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How to get the most of your Disney Dining Plan 18% gratuity charges

Updated on August 31, 2011

Disney Dining Plan automatically adds 18% gratuity to all restaurant bills for 6 or more people

Visiting Disney World is a gift in itself, but you will be "gifting" quite regularly if you are on the Disney Dining Plan and there are 6 or more in your group.

After many visits to Walt Disney World, we see and hear many complaints about the 18% gratuity that is automatically tacked onto the restaurant bill. Truth be told, we have done some of that complaining ourselves.

Why? Let's use Hollywood & Vine (Disney Hollywood Studios) as an example. We have six people in our family. Five are on the adult dining plan and one is on the child dining plan. (I'd like to quickly add that three of the "adults" are ages 10-13). We each ordered our basic drink and then proceeded to the buffet line. Within a 55 minute dining session, our waitress came by only once when she brought the check. At that time, she asked "Would you like refills on your drinks?"

This waitress received a $29.73 gratuity, or better known as "tip" by us common folk. A waitress who did absolutely nothing walked away with almost thirty dollars of our hard earned cash. There isn't anything we can do about it, either!
Or is there?

In a perfect world, there wouldn't be an automatic addition to dining bills because everyone would tip a server based on two things : 1.) Service and 2.) Amount of bill. But, this isn't a perfect world. Some people just do not believe that they should tip their server at all. Many times, those that do, give their hardworking server only the change left over after they pay.
Having worked as a waitress in my younger days, I know that customers can be quite demanding on their server, and often times walk out leaving nothing.

All that aside, when a waiter or waitress has a guarantee that they will receive a tip, it is their responsibility to go above and beyond to be...well...a SERVER.

Disney Restaurant servers are not "bottom of the food chain" folk, so get that out of your head. They make a pretty penny. Or shall I say a hefty sum, because just the saying "penny" aloud makes me laugh knowing how much money they get from each table.

Is there anything you can do? Yes, there is.

If you are hoping to avoid paying the gratuity, then you are in for a rude awakening. However, if you would like to get your money's worth and make those servers actually do something besides giggle in the corner or walk around looking less than thrilled, then you can.
Here's how:

No, that does not mean acting like a lunatic or embarrassing your family members. Instead, it means thinking of each dining experience in the classic Disney "Magical" way. How so? Okay, if you were dining in a Disney movie, you'd be a prince or princess. True? Your every dining need would be met quickly and eagerly by your staff. That's how to handle it. As a Disney princess or prince would. With grace. With elegance. With firm convictions.
Check the taste of your drinks. Is the temperature adequate? Was that drink you were eager to try really any good? If not, request another.

Signal for your server to refill glasses when you see them half empty. (If he/she is not nearby, have another server fetch yours)

Did you order an appetizer? Is it taking too long? Signal your server and request that he or she go into the kitchen to see why it is taking so long.

The same applies for your entrée, yet there should be even more care put into preparing your meal than preparing an appetizer. Check for taste, appeal, quality, and quantity. If anything is below your expectations, then have your server return to your table.

Perhaps the entrée you ordered isn't desirable, then have your server remove your plate and bring something else instead.

If you order something with seasoning and the seasoning is too light (or too heavy), then request that your server take it back and have it modified.

Disney has polices for their guests, and they truly want everyone's expereience to be memorable. Having a yucky, or even so-so meal is memorable indeed, yet not the kind of memories Walt Disney would ever have wanted.

No one can anticipate a problem, and if no one knows about it, then they assume there is no problem. Be vocal about your expectations and your demands. Again, have some class when it comes to this and anything. Don't rant and rave if what you get isn't what you want. Be polite, but firm. The restaurant MUST please you. That is what you are paying for. A pleasurable, memorable dining experience.

As I mentioned earlier, Hollywood & Vine was a disappointment. Not the food, but the service. The buffet at Hollywood & Vine in Disney Hollywood Studios is most certainly worth every dollar spent. The service....not so much. Is it the restaurants fault, we were not satisfied with our service? No. It is ours. We did not speak up, therefore we gave a "gift" to an unworthy recipient.

Last night, we dined at Big River Grille and Brewery Works on Disney Boardwalk. This is a restaurant we would never recommend. Out of all the restaurants we have been to over the years in Disney World, this is the one place we were truly unhappy with. They do not use ANY seasoning in their potatoes or vegetables. None. As in, no salt, pepper, butter, garlic. Nothing. The "garlic mashed potatoes" have no garlic. Yes, you read that right. Garlic with NO garlic! Think I'm joking? Well, I'm not. I asked our waitress about the blandness of the food. Her response was "I don't eat here either because everything is bland." Kuddos on the honesty, lady!
After discussing the issues at hand: bland vegetables, mashed potatoes that tasted like water, hard, cold bread on my daughter's burger.... she called out the manager to speak to us.
The manager and our waitress verified that the garlic mashed potatoes have no garlic. They also verified that they cook the vegetables and potatoes in water only. The reason, they say, is because people complain about having spice allergies. Say what?? Allergic to salt and pepper? I must be living under a rock because I have never heard of anyone being allergic to salt and pepper.
Both the manager and our waitress picked up my daughter's burger bun and agreed it was hard and cold. The reason? They can't grill the bread because people complain about the butter. Okay, repeat that? "We stopped grilling the buns because people come kept complaining about the butter on the buns".
What kind of people, exactly, are they accustomed to serving??
Instead of replacing our food (umm, not interested in receiving MORE tasteless food), the manager offered to upgrade the child dessert to an adult dessert (from a cookie to cheesecake), give my husband a complimentary glass of red wine (yes, after all that he deserved it), and to grant us "drinks on the house" for the remainder of our stay here.

That, my dear readers, is how you handle the gratuity. The definition for gratuity is " a gift or reward for services rendered". Be wise and the gift you do give will be a deserving one.


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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Steve, Disney cast members and servers do not make anywhere close to the same hourly wage.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Not all Disney Cast Members can even get a tip. So we deal with the same people as the server does. But we don't even have a chance to get a tip, so I don't believe in tipping, since I know we make about the same money per hour, so this isn't fair that they get a tip and feel slighted when they don't when most of us as Disney don't get the option to get a tip at all.

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      3 years ago

      This is a great blog, would you be involved in doing an interview about how you created it? If so email me! ecdgdkdfdeaf

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Being a server on disney property, at downtown disney, yes, all those complaints, too much butter on the bun, too much spices, etc, they are real unfortunately. People do come in and can either not eat our food or just how you asked everyone to be picky to their disney waitress, they are picky beyond belief without anybody having to tell them to be. However it is unfortunate that you felt that your tip at Hollywood and Vine was undeserved, however, somewhere on the other side of the restaurant, a family a 5, where an automatic gratuity is not included, is being terrorized by angry elderly people and children that are allergic to peanuts, gluten, dairy, salt, pepper, fruit, vegetables, meat, and water and still expect every item on the buffet to be available to them, and they leave no tip. At a buffet, I really cannot think of much that a server could do for you, besides clear your plates and bring refills so I am unsure about what your expectations were, especially since you knew up front that an 18% gratuity would be charged no matter what, but yes, disney servers do make a lot of money, but not all of them. Most tables are not auto-gratuity and unfortunately therefore a lot of energy is spent on those tables versus the ones they know they will make a easy 30$ off of. It is sad, but true, as one or two tables always seem to be forgotten or deemed as an "easy" table with minimal checking up to do. Just giving some insight from a server dealing with all the disney headaches! Tip your server! It is my only income and that is how I pay my bills and stay alive!


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