The Disney Dining Plan always centers around the same discussion. It’s either a great addition to your vacation package or a waste of time and energy as it creates too much need for planning. There are some interesting changes coming up in 2013; let’s take a moment to gaze into our crystal ball.

Is the plan still a good value?

The Wave… of American Flavors serves Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. It also features Southern Hemisphere wines and some of my favorites at Disney.

 

The Disney Dining Plan has been around in various forms at the Walt Disney World Resort for many, many years. In fact, it’s only gained in popularity and use over time.  This popularity has spawned different variations from the traditional plan – Quick Service, Deluxe, Platinum, and Premium.  However, the most notable change to the plan was back in 2008, when gratuity was no longer included with the plan.

No Gratuity?

In 2008, when the server’s gratuity was no longer included, the workers union made a nice deal with Disney.  Due to the anticipation of many guests (especially returning) being improperly informed about the change and not leaving tips, an agreement was reached.  (Despite strong communication of this change from many aspects of the Company, Travel Agents, etc.)  The servers received an auto-gratuity percentage on each Disney Dining Plan table’s check.  In 2008, the servers made 4% on each DDP table (often in addition to what the party left for them).  In 2009, it dropped to 3%; 2010, 2%; 2011, 1% and this year, nothing.  Can you imagine the amount Disney forked out due to this gratuity “insurance policy” for some of their highest paid hourly Cast Members?  Obviously the change was needed and the bigger picture outweighs itself in return.

But in 2012, all Disney Dining Plans included a Resort Refillable Mug!

Now let’s talk about the Disney Dining Plan from a business or more logical perspective.  All of the money spent for the Disney Dining Plan goes into one big pool.  It’s broken down by use for each physical location.

Let’s say that one family decides that since they bought the Disney Dining Plan, they want to get their money’s worth by deciding what to order based upon menu dollar amount, not by actual choice.  They order based upon money for their entrée, drink, and dessert as many times as they can.  They continue to do so with their snacks.  For the most part, this family maxes out the amount in the pool.

The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant is located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and serves Lunch and Dinner. The biggest draw to this location is the Drive-In atmosphere as you watch clips from films, cartoons, and Drive-In commercials.

 

Then there’s the average family.  They want to get the most out of their use of the Disney Dining Plan too, but they also want to eat what they would like.  Instead of ordering the most expensive items, they order based upon what menu items appeal to them the most.  This goes for their entrée, drink, dessert, and snacks.

The first family takes a lot more out of the pool than the second family does.  But overall, they should work to balance each other out.  If it doesn’t, Disney will easily lose from the Disney Dining Plan instead of returning a profit.

For many, the Disney Dining Plan helps to simplify things.  It allows you to plan your trip, make dining reservations, and enjoy little treats along the way.  Instead of focusing on a dollar amount for each dining experience, it allows many guests to focus more on what they should be looking at – the food!

1900 Park Fare is a buffet with character at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Visit some of your favorite British characters for a Supercalifragilistic Breakfast or Cinderella, Prince Charming and the Tremaine Family for Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner.

 

The debate on the Disney Dining Plan has been waged for many years.  Many swear by it as the best way to dine when visiting Walt Disney World and others feel it is a waste of time, energy, and money.

I’ve always said – it depends on how you eat and plan to dine on your vacation. You don’t have to be like the first family to get the most out of the plan.  If you simply plan to dine at lots of character dining restaurants, you have paid for it and then some, easily.  If you book the Deluxe Dining Plan and plan to dine at a lot of Signature restaurants (which are two entitlements each) then it is easily worth it.  (Sadly, the Wine & Dine add-on is no longer for those who frequent Signature restaurants.)

The Hollywood Brown Derby is located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Serving for Lunch and Dinner, this Signature Restaurant continues to offer an entrée created at the original Hollywood Brown Derby – the Cobb Salad.


Some critics of the plan cite the lack of restaurant dining availability on short notice or day-of bookings.  They also mention how difficult it is to get into certain popular dining restaurants in general.  But could it be that overall, it’s a part of the business that helps to generate revenue to assist the rest of the park in operating?  Or could it also be due to the popularity of the actual food at restaurants such as ‘Ohana or the atmosphere of Cinderella’s Royal Table that attracts guests to book reservations months ahead of time?

Many critics of the Disney Dining Plan say that popularity of the plan has caused restaurants to be forced to simplify their menus, reduce portion sizes, and mass produce desserts.  While this may very well be true in some cases, the reality is that some restaurants built years ago were not designed to keep up with the demand of the sheer volume of guests who dine at Walt Disney World each day, let alone with a Dining Plan.

A Simple Twist

The 2013 plan offers a new twist on the Disney Dining Plan – a prix-fixe menu.  The overall plan will be exactly the same as the 2012 plan; however, Table Service restaurants may offer a separate pre-fixe menu for dining plan guests.

It will cost one Table Service entitlement plus an additional charge for the prix-fixe menu items.  Not all restaurants will have these separate prix-fixe menus as certain items will still be available for just one Table Service entitlement.  The prix-fixe menu items will be clearly listed on each menu and will be an option for the guest to choose.

Another component of the change is menu add-ons for your entrée – simply an addition of an optional protein.  Many restaurants charge extra for such addition and this will be Disney’s way doing just that.

The best “Add-on” for the 2013 Disney Dining Plan has to be the addition of Be Our Guest Restaurant located in Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland. Lunch will be one Quick-Service entitlement and Dinner will be one Table Service entitlement.

This will allow many restaurants to continue to expand their current menu offerings outside the realm of where they currently are.  Chefs will be able to continue to be more creative with their dishes without having to meet a certain criteria for the Disney Dining Plan from a financial standpoint. This may also offer an overall better selection for all guests, including those who are not using a Disney Dining Plan.

Le Cellier has fully transitioned to a Signature Restaurant for 2013 – both lunch and dinner meal periods will require two Disney Dining Plan Table Service entitlements.


Traditional menu change time for most table service restaurants at Walt Disney World is in September.  This means it might not be until sometime late into 2013 where we start to see these prix-fixe menu items appear.  However, Signature restaurants (ie. Citricos, Artist’s Point) have more flexibility for regular menu changes or specials so we will most likely see them there first.  What also happens in the fall each year for the past few years? – Lots of “free dining” promotions from Disney Travel.

The price of Disney Dining Plan for 2013 –

  • Adults ages 10+:  $55.59 per night
  • Kids ages 3 – 9:  $17.16 per night

So the debate of the Disney Dining Plan only continues.  This is what’s next.  It will be here shortly at a Disney restaurant near you.  How do you think this will effect your favorite Disney World restaurants?  What do you think the Chefs will do with this new power for their menu modification?  Do you feel the Disney Dining Plan is still a good deal and worth it for you?

Have questions about Disney dining?  Are you seeking restaurant recommendations?  Do you have Disney Dining Plan questions?  Please send emails to [email protected]!  You will get a response and they might be used in an upcoming article.