Headed to Walt Disney World? Chances are, you have several special restaurants you want to visit for a great meal. Table service meals, where a Cast Member brings food or drinks directly to your table, are a great way to add to your Disney dining experience, but it doesn’t come cheap. Table service meals are more expensive than counter service meals, sometimes by a rather large amount, and that’s before you even add in the tip. For what you will pay for a table service steak surrounded by fantastic architecture and soft lighting at Le Cellier, I could buy three hamburgers meals, with fries and a drink, at a counter service restaurant like Cosmic Rays, ambient sounds provided by an audioanimatronic space alien. Steak for me or hamburgers for three members of my family?
And you thought planning out what days to visit the parks were your toughest decisions.
If you are clipping coupons and saving money for your vacation, then you want to get the most from your money. Here is a A Cheapskate Princess money-saving tip that could get you that pricey table service meal at a price reduced enough to make it worth your while.
Make your table service dining reservations at lunch rather than for dinner.
Having just said to dine at around noon, making your reservations at lunch rather than dinner will not always save you money. You will have to do your restaurant homework if saving money is a determining factor in when you make reservations. At certain restaurants, lunch and dinner have the exact same prices, so the time of day you dine there will make no difference to your Disney Visa bill. How will you know this?
Use this link to the Disney World dining page. Choose your restaurant and click on the menu.
For our comparison, let’s start with the Coral Reef Restaurant.
Lunch and Dinner, Coral Reef Restaurant
(just a few quick examples)
Crab Cakes with Tropical Fruit Salsa and Tequila Aïoli. $11.99 (appetizer)
Crispy-fried Shrimp with Coral Reef Slaw and a Spiced Rémoulade. 11.99 (appetizer)
Seared Chicken Breast served over Spaetzle finished with Applewood-smoked Bacon and Chicken Broth. 21.99
Grilled Mahi Mahi with Laughing Bird Shrimp, Hearts of Palm, Jasmine Rice, Cilantro, and a Coconut-Lime Sauce. $24.99
Grilled New York Strip Steakserved with Roasted Potatoes, Mushrooms, Spinach, and Red Wine Sauce. 32.99
So lunch or dinner, the price at the Coral Reef is the same.
Step over to Be Our Guest Restaurant, and lunch and dinner, while not the same food items, have two distinct price ranges. Lunch is less expensive than dinner.
Be Our Guest Restaurant
Three lunch items at Be Our Guest Restaurant:
Tuna Niçoise Salad – Warm Seared Tuna Steak, chilled Green Beans, Potatoes, Olives, Roasted Bell Peppers, Tomatoes and a Hard Poached Egg. $13.49
Croque Monsieur – Grilled Sandwich of Carved Ham and Gruyere Cheese and Bechamel with Pommes Frites. $10.99
Braised Pork – Eight Hour Slow-cooked Pork with Mushrooms, Onions, Carrots and Bacon served with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans Jardiniere. $11.99
Three dinner items at Be Our Guest Restaurant:
Sautéed Shrimp and Scallops with Seasonal Vegetables served in Puff Pastry with a Creamy Lobster Sauce. $22.99
Pan-seared Salmon on Leek Fondue served with Creamy Saffron-crushed Potatoes. $20.99
Grilled Strip Steak with Garlic-Herb Butter and Pommes Frites. $29.99
If you are a serious foodie, then you just might prefer steak over pork, but if you just want to experience the restaurant itself as an event, then choose a lunch reservation for lower prices.
Let’s skip over to Fulton’s Crabhouse at Downtown Disney.
Lunch Specialties, 3 items
Fish Tacos Blackened market catch, pico de gallo, queso fresco, guacamole 15.00
Lobster Ravioli Mushroom ragout, sage, brown butter, Manchego 21.00
Fish and Chips Beer battered Atlantic cod, french fries 13.00
Dinner, 3 items
Mahi-Mahi – Pan seared, roasted cauliflower puree, caramelized brussels sprouts, lobster cream 32.00
Crab Cakes – Jumbo lump blue crab, maque choux, fried green tomato, remoulade $32.00
Seafood Sampler – Jumbo lump blue crab stuffed shrimp, pan roasted scallops, sauteed rapini, lemon beurre blanc $36.00
Those prices are almost double for dinner versus lunch. Similar to the comparison for Be Our Guest Restaurant, the food items will not be the same, but these three examples are almost dinner = two lunches. That’s a big savings for eating in the exact place, just hours apart.
Hop over to Biergarten Restaurant…
adult lunch buffet, $23.42 with tax, no gratuity
adult dinner buffet, $35.14 with tax, no gratuity
child lunch buffet, $12.77 with tax, no gratuity
child dinner buffet, $12.03 with tax, no gratuity
So that’s a pretty big difference in price for adults, not so much for the kids. Now the food selection will be different, but are you going for specific items off the menu or for the experience? That may be specific to your family and your budget.
Ride a monorail over to Chef Mickey’s..
Chef Mickey’s Restaurant
adult breakfast buffet, $33.01 with tax, no gratuity
adult dinner buffet, $41.53 with tax, no gratuity
child breakfast buffet, $18.01 with tax, no gratuity
child breakfast buffet, $20.23 with tax, no gratuity
The price difference between lunch and dinner is not as large at Chef Mickey’s as it is for Biergarten Restaurant. You can save almost $8 per adult by eating breakfast rather than lunch, but this also means for just $8 more, you can have Spiced Rubbed Sirloin of Beef and Salmon Filet over eggs and waffles.
Doing my homework on restaurant prices was difficult because as of late February, ’13, there were no prices posted for buffet meals on Disneyworld.com web site. That wasn’t the case researching Chef Mickey’s prices in November of ’12, because there were prices readily posted. This was vexing, so I phoned Disney direct. The Cast Member I spoke with said that the prices she was quoting me may not be accurate by the time of my visit, because they were having a price increase soon. Disney prices are always subject to change without notice, which can be helpful to remember if you bring gift cards or cash to pay for meals.
Also interesting to note was that prices were posted for Chef Mickey’s in December 2012 for not only breakfast and dinner, but also lunch and a “brunch.” My Cast Member said they serve Chef Mickey’s lunch and brunch only during busy times of year, meaning Christmas holidays, and I remember breakfast, brunch, and lunch prices were all lower than dinner. It’s pays to do your homework, and if you can’t find what you need online, give Disney a call.
Food or experience? If the actual food items you ingest are important to you, then a diner reservation may be the route for you to go with no thought for prices. But if saving money is part of your vacation equation, then scheduling table service meals early in the day can save you money. I have a family of five people who all are of age to qualify for adult meal prices. Eating lunch rather than dinner can save me enough money to pay for a counter service meal that same day.
And possibly a cupcake or two for dessert.
Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!
Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Erin, our Disney Vacation Planner with Destinations in Florida travel. She offers promotions like Disney Trading Pin sets, autograph books, and free Mickey Mouse ear hats for kids under age 17. We know our readers love free…
Give Erin a call at 214-697-7732, or send an e-mail to erin @ destinationsinflorida.com.
Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you trying to get a last-minute reservation at Be Our Guest.
Disney’s Cheapskate Princess