Those who got up early on November 3, 2020 might’ve had surprise success scoring Advance Dining Reservations at difficult to book restaurants. That’s because Walt Disney World released a ton of new ADRs for pretty much every table service restaurant for the remainder of the year. (Updated November 6, 2020.)
We were among those early risers, able to finally book the new modified character breakfast at Chef Mickey’s after striking out several times in the past. (Never thought I’d consider the chance to dine at Chef Mickey’s as a “consolation prize” for anything, but 2020 is nothing if not full of surprises!)
While new Walt Disney World Advance Dining Reservation “availability dumps” have occurred a couple of times in the last month or so, those have been limited to certain restaurants or for hours later in the day, usually due to extended hours. This was an across the board increase in ADR inventory, potentially signaling something different…
Our immediate impulse was that Walt Disney World had opted to increase table service restaurant capacity. That seemed like the most plausible explanation for why every restaurant would suddenly have more ADR times open up.
That would be possible due to Florida Entering Phase 3 and Fully Reopening. This occurred in late last September when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order removing capacity restrictions on bars, restaurants, stores, theme parks, and more. As part of that final phase, all restaurants are now able to fill all tables and use only limited physical distancing protocols.
Back when Florida entered Phase 3, Walt Disney World released the following statement: “We received the Governor’s executive order and are evaluating it to determine what it may mean for our business. We are not making any immediate changes. As a reminder, face coverings are still required at Walt Disney World Resort.”
Subsequent to that, Disney CEO Bob Chapek claimed Walt Disney World Capacity Is Still Capped at 25%. In an interview with CNBC last month, he stated that this number has not and would not be increased, and these limitations will exist until the CDC and other health experts indicated that they were no longer necessary.
As we’ve noted several times attendance at Walt Disney World has increased in the last two months, despite that statement. That’s true even on some days that were fully booked across all categories of Disney Park Pass theme park reservations.
Walt Disney World has reopened more restaurants and shops to help soak up the crowds, and each time that or a park hours extension occurs, more Disney Park Pass availability has been released. There are a variety of potential explanations for this, all of which are beyond the scope of this post.
Accordingly, our assumption was that Walt Disney World was either using similar “fuzzy math” to up the capacity at table service restaurants, or just doing it outright because they can while still adhering to Florida’s reopening plan.
The other very obvious possibility of a technical glitch didn’t even occur to us until DisneyWorld.com and My Disney Experience both disabled dining reservations later in the day.
If you attempted to book Advance Dining Reservations during the glitch, you’d be greeted by error messages. The My Disney Experience pop-up read: “Dining reservations are temporarily unavailable. In the meantime, you can learn more about dining experiences at the Walt Disney World Resort.” (If people want to make an ADR, you’d think they already did the “learning” part of the process, but whatever!)
Given the error messages, this was obviously a technical difficulty of some sort. The silver lining is that, even if this was yet another Walt Disney World IT error, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the Advance Dining Reservations will need to be cancelled. To be sure, some almost certainly will be cancelled.
However, one thing we’ve noticed in recent weeks is a lot of “Now” availability in the Mobile Dine Walk-up Waitlist feature in the My Disney Experience app. It seems a big part of the reason why Advance Dining Reservations are increasingly difficult to score is because Disney is allocating more inventory to day-of guests.
We’re huge fans of that and hope it becomes the norm going forward since it allows for more spontaneity (another topic for another day…). In this case, it also provides a potential “buffer” or safety net.
Rather than cancelling all of the new Advance Dining Reservations, some of them can potentially be filled from the allotment previously set aside for the Walk-up Waitlist. While normally we’d prefer to see that inventory preserved for a “best of both worlds” approach, satisfying the newly-made ADRs is the better near-term solution from a guest satisfaction perspective.
With that said, it’s unlikely that there’s enough Walk-up Waitlist inventory set aside to fulfill all of the new Advance Dining Reservations made this morning. For one thing, not every table service restaurant is available via that feature.
November 6, 2020 UPDATE: Walt Disney World has begun cancelling Advance Dining Reservations that cannot be fulfilled, and issuing guests $25 gift cards for each ADR that must be cancelled. Here’s the message we received upon learning that our Chef Mickey’s reservation had been cancelled:
We are so thankful to have the opportunity to make magic for guests like you every single day and we love being a part of the special memories you make at our dining locations and bookable experiences.
We are deeply sorry to share with you today that we are reaching out about a recent dining reservation and/or experience booking you made through your My Disney Experience account.
On Tuesday, November 3, our dining reservation and experience booking system unfortunately experienced an unanticipated technical issue for a short period of time, and while we worked as quickly as possible to resolve this, during that period the system displayed reservation times at locations that were unavailable and fully booked.
As we continue to limit attendance and promote physical distancing, we are not able to keep reservations made during that period of time and we will unfortunately be automatically cancelling the following dining reservation(s) and/or experience booking(s):
We are incredibly sorry this happened and recognize how much excitement, thought and time goes into planning visits to Walt Disney World Resort. We know this may have altered your plans — and as a thank you for making us part of your day — we will be sending you a $25 digital Disney Gift Card from Disney Gift Card Services you can use during your next visit.
We have since resolved this issue and encourage you to visit DisneyWorld.com or the My Disney Experience app to check availability and book new dining and experience reservations.
Ultimately, we suspect Walt Disney World will continue sorting out these dining issues over the course of the weekend, with more cancellations going out and gift cards being issue. Just another roller coaster day in the life of Disney’s online systems! We’ll keep you posted if/when we learn anything new. Fingers crossed our Chef Mickey’s reservation doesn’t get cancelled. (It did get cancelled!) Again, more words I never would’ve expected to type–further proof that 2020 is an agent of chaos.
Were you able to score any hard to find Advance Dining Reservations this morning? Received a cancellation yet? Expect to receive one, or think Walt Disney World will honor these ADRs? Any theories of your own as to why this happened? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!