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Disney Dining Your Way

This is an idea I “hatched” over at Intercot on 11/09/2007. It still needs some tweaking as most of my ideas do, but it’s a decent, although somewhat complicated idea, I think. Decide for yourself, and send me a comment.

You might still be able to see the discussion, here: http://intercot.com/discussion/showthread.php?t=119994

There have been many discussions about the pros and cons of the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) at WDW, both past and present. All of these discussions and my own experiences with DDP have started me thinking about how DDP could be improved.

Some have argued that the current DDP has forced Disney to “dumb down” their menus, eliminating some of the more expensive items and make them more cost effective to accommodate the DDP. Instead of restaurants being able to offer something special now, they’re trying their best to fit in to the DDP and still maintain a comfortable profit level.  Some guests have complained that the regular DDP (1 snack, 1 Counter Service, 1 Table Service ) was more food than they could eat, while others have complained that they wanted more food on the plan.  Another complaint of the DDP is that mixed drinks or other specialty items the restaurant might offer aren’t included in the package. My plan/idea would help eliminate some of these issues.

What I would propose would be a new flexible dining plan using credits or units, I call it the Dining Your Way Plan. Under the plan guests would choose how many meals they wanted to have, and what level, i.e., Snack, Counter Service, Table Service, Deluxe Table Service (currently, 2TS meal credits), etc. They (Disney) could charge a flat price for each credit/unit. Guests could then customize their dining plan based on their budget and the desired level of meals they wanted to eat.

For example, if you were staying 5 days, you could purchase any combination of the meals in advance and they would show up as credits on your Key to the World card.

You might buy something equivalent to the current DDP with  enough credits to have 5 snacks, 5 counter service meals and  5 table service meals.  Or, you might buy enough so you would be able to have 2 deluxe table service meals and only 3 regular table service meals. Or, you might choose to buy something equivalent to the current Quick Service DDP, and have 10 counter service meals, or, any combination thereof to suit your budget and taste.

An alternative to this idea might be a Dining Credit system. All meals could be paid for in advance using Dining credits. Call them Disney Dining Credits, and make the plan available only for resort guests and tied into their Key to the World resort key.

They could sell “Dining credits” for somewhere between $3-4. For example, if it were $3.50 for a credit,

  • Snacks or drinks would require 1 credit, equivalent $3.50
  • Counter Svc, 2 credits, equivalent $7.00
  • Table Svc Meal, 4 credits, equivalent $14.00
  • Table Svc Appetizer, 1 or more credits
  • Table Svc Desert, 1 or more credits
  • Alcoholic beverage, 1 or more credits
  • Dinner Buffets 8 credits, equivalent $28.00
  • Deluxe table Svc 10 credits, equivalent $35.00, or however many credits deemed

Child meals and credits could be structured very similar using a lesser priced Child credit.

Menus would be changed to show both the price (for non-resort on non-plan guests), and the number of credits required for each  item.

The advantage of the plan, could be a (slight) discount offered on meals. Another advantage would be the flexibility that would allow guests to spend their credits however they saw fit and hopefully not as limited. For those who didn’t want a lot of TS meals, they could just buy what they needed for CS or snacks. Disadvantage would be that it would require more planning on the part of the guest on how and where to spend their credits.

To add more value for Disney, they could set the credits to expire at the end of your trip, or like the  Magic Your Way tickets, for a fee, you could make them non-expiring. Also, guests would need to be able to buy more credits during their trip, if needed.

It might be simpler to make snacks half a credit, then everything else will be a little easier, at least as far as the number required is concerned. Counter service meals would then be 1 credit, Table Service would be 2, and so forth.

Any restaurant (even Deluxe or Buffets) could offer meals or options, that cost more/less than the “standard” for that class of restaurant. This would allow the restaurant more flexibility in their menu offerings, as opposed to the standard meals. For example, a Table Service restaurant might normally offer their meals at 4 credits, however, they could also offer the following:

  • Special of the day” that costs 5 dining credits or more.
  • 1 or 2 smaller portioned meals, and only charge 3 credits for them.
  • A dinner salad at a cost of 2 or 3 credits.
  • Ala carte items at 1 or more credits.
  • Mixed drinks at a cost of 1 or more credits
  • Appetizers at 1-3 credits
  • Desserts at 1-3 credits or more

A Counter Service Restaurant might normally offer their combo meals at 2 credits, however, they could also offer the following:

  • A small salad for 1 credit
  • A smaller/half-sized portion of a regular/combo meal for 1 credit
  • A “plus-sized” portion of a regular/combo for 3 credits
  • Ala carte/side items for 1 credit
  • Dessert options starting at 1 credit

To make the plan easier to use/understand, they could create an online dining credit “wizard” to help guests figure out how many they would need for their trip. The wizard would be hooked into the new online ADR system so they could make their reservations at the same time. At the end of making reservations, the system would suggest how many credits were needed based on their dining selections and the standard fare offered.

They could also offer special packages with dining credits included. I figure about 8 credits per day, per person, would be close to the equivalent of the free DDP promotions they’ve run. 8 credits per day would work out into 1-Snack(1 credit), 1-Counter Svc(2), 1-Table Svc(4), plus an appetizer(1 or 2), or a dessert (1 or 2). Of course, they could offer packages with fewer credits for those who don’t desire that many Table Service meals just as easily.

Other (promotional) packages might include:

  • half price credits or buy 2 get 1 for free, or buy 3 get 1 free, etc.
  • 1 free child credit for each adult credit purchased
  • Include x number of credits for free
  • Include x number of credits for each day purchased
  • Sell/Include them with the park tickets for resort and non-resort guests
  • Make dining credits available for (discounted?) purchase for Annual Passholders and DVC members
  • Offer discounts on more purchased, similar to multi-day tickets

While this plan is a lot more complicated, and would require more effort by visitors in planning their trip, it’s also a lot more flexible and would allow them more choices when dining. This plan, I believe, would also offer Disney more flexibility in the pricing and what they offer their guests in their restaurants. Of course, the plan would be offered as optional, so the guest could choose, just like now, whether to pay for meals out of pocket or use the Dining Plan.

So, is it too complicated? Or, could it work with a few adjustments? Or, is Disney dining already too complicated? I might agree that dining at WDW is already pretty complicated, even for those like myself, who have been several times, so a plan like this might just cause a first time visitor planning their trip a meltdown before they even get to WDW.

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  1. December 1, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    I like your plan. I would be more inclined to use it than the current plan. I would probably “underbuy”, and pay for what any extra meals I didn’t have enough credits for out of pocket. I suppose you could do this with the current plans, too, but your plan makes it far easier to pick and choose among options.

    Do you have any ideas about how it would handle gratuity? I apologize for going into your back posts, but I’m catching up on your blog.

    • GrumpyFan
      December 1, 2010 at 5:59 pm

      Thanks. I think it takes the best of what’s currently available and expands on it and then adds greater flexibility to use it for drinks and other things not currently included.

      I never really gave much thought to gratuity, but that’s a good question. My first thought is that it would probably be best handled out of pocket, but that creates an issue for those who go to the parks and don’t like to carry anything but their room key, like us. So, I’m not real sure. I guess it could be done via credits, or as a charge on your room key, or as always, cash.

      No worries on going back and reading and commenting on oldies, I don’t mind. I’m glad to see and discuss others’ thoughts on the matter.

    • GrumpyFan
      December 1, 2010 at 6:01 pm

      As for “underbuying”, that makes sense, but the idea, if implemented like I’ve envisioned, would be that you could just buy more credits along the way, if needed.

  1. December 31, 2010 at 2:30 am

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