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DiningPlanning Your Dining

Mobile Food & Beverage Ordering – What You Need to Know & Why Disney Needs to Fix It (FAST)

The Mobile Food and Beverage Ordering option available at Disney World has been around for several years now and has gone from a hidden gem that most guests didn’t use, to one that almost all guests use (and is honestly a complete disaster right now). Because of that, Mobile Order can be both awesome and terribly frustrating. There are a number of things Disney needs to address to fix the service. Check out what we feel you need to know about Mobile Food and Beverage Ordering.





 

1 – What Exactly Is Mobile Ordering?

If you’ve ever visited Disney World pre-pandemic and ate at a quick-service restaurant for a meal, chances are you experienced long lines to first order your food and then again to pick up your food. We too have experienced this and grudgingly make it work. Disney introduced Mobile Order Service to help guests skip the line and order the food and beverages at quick-service restaurants right from the My Disney Experience app. This service allows guests to totally bypass the regular line for ordering and waiting for food. Pre-pandemic, Mobile Ordering was a great way to skip the line, because, for whatever reason, most guests simply preferred to stand in the traditional line and order in person.

When the parks reopened in July 2020 after a four-month closure, Disney basically required all guests to use Mobile Order for quick-service restaurants in an effort to reduce physical contact. When capacity limits were in place, the system still worked relatively well and was able to handle all guests orders through the app. However, in recent months, with capacity limits no longer in place, the system is totally overwhelmed with all of the Mobile orders. While some restaurants have a regular line, not all do, and Disney is still strongly encouraging guests to use Mobile Order. Wait times to get food are now usually anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour (we waited for nearly 2 hours for our food after hitting the I’m here button the last time we ate at Pecos Bills), and the situation only seems to be getting worse, but we’ll get back to that. First, let’s review how to use the service.

2 – Simple Steps to Ordering

The process of using Mobile Food and Beverage Ordering is surprisingly simple. You should already have the My Disney Experience App dowloaded. So, under “My Plans” or under “Dining,” just tap the “Order Food” option. A list of quick-service restaurants that offer Mobile Ordering will pull up on your screen. Simply select a restaurant, select an arrival window, browse the menu, and add the food and beverage items you want to your cart. Allergy-Friendly menus have been added for guests with certain allergies or dietary restrictions so they can better discover the options that may meet their needs at participating locations. However, if you have a certain food allergy that isn’t listed, you may need to order in person.

“Arrival Window” with Mobile Order

3 – Order From Anywhere

Whether you are headed over on a bus, waiting in line for an attraction, or off Disney property… you can place your Mobile Order via the My Disney Experience App. With this flexibility, Mobile Order will allow you and your party to take time to review the menu.

4 – Candy Kitchen Locations

Guests can now use Mobile Order for candy kitchen locations as well. You can Mobile Order at the following locations:

      • Candy Cauldron, located at Disney Springs
      • Karamell-Küche featuring Werther’s Original Caramel, located at EPCOT
      • Zuri’s Sweets Shop, located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
      • Goofy’s Candy Company, located at Disney Springs
      • Main Street Confectionery, located at Magic Kingdom Park

 

5 – Arrival Windows – Order Early!

As we noted above, when you tap “Order Food” on the My Disney Experience app you’ll be given a list of restaurants to choose from. Additionally, you will be selecting an ‘arrival window’ to pick up your food. Arrival windows are 30 minutes long and a new window opens every 5 minutes. In spring 2021, Disney updated the system and set aside a select number of orders per ‘arrival window,’ so once a time slot is full, no more orders for that time will be accepted.

On particularly busy days, prime arrival window time slots will fill up quickly. So, if you go to order your food at 12 noon, the first arrival window you can choose may not be until 2:00 pm. For example, I park hopped to Disney’s Hollywood Studios from EPCOT on the Disney Skyliner. On my trip over, I decided I wanted to get a lunch box tart from Woody’s Lunch Box. It was about 2:20 pm and the first ‘arrival window’ available wasn’t until 3:50 pm. I was quite surprised. Even though you may be able to simply get in line, if you are trying to avoid a long delay, you’ll want to get your order in early. For this reason, we strongly suggest that you order and choose your ‘arrival window’ early in the day and place your order for lunch and/or dinner as soon as you have an idea of where you’ll be dining. You can always modify and cancel your order if needed, so there is no risk in getting that order in early!

6 – Payment 

Finish your order by reviewing your order summary. You will be prompted to make a payment which can be done with the form of payment you’ve set up in your My Disney Experience account or with the debit/credit card in hand. Disney has now added the ability to pay with Disney Gift Cards, Disney Rewards Redemption Cards, and Apple Pay. There are now plenty of convenient payment options available for the service. Note that you will not be charged until you press “I’m Here” (see #8).

7 – You Can Modify or Cancel Your Order

You can easily cancel your order at any time. To see your order, on the bottom of the My Disney Experience app you’ll see three lines on the right-hand bottom of the app. Click on that and you’ll be given a menu screen. Click on “Mobile Food Orders,” and you’ll see your orders for the day. There you’ll have the option to modify or cancel your order.

8 – “I’m Here, Prepare My Order”

When the time comes for your Arrival Window, you’ll need to actually press “I’m Here, Prepare My Order” to get the order started. Do note that the system will allow you to start your order five minutes early. So if your Arrival Window is at 12:00 pm, at 11:55 am, you can press “I’m Here.” Even if you are nowhere near the restaurant, we highly encourage you to press “I’m Here,” because you’ll likely have plenty of time to get there before your order is ready.

After you press, “I’m Here” you’ll then see a screen that says “We’re Preparing Your Order.” In the past, this step would only take a few minutes and you really did see a benefit in using the service. That is no longer the case. As we mentioned above, while you may sometimes get lucky and only have to wait a few minutes, guests are now reporting very long waits to get the coveted “purple screen” that says your order is ready. It’s not unusual for guests to wait anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour to get to the purple screen. So be prepared that you are not actually saving any time using this service. We recommend sacrificing one person in your party to wait, while the others are enjoying a close by attraction. Also, Disney has stationed Cast Members outside of quick-service locations. Most will not let you enter the restaurant until you have the purple screen. So be prepared to wait outside in the hot sun.

9 – The Purple Screen & The Fact That Your Order May Not Actually Be Ready

Once you received the purple screen, you’ll show the Cast Member that your order is ready, and you’ll be able to walk up to a pick-up window. At certain restaurants, that is the case. We find that when ordering quick-service meals like at Flame Tree Barbecue, Backlot Express, and Cosmic Ray’s, once you get to the purple screen, your food is actually prepared and ready for you. Once in the pick-up window, you’ll have a relatively short wait and receive your food while it’s (hopefully) still hot.

However, do note that at certain locations, such as Aloha Isle, getting a purple screen does not mean your Dole Whip is ready and waiting (and melting). Because they don’t want Dole Whips just sitting there, getting a purple screen, actually only means that now you get to wait in a line to get your ice cream. And because the system is so overwhelmed with orders, you’ll likely wait just as long to get it. Let me give you an example.

In mid-October 2021, I wanted to get a Dole Whip from Aloha Isle. I placed an order early, and then five minutes before, I pressed on the “I’m Here” button, while walking over to the restaurant from Tomorrowland. After waiting about 20 minutes, I got the purple screen and was directed to wait in the Pick Up 1 Window line. After another slow 20 minutes, I got up to the window and my Dole Whip was made right then and there. I waited over forty minutes in total to get my Dole Whip. The lady in front of me had been waiting for over an hour for her treats. This was and is typical for Aloha Isle. It has become the norm instead of the exception. This was on a Tuesday and the park didn’t even seem that busy. Yet, guests were hot and frustrated. Many people with purple screens, tried to walk past the line because they assumed it meant they could go straight to the window. The people in line had to explain that we all had purple screens and we all were waiting! Tempers flared and there was no magic. It is really so unfortunate because people still believe that the service will save time. Instead, guests are now regularly losing precious park time to wait for food. It shouldn’t be this way!

10 – What Needs to Be Fixed!

While I’m obviously glad that my Dole Whip isn’t sitting there melting, the point is that because so many guests are using the system, the restaurants cannot handle all of the orders. What ends up happening is that hundreds of orders come through and it takes time for the restaurants to get the orders out. We understand that and are not asking for Cast Members to be miracle workers. What we do think is that the system is broken and overwhelmed by the sheer number of guests using the system. Here are some of the things we’d love to see to improve the service.

    1. Includeestimated wait time for food preparation” on the screen when you tap “I’m Here.” Before when we visited a quick-service restaurant, we could see how long the line was and could then determine whether or not we wanted to wait in that line. This is no longer the case. When we tap, “I’m Here” we have no idea how many others are also waiting. By including the estimated wait time for food prep give guests control over their experience in several ways. First, guests can choose to cancel the order. If the estimated wait is thirty minutes, the guest can choose for themselves if they actually want to wait that long. Second, it gives the guest proper expectations. Most guests expect their food within five minutes. But the longer they wait, the more frustrated they become. If they know they’ll be waiting about thirty minutes, they can watch a cavalcade or hop on an attraction, or just have a better idea of when the food will be ready so they are not disappointed. In short, their time will not be wasted waiting for food and they know what they are in for.
    2. Limit the number of orders per arrival window by lowering capacity. While we noted and have seen Disney letting Arrival Windows fill up to a certain capacity, that capacity needs to be further capped. We know it’s a hard decision for Disney with either option seeming to not be a good option–have angry guests because there are no time slots left, or have angry guests because they wait over an hour to get their food. However, something needs to be done. If the kitchens can’t handle all of the orders in a particular time period, then they need to reduce the overall number of orders. Again, this wasn’t a problem when you could see how many people were in line ahead of you. If lines were really long at noon you could find a snack and wait. Guests naturally helped control the flow of orders at any given time by passing by and waiting. Not so anymore.
    3. Open more table-service restaurants. The fact is, that many table service restaurants have not reopened, leaving more guests needing to eat at quick-service restaurants. That is adding to the problem of a restaurant not being able to handle the number of orders it receives. No official reason has been given for the fact that table service restaurants are still not operating at capacity and many are still closed. While staffing seems to be the biggest reason, we’re not convinced it’s only because Disney can’t hire people. Operating a restaurant is expensive, and by keeping some closed and forcing the locations that are open to and beyond their absolute capacity limits, Disney has the opportunity to save some money here and there, to the detriment of the guest experience of course, which seems to be the new standard these days.
    4. Open more tills! No matter if it’s staffing or some other issue, Disney should open more regular lines and let people order as they did before the pandemic. We’re crammed in all over the parks, so it can’t be a physical distancing or contact issue anymore. While many have reopened regular lines, it’s usually just one register that is open. As recently as mid-October 2021, at Flame Tree Barbecue, Cast Members were not allowing guests to order in person but directing them to order with the app. Again, by allowing more regular lines, guests can decide if they want to wait in a line they can see to order their lunch.

We used to love Mobile Order and happily encouraged guests to use the service. That is now no longer the case. While we still use it (because we have to), we now wait to see if the restaurant has a regular line where we can order in person. If they offer it, we use it, because it’s almost always faster than using Mobile Order. We want to love the service again and hope that Disney will work on it. Dining has become one of the biggest negatives to a Walt Disney World vacation and it shouldn’t be. Frankly, there is a laundry list of things that are broken at Disney World right now, but dining in general, and Mobil Order specifically, needs to be at the top of the list. We hope that we’ve given you the information you need and the proper expectations for when you need to use the service on your next vacation.

 

DisneyLists.com authors Mike and Jamie Sylvester also contributed to this article. 

For a no obligation, FREE Quote on a Disney vacation package, please contact our travel partner Magical Vacation Planner at 407-442-0227 (407-442-0215 for Spanish). You can also request a FREE quote online by Clicking HERE.



 

Chad & Cindy Nykamp

After years of multiple Walt Disney World vacations, Cindy and Chad's dream of living in Orlando came true in 2010. After friends and family made them their go-to-people for Walt Disney World advice, Cindy and Chad launched DisneyLists.com in August 2015 to share their knowledge and love of Disney. Chad and Cindy have been Disney World Annual Passholders for years, DVC members, together have raced more than 70 runDisney races, and particularly love cruising on the Disney Cruise Line. Chad and Cindy also regularly represent DisneyLists.com at Walt Disney World media events. While attending these events, they get an insiders view of all the new things that have come to Walt Disney World. These experiences have helped them gain knowledge and expertise they happily pass on to their followers. They still can't believe how lucky they are to have such an amazing opportunity and will continue to share Disney with anyone who will listen!
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