Home » 4 Big Ways Walt Disney World is Improving Dining Across the Resort

4 Big Ways Walt Disney World is Improving Dining Across the Resort

Be Our Guest

Walt Disney World offers some of the most delicious cuisine in the south, and I’m not simply speaking in terms of theme park food. Their dining options are so tasty that many people place their Advance Dining Reservations 180 days ahead of trips in order to guarantee seating at their favorite establishments. Given the passion theme park tourists display for Disney dining, the company must remain proactive in keeping the meal experience at Walt Disney World clean and simple. Here are four of the best recent updates to Disney dining.

1. The end of pay-for-reservation “services”

Be Our Guest

One of the strangest recent demonstrations of Disney’s appeal unfolded in 2015. A few cottage industries popped up, and their central purpose was to wreak havoc with the Advance Dining Reservations system. The entire reason Walt Disney World added an Advance Dining Reservations system was so they could streamline the dining process for everyone. People who booked early knew they could eat at an exact time during their trip. Meanwhile, others didn’t have to wait in line as long since the hosts and hostesses enjoyed a more exact estimate about table turnover times.

In 2015, some jerks ruined this in order to make a quick buck. You can read the full details here, but the gist is that these *ahem* services started booking all the most popular Advance Dining Reservations. Then, they turned around and sold them for a fee. It’s as industrious as it’s monstrous. People with actual intent to visit Walt Disney World would log in to book reservations, only to discover that many of the best ones were taken.

Thankfully, Disney recently stepped on the neck of this practice in 2015. They directly contacted the businesses responsible for gumming up the ADR process, and the propritors of these companies soon realized that it was time to get out before Disney’s terrifying legal team went into attack mode. In the months that have followed Disney’s policy change, customers have enjoyed a much easier time in acquiring even the most difficult reservations at Walt Disney World.

2. Disney ADR modifications allowed online


Given how technology-forward Disney is as a company, it’s odd that they’ve been so stubborn about internet reservations. Historically, once a person books an ADR online, any changes to the reservation must be done by calling Disney. That was perfectly fine in the 1990s when the internet was still new. Now that most of the free world owns internet-enabled smart devices, however, it’s the equivalent of driving a stagecoach on the freeway. The worst part is that Disney doesn’t staff enough phone customer service representatives since they believe customers can perform much of the vacation booking process online. So, there’s usually a hold of up to 30 minutes whenever a person wants to make an ADR modification.

The only other solution isn’t much better. You can “change” your ADR by booking an entirely new one at either a different time or different vacation. When you do this, the system actually acts aggravated. A pop-up notification suggests that you already own an ADR at the given time or thereabouts, suggesting that maybe you should keep that one. Frankly, Disney tries to strong-arm their customers a bit too much during the reservation process, at least historically.

Thankfully, a recent system change brings them into the modern era. The next time you log in at MyDisneyExperience.com, take a look at the reservations listed in your itinerary. To the right of the date/time/location of your ADR is a menu option for Cancel Reservation. Right above it, Disney has added a Change Reservation option. When you click that, you’ll see a new screen. It offers the ability to change the numbers of guests, the time, and/or the date of your current reservation. In this manner, you no longer have to start from scratch if you want to modify your plans. Simply update your preferences and as long as there’s availability, you’ll have your new reservation in moments.

The modification option is a welcome change, especially for people like me who hate waiting on hold for an extended period. Sure, they play Disney classic songs as the hold music, but it’s still a terrible waste of time for most customers. Being able to modify reservations online is a massive improvement.

3. Disney Dining Plan changes

Sci-Fi Dine-In

The Disney Dining Plan is one of the most divisive topics for Disney loyalists. I’m a staunch supporter of the concept, but plenty of valid arguments exist against it. If you’re like me and at least consider the DDP each trip, I’ve got wonderful news. Disney has finally updated the program to specify and clarify some aspects that stood as gray areas in the past.

The most important of them if you travel with friends is that you can now “pay” for your guests’ meals using DDP entitlements. This is a huge advantage for people who frequently eat with friends who are either not on the DDP or prefer the Tables in Wonderland card. Previously, when the bill came, you’d have to pay out of pocket when you wanted to treat them to a meal. Now, your entitlements are good for the entire table.

On a personal basis, this prices me in on the Deluxe Dining Plan, because my family prefers table service meals. Plus, we usually eat in a larger group. Those extra entitlements mean I can save the other people in my party some money, which is always valuable at a Disney theme park. If you also travel in a group, you should research this option as a way of saving money even though you’re spending more initially.

A couple of other enhancements in the new version of the dining program will enhance your meal. Historically, Disney’s favorite phrase was, “No substitutions!” Nowadays, they’re much more flexible. If you’re too full for dessert or simply counting calories to live a healthier life (and if so, good for you!), you can perform an exchange.  If you want something during your meal, you can substitute a bowl of soup, a salad, or a fruit cup. If you aren’t as hungry right now, you can switch your meal entitlement for three DDP-qualifying snacks. This new change gives theme park tourists much more control over their eating habits while still enjoying the benefit of paying for your entire set of Disney meals in advance.

4. More restaurants than ever before

Minnie Mouse

Image: Disney

Disney is always attempting to outdo itself in the theme park business, particularly at their anchor location in Orlando, Florida. While it’s true that they’re constantly adding new restaurants, the past few months in combination with upcoming plans for Disney Springs deserve special mention.

At the theme parks, Disney has repurposed one of their best restaurants while adding another one that’s borderline unprecedented for Walt Disney World. The repurposing involves Hollywood & Vine, which many Disney fans know as one of the three lackluster places they have to eat if they want reserved seating for Fantasmic. The recent switch to Minnie’s Seasonal Dine guarantees a novel meal atmosphere. Every three months, Disney will change the theme to something appropriate. So, guests eating there this week can come back during the Food & Wine Festival and enjoy an entirely different setting. It’s a wonderful way to freshen up one of the staler table service meals at the parks.

Meanwhile, Magic Kingdom has added something even better. Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen takes people inside the world of one of the greatest attractions ever at a Disney theme park. Brimming with personality, this restaurant imbues its guests with the sensation of life as an itinerant adventurer. Many of the dishes follow the themes of Jungle Cruise, which makes this one of the most ambitious restaurants in Walt Disney World history.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention all the wonderful new cuisine at Disney Springs. Now that the change from Downtown Disney is official, the company is pulling out all the stops to provide world-class dining in a shopper’s paradise. While The Boathouse dominated headlines in 2015 due to its amphicars, it’ll face stiff competition soon. The Edison, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, Morimoto Asia, and STK Steakhouse will offer a wonderful combination of food and drink to Downtown Disney.

Personally, I’m most excited about STK Steakhouse despite my Iron Chef obsession with Chef Morimoto. Which Disney Springs establishment is your current favorite or most anticipated arrival? Leave a message in the comments!