Before you begin reading here, if you haven’t already, please read Ordering your meals at Disney World with Special Dietary Needs. It covers the basic information you need for ordering at Disney World food courts.
Many of the Disney World resorts have food courts.
We find them to be convenient and less expensive than the full service restaurants. The resort food courts have the ability to accommodate special dietary needs to a surprisingly large extent. What they can do for you will depend on the food court menu, the substitute products they have on hand, crowd conditions and the particular chef on duty. They should always be able to accommodate the common issues like the top 8 allergies, gluten sensitivity, the need for low sodium, low sugar, etc.
Before your visit to Disney World:
If you have unusual special dietary needs, contact the Special Dietary Needs department for assistance in advance at (407) 824-5967.
If your needs are unusual, you may also wish to contact the resort in advance and ask to speak to a chef at the food court about your situation. This may be hard to do, but not impossible. When you call any of the Disney owned resorts, your call will always be directed to a call center. You’ll need to tell them that you need to speak with a chef on-site at the resort, from the specific restaurant you’re trying to reach. Once you get to the resort, it would be a good idea to drop in to the food court to chat with the chef on duty.
How to Order at the Disney World Food Courts with Special Dietary Needs
When you walk into a food court, you’ll want to:
- Take a quick look at the menu boards to see what they offer.
- Request to speak with a manager or chef if needed.
For the more simple requests like a substitution (like substituting French fries with fruit), the servers at the food counters can usually help you.
When do you need to speak with a chef in the Disney World food courts?
If you have allergies, food intolerance, or you need specially prepared meals for any reason, you’ll definitely want to speak with a chef each time you order. Also if the support you need is more than just a simple substitution, always request to speak with the chef.
The chefs are trained to help with special dietary needs. They can talk to you about your specific needs, answer your questions, and help you determine your options. If you need something specially prepared, they’ll do it for you. If you just want to know which foods on the menu would work within your diet, you’ll just need to speak with a chef on your first visit.
At each food court, there will usually be at least one chef on staff who can come out and talk with you, who’s trained to know what foods are safe for various conditions. They should also know about the procedures for handling special dietary needs, and about the products and ingredients they can cook with. If needed, some chefs will even allow you to look at the packages for ingredients (if they’re small enough to carry out to you).
How do you request to speak with a chef in the Disney World food courts?
It’s best to approach any of the servers at the food stations rather than the cashiers. The servers can leave their posts more easily than cashiers, and they can walk into the back to get a chef. You’ll see many servers behind their stations, giving out food to the people waiting in lines.
You won’t need to wait in a line to request a chef. Just approach any food court server, and let them know you need to speak with a chef for allergies. It’s best to say this even if your special dietary need is not allergies. We find that it goes much smoother and easier this way.
We always try to pick the least busy server, though sometimes they’re all busy. Then you’ll just want to pick someone who you can access easily.
Keep in mind that it may take a while for the chef to come out since he’s probably cooking in the back. He may even be cooking someone else’s special diet order.
What happens once the chef comes out to talk with you?
After you discuss your options, you’ll tell the chef what you want. The chef may opt to cook your meals from scratch using the ingredients on hand, or he/she may use some or all of the pre-prepared items if they meet your needs. The chef will go into the back area to prepare your meal.
Now you’ll wait! It may take a few minutes because the chef will probably be cooking from scratch for you. While we’re waiting, we usually take this time to pay for the meal. Then we go back to wait near the door where the chef will be returning from. He/she will bring your meal right to you.
What happens when the food court is very busy?
During moderate to high crowd times, some of the food courts can be incredibly crowded and hectic during certain times of the day. Breakfast is usually the most crowded, but most resort food courts quiet down throughout the rest of the day. During dinner crowds may pick up, but it’s still not usually as crowded as breakfast. Evenings are usually not that bad.
When the food court is crowded, it can be more challenging for cast members to help you with your special needs. Regardless, even during busy times we’ve had the chefs make us customized meals. They almost always seem happy to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for the support you need, but be patient. It may take a while.
Here’s a report from one Disney guest:
“We recently stayed at Port Orleans Riverside. I have gluten intolerance and I try to avoid MSG. I was able to eat just fine in the food court. On one visit the chef in the food court made me a gluten-free pasta dish with a gluten and MSG-free cream sauce that he made from scratch. It was scrumptious and rivaled any pasta dish we’ve had in fine restaurants. Once when another chef was on duty, it was busy and he wasn’t willing to go that far, but I was still able to put together a healthy meal with his help.”
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