Which is Better: Full or Quick Service Restaurants?

May 11, 2020, 5:41 PM · With Shanghai Disneyland open again to guests, it's time to start thinking more seriously about the return of theme parks around the world. Once you get into a park again, at some point you'll need to eat. But where will you go - to a quick-service stop or a full, table-service restaurant?

That's our "which is better" vote for today. Of course, at some theme parks, this choice is made for you, as many parks don't offer table-service dining. But at Disney parks (and Universal Orlando), table-service restaurants can be a big part of the attraction.

Full service allows you to sit and take a break, almost always in a shaded or indoor, air-conditioned location. Maybe there's even characters at the meal, allowing you to skip the long waits to meet characters elsewhere in the park as you can get your photos and autographs as you eat. Table-service meals typically offer better food quality than quick-service windows, often with waiters who not only can guide you through the menu but also can guide you through the park, providing welcome advice for the rest of your day.

But you pay for all this, with higher prices and a greater time commitment than you face with quick-service meals.

Mobile ordering also can help you speed through a meal at quick-service locations, as you can order and pay for the meal on your phone instead of having to wait for a seemingly endless procession of families in front of you trying to decide what they want to eat. And where table service restaurants deliver a higher-end experience, quick service includes a wider range of dining options, from a grab-n-go to fully immersive themed experiences such as those found in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Not that quick service isn't without issues. Good luck in a lot of locations finding a clean, empty table after you've picked up your food. While some quick-service locations offer a variety of interesting entrees, many offer little more than the boring burgers, fried chicken strips, and pizza slices. And sometimes those queues of indecisive diners at the register can make eating at a "quick" service location as much of a time commitment as a table-service meal.

So which is it for you? I know that many of us choose where to eat on a restaurant-by-restaurant basis, but which option do you prefer in general? There's no wrong answer, of course, just your preference. So please tell us a bit more about why you prefer your choice.

Replies (10)

May 11, 2020 at 6:56 PM

When I go to Disney, it’s with my young(er) kids, so it can end up being more work than it is fun at times. With that said, I’ve definitely noticed a difference of how I feel at the end of the night, based on what type of dinner we had. If just quick service, I’m usually dragging at the end of the night, ready to crash. If we had a table service, I usually feel like a million bucks, and could go all night.

I went to Mythos once at IOA, but besides that I don’t think I’ve ever had a sit down meal at a Universal Park. A few in Citywalk, but that would only be on days with early closings, we would never leave the park for a meal. Saddle Ranch Chop House in Hollywood Citywalk was definitely a memorable one.

SeaWorld, we always do the Dine with Orcas option. Not outstanding food, but better than most quick service options for, sure plus you get the private show. Whenever we go to SW, the park usually closes around 6pm as well, so we’ll usually do an off-site dinner at least one of the days we visit the park on the trip. We like to hit up Bahama Breeze, as there aren’t any of those close to our home area, and that is something that originates from Orlando.

Busch Gardens Tampa has a restaurant that overlooks the Savannah that we always hit up as well.

But there are always more quick service meals than table service meals on every trip...

May 11, 2020 at 8:40 PM

It really depends on the park. Personally, I'll always go to a table service restaurant to end a day at Epcot. But, 9 times out of 10, I'll stick with quick service, especially now that we have mobile ordering.

May 11, 2020 at 10:59 PM

It depends on who I'm with and how busy I am. Often, if on my own, then a quick meal is best so I can get around faster on rides. If with family, it's better to have a good full service to rest and talk on things. Another case where it just depends on the day itself.

May 12, 2020 at 1:55 AM

Both have their perks, but I usually prefer quick-service so I can get back to the rides. And on each visit to Walt Disney World (usually two days each at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, three days each at Magic Kingdom and Epcot to fill my ten-day ticket), at least once I'll hit up La Cantina de San Angel for nachos right before closing time to get some nachos to take back to my hotel room.

I've had fantastic table service experiences at Walt Disney World, but...generally, especially at Epcot where there are so many unique options, I tend to lean towards table service. Plus, sometimes Pecos Bill's just hits the spot.

May 12, 2020 at 9:13 AM

This is a very mood and situation specific decision. While there are certain examples of each type of restaurant that are great, there are just as many of both varieties that are terrible. I will say that it can be a hassle to make reservations, particularly for popular Disney table service restaurants and experiences, but in most of those instances, the meal is very much worth the effort to make the reservation 180+ days ahead of time.

Ultimately, it comes down to my mood and specific situation as to whether I'd rather dine at a table service or counter service restaurant, and the virus has not changed my view one bit. I believe that both will be equally safe, low risk options for dining in a theme park, though they may both be very different experiences than they were 2+ months ago.

May 12, 2020 at 10:43 AM

I used to go for the table restaurants, but I'm so over the need to set my clock and make reservations six months in advance at the Disney Parks. I've yet to nab reservations and step foot in a couple locations I've wanted to try. While I don't expect "cheap," I can't stomach (pun intended) some of the prices for LUNCH (and I can afford it). Even my college and high school kids were ready to walk out last year at the Skipper Canteen when they saw the prices. We ended up splitting entrees and drinking water. My apologies to the waiter.

Mythos at Universal has spoiled me. It's not overpriced and is a must do every trip. Also last summer, we ended up leaving Universal at the end of the day and going to the NBC Grill. We were starving, so anything would have tasted good, but we were pleasantly surprised at the portion sizes and the "reasonable" prices. We walked out happy and full, and again, it was my kids who commented they felt like it was not a money grab.

May 12, 2020 at 11:07 AM

There's how your future ride plans are. Let's face it, if you're at Universal and ready for some of their stuff from Harry Potter to the coasters, a huge sit-down meal isn't the best idea....

May 12, 2020 at 1:27 PM

It is all about maximizing my experience and the theme. And it depends on the park. At Universal, I will want to eat at a Potter restaurant then get back as quick as possible into the park. The table service locations serve the function of feeding me quickly to allow me back on another attraction. However, at Disney the parks stay open so long that a long sit down is welcome, so a long meal at the Crystal Palace around 6-7 may be what I need to recharge to stay in the park until it closes. Nowadays with the festering evil that is FP+, staying late is the best way to ride the Haunted Mansion and Pirates multiple times until they throw me out. Of course part of the allure at EPCOT is the places to eat, so sit down, stand up, walk around, and eat all day. What a wonderful park for food.

May 12, 2020 at 1:32 PM

EPCOT has always been the best for meal options. Not just in the international takes but whether you want a fast meal or something slower and elegant and always a joy.

May 13, 2020 at 6:21 AM

For me quick service is a winner 9 out of 10 (regardless of what park) mostly because then I can choose when I eat.
Grab a bite in between rides when I know I should eat something, or grab something when I am hungry.

as Russel said:
" While there are certain examples of each type of restaurant that are great, there are just as many of both varieties that are terrible"
So with the extra cost of table service and it is crap (not to my taste) then that's it. But if a quick service is crap, then I might be able to afford to go try something else that might be more to my taste.

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