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Seeking your advice about gratuity at Disney World Restaurants

by P Lavris


We have the signature dining plan when we go to Walt Disney World. My question is odd for me to ask. How much should I plan to tip the servers at the restaurants we visit? I normally would do 20% or above but, this trip is already expensive. Your advice would be helpful.


You have helped me once and I appreciate your advice on this matter.


Dad’s don’t forget to tip Answer

Welcome back to the site! It’s always nice to have repeat guests visiting, and even nicer when I can offer (hopefully) useful advice! This is a great question, and I’m sure you are not alone in wondering how much of a tip is expected or appropriate when dining at Walt Disney World, especially when you’re on the Disney Dining Plan.


First off, let me be clear about when you are expected to tip. At any table service, buffet, or dinner show experience, you are expected to tip. At any quick-service location (fast food, grab and go snacks, kiosks, carts) no tip is necessary.


Lets begin with a bit of background information. Currently in Florida, minimum wage is $7.31 per hour. On January 1, 2012, that will go up to $7.67. However, employees who receive tips only earn part of that wage – $4.65 an hour as of January 1, 2012.


Then we factor in where the tip you do leave goes to – typically servers have to split their tips with bar tenders, bussers, the hostess, etc. And then of course they are required to pay tax on the remaining amount of tip they do bring home.


Now, I can’t say exactly how much Disney pays their servers or if the wage varies between restaurants (for instance, a lower wage for a server at Kona Café and a higher wage for a server at Victoria & Albert’s). But whether they pay their staff the minimum wage or something slightly higher, I hope we can agree that even including tips that’s a meager earning.


Walt Disney World has some pretty amazing restaurants. Some have outstanding food. Most have outstanding themes, décor, and entertainment. But all of them have great servers – that’’s part of the magical Disney experience when you dine at a restaurant in one of the parks or resorts.

Dad’s Disney World Restaurants Page


But, in the age of the Disney Dining Plan, Dad fears that guests are forgetting how to tip. Whether you pay for the Disney Dining Plan or get it during a Free Dining promotion, your meals are paid for before you even set foot in a restaurant. You can order whatever you like and it feels like it’s free.


Because of this, I think some guests forget what their meal would have actually cost, and that’s the amount a server should be tipped on. Each restaurant will provide you with a bill at the end of your meal including itemized costs and a suggested tip amount. And in Dad’s opinion the servers deserve to be tipped accordingly.


By no means am I suggesting that you over tip your server, or that you tip more than you are comfortable doing for the level of service you receive. 15% for standard service is acceptable, and 20% for outstanding service is great. Tipping more or less than that for extremely good or bad service is a personal choice. But it seems unfair to cut the tips of your hard working server in order to preserve your budget.


But sticking to a budget is important, and Dad has lots of ways to save on your vacation! For instance, you can curb your souvenir spending, make good use of your Disney Dining Plan snack credits for breakfasts or split particularly large meals at lunch, or take Disney’s Magical Express instead of renting a car! (I know Dad always suggests a car at Disney World), but to save some money …


Dad has plenty more ideas where that came from:

Dad’s Affordable Disney Family Vacations Page

Dad’s Bottom Line


As a Dad, I understand the importance of sticking to a budget, and believe me, Walt Disney World is an easy place to spend more money than you originally planned. There are lots of ways to cut expenses on your trip without sacrificing graciousness.


inside the Sci Fi Dine In



the fire pit at 'Ohana



the disney world website for ADRs

advanced dining reservations


Disney Dining Plan

dining plan


Comments for

Jan 10, 2012 Leaving gratuity at Restaurants in Disney World
by: P Lavris We were on the deluxe dining plan. First of all, Disney serves too much food! Very wasteful. We ate at 19 different restaurants. The food was good at most but, very disappointing at some. The service at most was good. Had I left 20% at all the restaurants then I would have been broke by the end of the trip. By no means am I cheap tipper but, Disney must inflate their prices on their menu. Most of the server’s at these restaurant were okay at best. I personally think that they do not like when customers are using the dining plan. I did leave a nice tip for each one. However, we were at 19 different restaurants with the average bill total of $100.00 each. Some of these servers did not deserve 20%. When we go back we will be looking at a different dining plan. And will budget our money a little better for gratuity. It is hard going to Disney on a budget.

Dec 31, 2011 Probably
by: Dad Paul,I’m afraid Disney counts numbers, not ages. A party of 6 will trigger no matter what age. Even a baby counts.Sorry, Dad

Dec 27, 2011 Gratuity
by: Paul Hi, I have been looking through your website and found It has some really useful tips as we are planning to go to Disney in January, my question is also around tips and what we need to pay and when. Basically my wife and our are taking our 4 children 11,8,8 and 5 and we are on the dining plan for 14 nights, the dining plan states that tips are automatic for a party of 6 or more, does this mean 6 adults or do my children get included in the party size. Very best regards Paul

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