2023 Vacation Packages have been announced, and most things have returned to “normal” at Walt Disney World. But, there is still that *one* question that we (like many of you!) are asking:
When will the Disney Dining Plan be back?
What is the Disney Dining Plan?
If you are brand new to Disney World vacation planning, you may not even know about the Disney Dining Plan.
Simply put, the Disney Dining Plan allows on-site guests to pre-pay for their meals at participating restaurants. It isn’t cheap (you don’t get a discount for prepaying) but it is very convenient.
When you purchase the Disney Dining Plan, you don’t tell Disney where you will be eating. Instead, what you buy are credits that can be used at Quick Service restaurants, Table Service restaurants, and for snacks.
When in use, guests could choose from different levels of plans that would then give them varying amounts of each type of credits to use during their trip. The total number of the credits is based on the number of nights for a trip, but you were free to use your credits however you wanted.
It didn’t necessarily save you money. In fact, if you weren’t strategic about what you ordered, you could wind up spending more with the Dining Plan than you would have paid out of pocket.
BUT many families loved it because it created a truly “all-inclusive” feeling. We used it on our first trips for that very reason: it was a lot easier to relax and have fun when you weren’t worried about the prices on the menu.
The Dining Plan makes Disney money
From Disney’s side, the Dining Plan is a definite moneymaker. And although we don’t know specifics, we can guess it brings in a significant chunk of change.
It fills up restaurants that might not always be full, and commits guests to spending a set dollar amount on food, before they even set foot on property.
Guests love it because it is convenient. Disney loves it because it makes money.
It kind of sounds like a win-win, right?
Why isn’t the Disney Dining Plan available?
So, if the Disney Dining Plan was so popular, why hasn’t Disney brought it back yet?
When the parks originally reopened, lots of things looked different, including dining.
For a long time, the parks were operating at partial capacity, and the restaurants were only 1/2 full. Characters were kept at a distance, which made character dining difficult.
So, it made sense why they didn’t bring the Dining Plan when things first reopened.
But, what about now?
Disney has confirmed that the Dining Plan would be returning, and we still feel confident that is true.
Our best guess right now is that the holdup involves getting the infrastructure back into place.
Part of that means securing agreements with the non-Disney owned restaurants.
And part of it could be Disney is using this opportunity to come up with a new system or pricing structure, or both.
And of course, part of it involves getting all the restaurants totally online and ready to handle being at full capacity.
That means getting the staff in place to handle the influx of reservations, and getting the remaining restaurants (like Akershus and 1900 Park Fare) back open and ready for guests.
And with staffing issues a problem nationwide, that isn’t something that can be easily done.
What about Free Dining?
Free Dining. Oh, Free Dining, you rascal you.
The most popular discount offered by Disney, the Free Dining promotion started as a way to entice guests to visit during historically slow times of the year. Remember, Disney doesn’t offer discounts to be nice, they do it to get heads in beds.
The closer to capacity the resorts, the less likely for any sort of discount, including something like Free Dining. That doesn’t mean it won’t eventually return, it just means we wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t.
Here’s a little secret: even when Free Dining is offered, because of the resort restrictions, discounts that save you money on your room were often the better deal for many people. And, the good news is we have seen Disney bring those back, like with the recent discount offered to Disney+ subscribers.
The truth is, Disney likely wants to get the Disney Dining Plan back as much as the guests want to see it. But, they also know that after a slightly bumpy launch of Genie+, guests may not be able to handle any dramatic price increases or perceived loss of value.
Let’s be honest:
You need a PhD in Theme Parks just to understand what Disney considers the “basics”. If Disney does use this downtime as an opportunity to put together a new system, they might not want to roll it out to people that haven’t even begun to learn the previous one.
But, maybe we’re just projecting our frustrations, and getting all worked up over nothing. That’s what we’re going to hope, anyway.
So, the TL/DR for “When will the Disney Dining Plan be back?” is simply, nobody knows.
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