Dining is one of my favourite parts of our Disney vacations. There are so many different restaurants to explore. And it seems as though each year they add a new one, making the choices for each vacation exciting and new. There are two main categories of Disney Restaurants: Table Service and Quick Service. Each of these styles of restaurants are found at each theme park and many resorts offer both Table Service and Quick Service restaurants. Guests on the Disney Dining Plan and Deluxe Dining Plan have meal credits to be used at both of these styles of restaurants. If you’re on the Quick Service Dining Plan, your credits can only be redeemed at quick service restaurants. So what are the differences between these two kinds of restaurants? Let’s dive in and find out.
At a table service restaurant, guests have to check in with the host or hostess. Sometimes guests will be given a pager that will alert them when their table is prepared, or they’ll be lead immediately to their table. Guests will be given a menu to sit and peruse while they’re waiting for their server to come and take their order. Once guests have given their order they’ll wait for their food to arrive. Food will then be delivered to the table by servers. Guests get to dine before given their bill. After paying the bill, guests can leave the restaurant and continue on with their day.
At a quick service restaurant, guests will order and pay for their food at a counter. Sometimes guests will have to wait at the counter for their food, at other locations guests will be given a pager to bring back up to the counter when their food is ready. At a couple of locations, guests will be given a number to take to their table. When their food is ready, cast members will bring the food to the table.
Now that you know the basics, let’s take a look at the biggest differences between quick service and table service restaurants:
By and large, a table service restaurant is going to be more expensive than a quick service restaurant. There are a few table service restaurants that are very inexpensive and will run you the same cost as a quick service restaurant but generally speaking, a table service restaurant is going to cost you more than a quick service.
At a quick service restaurant you do not have to tip. At a table service restaurant you’re expected to tip your server. This includes buffet style restaurants. Even if all they’re doing is refilling your glass, a gratuity is expected. This will bring up the overall cost of your vacation. If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan or the Deluxe Dining Plan, the tip is not included in your dining plan purchase. So you’ll have to tip above and beyond your dining plan investment. The only time table service diners don’t have to worry about gratuity is the pay ahead meals. Find out which restaurant those are here.
At a table service restaurant you are going to spend more time at the restaurant. Which can be a pro for some and a con for others. We love the break eating at a table service restaurant gives us from the hustle and bustle of a park day. Where as other people may want to eat their meals as quickly as possible to get back to the attractions.
With the exception of Be Our Guest Restaurant and now ABC Commissary, quick service restaurants require no reservation. Table service restaurants on the other hand NEED a reservation. If you expect to walk up to a table service restaurant and get seated, you will be in for a rude awakening. For some restaurants you don’t need to reserve months in advanced but even a morning of reservation is required. The only restaurants you can expect to walk up to and get a table at are resort table service restaurants. Quick service restaurants on the other hand don’t require reservations and therefore don’t require as much planning. Although I do suggest getting an idea of where you would like to eat ahead of time, to make sure the restaurant you’re dining at offers menu items you enjoy.
Character dining is available at each of the four theme parks and at several resorts found on Disney property. Character dining experiences are table service restaurants. Unfortunately there are no quick service restaurants that feature characters. So if character dining is a must for your Disney World vacation, then you’ll have to choose at least one table service restaurant.
Now there is no difference in regards to quality. Many quick service restaurants offer incredible food. Gone are the days that each quick service restaurant offered burgers and fries and pizzas. Some of the quick service restaurants have created quite the following and are making many guests must dine at lists.
There’s no rule book on how to dine and where during your Disney vacation. It’s all up to you. Maybe dine at a table service restaurant a couple times and do quick-service the rest of your visit. Or dine at a table service every chance you get. No matter what you choose you’ll be able to eat at a different restaurant every meal if you so choose.
For more posts on dining, check out these previous posts: