When Will the Disney Dining Plan Return?

Disney Dining Plan

The Disney Dining Plan was launched in 2005 with the promise that Guests could essentially prepay for their meals at Walt Disney World and receive savings of up to 30% over the cost of paying out of pocket. While the actual amount of savings varied depending on how much a Guest wanted to eat and what they ordered, the plan was extremely popular throughout its nearly 15-year run by the time it was paused at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. With more and more Guests now planning their first trips back to Walt Disney World since the start of the pandemic, many are wondering when the Disney Dining Plan will return. Here are some possibilities…

What’s Keeping the Dining Plan From Returning?

Credit: Disney

The short answer is staffing. Walt Disney World, like much of the hospitality and tourism industry, is continuing to face unprecedented staffing challenges which are preventing the opening of additional restaurants and the expansion of menus and availability for the restaurants that are already open.

In the last Earnings Call, Disney CEO Bob Chapek shared that profits from Disney Parks were higher than anticipated in the last quarter, so it is unlikely that cost is the issue with the plan as Disney would make even greater profits if more Guests were brought into the parks’ and resorts’ restaurants through the Dining Plan. Chapek went on to point out that the parks and resorts are still working on increasing staff, and that is the main reason why Walt Disney World is still running under self-imposed capacity limits (through the Disney Park Pass Reservation System.)

As a result of the limited staffing at this time and capacities, and as you may have noticed if you have visited Walt Disney World recently, dining reservations are currently rather difficult to come by. As a result, it seems logical that the Disney Dining Plan will not return while reservations are already difficult to get.

When Will the Disney Dining Plan Return?

Cast Members Plaza Restaurant

While Walt Disney World is continuing to work on improving its staffing challenges through hiring incentives, job fairs, and more, getting to a point where the Disney Dining Plan could feasibly return may not happen overnight. Here are some possibilities for when we may see the plan back in action…

Later This Year In Phases

With the Disney Dining Plan being so popular among Guests, the company will certainly want to have it back as soon as possible, but depending on all of the factors listed above, some parts of the plan may be easier to get back sooner than others.

When the Disney Dining Plan was paused in 2020, there were multiple different versions of the plan available to Guests, namely the traditional Disney Dining Plan, the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan, and the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan. The standard Disney Dining Plan was the most popular offering Guests one snack, one quick service meal, and one table-service meal per person per night of their Walt Disney World vacation . The Quick Service Plan was similar with only quick-service meals included, while the Deluxe Dining Plan offered Guests the flexibility of dining with additional table service meals at Disney World restaurants.

California Grill

California Grill

At this point, the Quick Service Dining Plan would be the easiest for Walt Disney World to bring back. Quick service restaurants do not require advanced dining reservations, and with mobile ordering, Disney still has some control over restaurant capacities and crowds coming into the restaurant in relation to the current staffing situation.

Moreover, if one quick service location is backed up, Guests have plenty of other options, even right now with the current crowd levels, staffing, and capacity limits, and without them having to make an advance dining reservation. Another problem in adding the Disney Dining Plan back into the mix right now is that if all of the table service reservations are booked up and walk-up tables are challenging to come by in each theme park, Disney will be left with a lot of disgruntled Guests who prepaid for their dining.

If you are reading this site, you probably have all of your Disney restaurants planned in advance, but that isn’t the case for every Guest on the Dining Plan, so Cast Members need alternative locations that typically have availability to send those Guests to, or for them to find on the My Disney Experience app, for the plan to work well.

With table service dining being the most challenging part of the plan, it is possible that Disney will first bring back the Disney Dining Plan as a quick service dining only add-on to Walt Disney World vacation packages. Given the current state of quick service restaurants, and Bob Chapek’s emphasis on wanting to get additional restaurants and live entertainment up and running soon, it is possible that at least the quick-service plan could return later this year.

Later This Year With New Bundling Offers

If the major holdup in the return of Disney Dining Plans is the variability in scoring a table at a sit-down restaurant, there is one potential solution for how the plan could be offered. In theory, the plan could return as the Quick Service Dining Plan, while giving Guests the option of bundling quick service meals and snacks to make a table service meal if they so choose.

This theory would be more work on the Guests’ end if they want to dine table-service-style, as you might want to spend more time doing a cost breakdown to make sure you are getting the greatest deal out of the plan, but it would at least give Guests the option of using the Disney Dining Plan how it was before while guaranteeing availability at quick-service restaurants (thanks to mobile ordering and capacity limits) so no Guest finds themselves out of luck if they can’t get a table.

The complication with this however is that in the past Guests could book things like a dinner show, an enhanced Disney experience like dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table, or various character dining experiences and signature restaurants in a park or Disney Resort hotel for multiple table service credits, and this would likely not be possible on a bundled version of the quick service plan.

In 2023

Another possibility is that Disney will put off the return of any Dining Plan until the full array of plan options are able to return, which may not happen until 2023. Without knowing exactly what’s happening behind the scenes, anything is possible of course, but it does seem unlikely that it would take longer than three years for the Disney Dining Plan to return.

Some Guests have also been fans of free dining packages that Disney World would typically offer during select times of the year before the plan was paused. In these packages, Guests would pay the full rate for their Disney resort stay but receive a free dining plan as an add-on, so for many Guests it turned out to be worth it.

Disney does like to surprise us though, and we certainly would not complain if they were to announce the return of the Disney Dining Plan sooner! For now, though, these are some of our speculations, and we will be back with updates once Disney does share some details on when the plans will return to Walt Disney World.

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."

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