How the Pandemic Changed the Way We Eat in Disney World

The pandemic has changed a LOT of things in Disney World, like transportation, character meet and greets, and even merchandise.

Current merchandise purchasing limits

One of those things that changed is definitely how we eat in Disney World. What’s different about dining now in Disney World? We’re getting into it.

Eating Outdoors

Since Disney World reopened after its initial closure for the global pandemic, eating outdoors has become more popular for some guests.

PizzeRizzo in Hollywood Studios

Outdoor spaces can sometimes offer more social distancing and always have better ventilation, so many people feel safer eating outdoors compared to indoors right now.

Seating near Plaza Restaurant

That means outdoor seating can be pretty popular! It can actually be hard to find a seat at a Quick Service location. And, of course, not everyone is dining outdoors, but it’s become significantly more popular (and, for some, necessary) since the World’s reopening.

Rosie’s All American Cafe

Table Service To Go

In September of 2020, Disney introduced Table Service To Go on the My Disney Experience app. This feature essentially works just like the current Mobile Ordering system, just with Table Service restaurants!

©Disney

Instead of sitting down for a meal at a Table Service restaurant, you can use Table Service to Go to place your order, pick it up when it’s ready, and then take it somewhere else to eat. But this feature is only available at the Disney World hotels.

Bread Service from Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

The process is very similar to how it works when your Mobile Order from a quick service spot. You pick the restaurant, choose an arrival window, then build your order. You pay in the app, and once it is time for you to pick up your order, you can go grab it and you’re good to go!

©Disney

We’ve seen this feature available at places like Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Steakhouse 71 at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. That’s right, you can order a steak, and then bring it to your hotel room to feast!

12-oz Roasted Prime Rib

Many people are utilizing this service rather than going to sit inside and eat at a restaurant for a prolonged period of time.

Mobile Walk-Up Waitlist & Dine Check-In

Mobile Walk-Up Waitlist was added to the My Disney Experience app in summer of 2020 as a way for you to check the current availability at Table Service restaurants and put your name on the list.

Nomad Lounge

Now, you can do this through the new Disney Genie system! Genie will show you all of the restaurants for the park you’re in and their availability, including the option to join the Mobile Waitlist if applicable. This is super convenient and can save you from a lot of stress when you’re hangry!

A preview of what Disney Genie looks like on your phone

Mobile Check-In was also introduced in summer of 2020. This is a way for you to bypass having to check-in with the host(ess) for your Advanced Dining Reservation.

Mobile Check-In

My Disney Experience should send you a notification when it’s time for your dining reservation and prompt you to check-in using your phone. If not, you can scan the QR code found in the lobby of the restaurant, and it will lead you to check-in on your phone.

Mobile Check-In

When it’s time for your party to be seated, you’ll get another notification to go to a specific location for seating. This system can help increase contactless interactions at the restaurants and possibly reduce the amount of people who can gather in the check-in area of a restaurant lobby.

Menu Changes

We have definitely seen a lot of menu changes since Disney World reopened in July of 2020. For one, some menus have just gone away entirely because the restaurants still are not open.

Takumi-Tei is closed

Another big change is the increase in prix fixe meals we’ve seen around Disney World. For example, lunch at Be Our Guest used to be a Quick Service meal, but it is now the same prix fixe meal offered at dinner, meaning you pay one price ($62 for adults, $37 for kids) and can choose your own appetizer and entree from a small list of offerings, and everyone gets the same dessert.

Be Our Guest

We’ve also seen prix fixe menus introduced at new restaurants like Space 220 and La Creperie de Paris (although La Creperie also offers a Quick Service option as well).

Dinner Spread at Space 220

Another change that has impacted almost every single restaurant at Disney World are all of the limited menus. Most dining spots have reduced the amount of items they offer right now.

©Disney || Chefs de France menu

Check out menus before you go to Disney World so you’re not surprised by one of your favorite items being gone! Hopefully the menus go back to normal eventually.

Character Meals

Character meals changed tremendously when Disney first reopened. And, they changed by basically disappearing! There were no character meals for a while besides breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace. But, you could only see characters from a distance during this dining experience!

Topolino’s Terrace

Eventually, more character meals did return, like at Tusker House and Hollywood and Vine. You still had to stay seated and could only take pictures with characters from a distance.

Pluto!!

But this recently changed! Now you are allowed to get up from your table and take a socially distanced photo with the characters.

Look how close we are to Goofy!!

But be aware that some character meals still are not available or back to normal, like Cinderella’s Royal Table.

Buffets

As expected, buffets did not return when Disney World reopened for safety reasons. Instead, the restaurants were either closed or some converted to a family-style meal.

Closed Biergarten Buffet

Even when places that had buffets finally reopened they went to all you care to enjoy family-style dining instead, like at Trail’s End and Chef Mickey’s.

Smokehouse Skillet at Trail’s End

But buffets did recently return to some places! Crystal Palace switched back to a buffet and Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge reopened as a buffet.

Boma Bread

However, other places have still remained family-style, so make sure you check before making a dining reservation!

No Snacking in Line

This one is pretty simple, but important! You can no longer enjoy a snack while you wait in line for a ride at Disney World.

Line for Big Thunder

This started when Disney reopened, and was very strict, but now it seems it only applies to indoor queues or when the queue you’re in moves indoors.

Rise of the Resistance starts outside, but then moves inside

So, do NOT buy a Mickey Premium Bar right before getting in line for Space Mountain, you will have to throw it away!

Ice Cream in a Cup

This is sort of a weird one, but you can only get ice cream in a cup now instead of a cone.

Okay, sure

But, you can still get the cone, it will just be on top of the ice cream in the cup, which makes it look kind of funny!

No Eating Without Your Phone

It’s very hard to do Disney World without a phone these days, and that includes with dining — your phone is now part of your meal experience! You need it to scan the QR codes to access menus in a lot of restaurants.

QR Code Menu at Hurricane Hanna’s

It’s also important to have to mobile order food, check mobile waitlists, and check-in on your mobile device.

QR code at The Edison

So, make sure you have your device and it stays charged throughout the day!

It’s almost impossible to do Disney without your phone anymore ©Disney

Those are all of the ways dining has changed at Disney World since the global pandemic began. Stay tuned to All Ears for more Disney dining news and updates.

Click here to see the best restaurants you’ve probably never visited in Disney World

Which change do you want to stick around in Disney World? Let us know in the comments!

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4 Replies to “How the Pandemic Changed the Way We Eat in Disney World”

  1. I’ll be at DW in October, 2022. I hope that menus are expanded. I have dietary limitations and am afraid that I’ll be eating 10 days’ worth of salmon, pasta, and cheese sandwiches. At extortionary prices. However, it is also frightening to commit to eating in restaurants outside of the World, since there are no mask mandates or other precautions being taken in Florida.

    1. Seriously. Florida is wide open and you aren’t stepping over bodies in the sidewalk. Turn off your TV and start living again. JFC

      1. You’re welcome to do whatever you wish, but I need to be cautious because of health issues. As far as I am concerned “being wide open” is not a point in Florida’s favor.

      2. I’m trying to start living again. Unfortunately, I have an immuno-deficiency condition and need to be careful. I would feel safe in DW with a KN-95 mask and lots of hand sanitizer. I’m not as confident about other areas of Florida, or other states, for that matter. Sometimes there are real reasons for concerns, and insulting and snarky replies are not appropriate.