 477 have been successful, or 53%. You’re slightly better off trying for lunch, with a 64% success rate. Pre-closure, success rates for dinner were at 95%, with lunch even easier to reserve.
  • Continuing the theme at Hollywood Studios, lunch and dinner are equally tough to reserve at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. Users requested both thousands of times, and both clock in at 59% success. Pre-closure, success rates here were at 89% for lunch and 90% for dinner.

What Does This Mean For You?

For at least the near future, expect dining reservations to be more difficult to get than they were prior to the parks closing last spring. And just like how Hollywood Studios is usually the first park reservation to fill up each day, the toughest dining reservations to get are also there. So when you qualify to make your reservations, try starting with your planned Hollywood Studios days first. And if you can’t find what you want, try out the Reservation Finder! The bonus great news is that quick service has been on a huge upswing at the Studios. If you get stuck without a reservation, check out our reviews of ABC Commissary, Ronto Roasters, or Docking Bay 7.

 

Do you have any stories about finding dining post-reopening? Or have you used the Reservation Finder? 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/

13 thoughts on “Toughest Dining Reservations to Find

  • April 20, 2021 at 3:36 pm
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    Is there a reservation finder for parks? I.e. if I’m looking for Hollywood Studios for a day?

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    • April 20, 2021 at 4:20 pm
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      Good question, Heather! Unfortunately, we don’t have a tool for that right now. But I’ve passed along your suggestion πŸ™‚

      Reply
  • April 20, 2021 at 8:51 pm
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    Is there a reservation finder for Disneyland ?

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    • April 20, 2021 at 9:00 pm
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      Linda, right now we don’t have a similar tool for Disneyland. And we’re very busy cooking up lots of other new cool functionalities that we’re excited about!

      Reply
    • April 21, 2021 at 11:58 am
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      Thanks, but please tell me where that cake is from in the picture at the top!!

      Reply
      • April 21, 2021 at 12:09 pm
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        It’s from Sci-Fi Dine In, Keira. Chrissy and I had it last week. It’s one of the best things on the menu. I think ordering just appetizers, drinks, and desserts there is the way to go!

  • April 20, 2021 at 9:39 pm
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    I would have expected Cinderella’s Royal Table to be high on the tough list pre-closure, if not at the top. It sure was when booking without the tool.

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    • April 20, 2021 at 9:47 pm
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      I expected the same thing, Mike! But in the 2 years pre-closure, the tool had 83% success finding dinner reservations and higher success rates for the other meal times. So, tougher than the pre-closure average but still not as bad as some of the other locations listed. It’s fun when data challenges our pre-conceived thoughts πŸ™‚

      Reply
  • April 21, 2021 at 12:24 pm
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    Sometimes reservations for large parties also won’t get fulfilled. I know travelling with 8-9 folks is particularly hard. Especially with seating limitations at some locations.

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    • April 21, 2021 at 1:05 pm
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      Good call-out, Mike. I can do a follow-up post with locations where we’re seeing relatively more success getting larger party reservations to see if there are suggestions we can make.

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      • April 21, 2021 at 8:14 pm
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        Can you please do that post soon! We are a party of 10 and I can’t seem to find anything! :(.

      • April 21, 2021 at 9:34 pm
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        Nicole, the post will be a little longer coming, but I’ll shoot you the email with some preliminary results!

    • May 1, 2021 at 1:47 pm
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      Mike and Nicole – the post about reservations for large dining parties is dropping today, around 3:30 Eastern. So be sure to check it out if you’re interested!

      Reply

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