Walt Disney World reopened with limited capacities throughout every building on the property. All gift shops, restaurants, rides, and shows were reduced to accommodate physical distancing between travel groups.
Upon reopening, Disney World had a reduced capacity of 25% and the theme parks attracted fewer crowds. It was recently announced that the theme parks were raised to 35% and we’ve seen an uptick in crowds over the holidays. Attractions are seeing increased wait times and Disney has been adjusting experiences to accommodate the lines. But what about restaurants? While Disney World hasn’t shared specifics, we have seen a quiet increase in capacity within the restaurants. So, what does dining at a Disney World restaurant look like now that the parks have been reopened for a few months?
Table Service Restaurants
We’ve noticed the popular restaurants like Homecomin‘ in Disney Springs, Chefs de France in EPCOT, or Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom are often full to capacity (with tables spread 6-feet apart). Less popular restaurants, like Spice Road Table, can be absolutely dead at times. (By the way, we love Spice Road Table so show this place some love!) Yes, tables are spread out but we have experienced multiple times where each one of those spread out tables is full.
This trend is more often true on the weekends than in the middle of the week. Disney Springs, in particular, is very popular on the weekends and attracts many more locals for dining and shopping. On the other hand, if you visit Disney Springs on a weekday, you’re likely to see tumbleweeds and far fewer people. The same notion is usually true for Disney resort restaurants as well.
That said, the parks are fairly busy all week and even busier during the weekends. We absolutely advise making a reservation in advance prior to your vacation. Snagging a reservation for popular reservations can still be difficult, even with decreased crowds. The limited capacities seem to even out reservation availability.
Oga’s Cantina, for example, is still one of the hardest reservations to snag. It’s doubly difficult because the lounge is small and only offers a 50% restaurant capacity. It’s a perfect storm of a small bar, small capacity, and being hugely popular.
We also attempted to get a dinner reservation at Homecomin’ a few weeks in advance and had troubles here too. We had to settle for a 9PM reservation here. We are still having trouble getting a table for popular restaurants unless we book farther in advance.
If you have troubles with snagging a reservation, Disney recently added a Walk-Up Waitlist feature that allows guests to make same-day reservations if they become available throughout the day. Guests can view available Table Service restaurants via My Disney Experience and make a reservation as a “walk-up” guest.
Nomad Lounge in Animal Kingdom, for instance, is accepting waitlists so you can put your name in and get a notification when you’re table is ready. We suggest heading to Nomad Lounge as soon as it opens because the waitlist can get lengthy throughout the afternoon!
However, we don’t advise relying only on this method because we haven’t had too much luck with this new system. We attempted to grab a walk-up at a Hollywood Studios restaurant and checked about 6 times throughout the day without success. Although, it definitely never hurts to check and see if the restaurant has room! Keep checking the app throughout the day and you may get lucky!
The second option is to try out Disney’s Table Service To-Go feature. This is a brand new option that allows guests to pick-up orders from select restaurants at the Disney World resort. Simply order your meals from the app and head to the resort to retrieve your order from the location. It’s a great way to enjoy a good meal if you don’t want to eat inside a restaurant and relax in your hotel room. Plus, Bread Service from Sanaa to-go? Count us in!
Despite the fewer crowds, getting a reservation at a Table Service restaurant is still fairly difficult to do. We don’t recommend counting on availability for the Walk-Up Waitlists and fully advise booking Advanced Dining Reservations as far in advance as possible.
And, if you’re uncomfortable with crowds, consider the Table Service To-Go option! All in all, we stand by our previous suggestions of booking Advanced Dining Reservations as far in advance as possible. You’ll have a better chance of getting a table the farther in advance you book it.
Quick Service Restaurants
Quick Service dining has been turned on its head a little. Currently, Cast Members are HIGHLY encouraging guests to use Mobile Order and to wait outside of the restaurant while food is being prepared. The Lunching Pad, for example, only has outdoor dining and benches nearby. We can usually find a spot to sit and enjoy our Pepper Jack Pretzel in peace.
The same is true for Backlot Express in Hollywood Studios. The indoor dining is open with limited capacity and they have quite a bit of outdoor tables. You’ll have an easier time finding a table at restaurants that already have spaced seating and ample outdoor areas.
Now, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn is a different story. While you can dine indoors, you will have to wait outside of the restaurant prior to your order on Mobile Order becoming available. Lines outside of the restaurant can be LONG and it may take some time to get your food, so be prepared and order in advance!
We’ve had a similar experience at Docking Bay 7 and Cargo in Hollywood Studios. A Cast Member was assisting guests in finding tables the last time we visited. If you’d like a table, it usually doesn’t take too long for one to become available at quick-service restaurants. Many guests want to get in and out before their next ride! Or, you can head outside to neighboring benches and tables. Usually, there is some sort of seating within walking distance of the restaurants.
In Disney Springs, things are relatively quiet in the morning and spike towards the afternoon. The area can get really busy in the evenings and especially on weekends. Two of the most popular quick-service restaurants are The Polite Pig and Chicken Guy. These two restaurants generally draw big crowds throughout the day. Polite Pig added a few tables and chairs for outdoor dining for additional seating. It can feel crowded, but we haven’t had too much trouble finding a seat inside or outside this restaurant.
It can be difficult to find a seat in Chicken Guy, however. There is so little seating inside the restaurant as it is. Cut that seating in half and you hardly have any options. They have added a few more tables to outdoor seating, but you will still see guests waiting for a table to get up so they can grab it.
(And don’t even get us started on Blaze Pizza! We suggest getting your pie to-go and eating at a nearby bench or taking it home/back to the hotel!) There are a lot of options at Disney Springs and not all of them are this busy. Pizza Ponte, for instance, is usually far less crowded than the others. Even the crowd-favorite Earl of Sandwich usually has enough seating for everyone too.
Overall, crowds have increased and restaurants have been affected in various ways. Some dining experiences are fit to take on more diners indoors and outdoors. While others are struggling to find seats for everyone. We suggest making a reservation for table service restaurants and using Mobile Order when ordering Quick Service. If you aren’t comfortable eating inside a full restaurant, Disney World has plenty of restaurants with outdoor seating!
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Have you dined at Disney World lately? Tell us about your experience in the comments!