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​Universal Orlando Quick Serve Meal Plan– The Good, Bad and Ugly…

Universal has some amazing new attractions and experiences and has definitely grown on us through the years, but somehow, they fall just short of expectations in the details. The quick serve dining plan is a prime example. As we often find, traveling outside of the Disney bubble can be slightly disappointing by comparison.


Universal Dining


As a travel agent and planner in general, I am well aware of the need to plan and maximize any dining plan in order to get the most value out of the offering. The challenge in this case, is how little information is out there about the dining plan. Yes, they have a one page flyer with the locations…but, what we found when going to the different locations is that some of them were closed or closing before the park closed, and most of the employees don’t know much about the dining plan to give suggestions.


It should be easy to get snacks on the plan since there seem to be so many. However, even that proved to be a challenge. We were told about the big pink donut that we could get as a snack credit. Our birthday girl was very excited about this option, so we headed over to the Simpsons area and went to the food cart to get the donut. It was about three hours before the park closed and they had run out. We went to the neighboring merchandise location that had them, and were told they didn’t have the right system to be able to use the dining credit to pay for it. What we learned is that if the location sold merchandise and the snack, they could not use the dining plan.


That seemed to be the natural course of things as we tried to use the plan. One roadblock after another.


What is so different about the meal plan at Universal is that it is not part of your resort package. It is a park add on, which means you can’t use any dining credits at your resort and there isn’t a mug for unlimited refills at the resort included like you receive at the Walt Disney World Resort locations. You can use the meal credits and snacks at locations within the parks and at City Walk, but the options are limited and only at designated food stands and quick service locations.


The good points about the plan are:

  • You can use the credits whenever. It’s not tied to a resort stay. So, if you don’t use up everything, you can use what you have left the next time you return.
  • Leaky Cauldron and Three Broomsticks are included. If these are a must for your family, if is a win to use the dining plan.
  • It’s affordable. $21.99 per adult. You would definitely spend more out of pocket paying for a meal ($10-$16), snack ($3-$6) and drink ($3-$4) individually. (That is if you would get those options anyway.)

The bad points:

  • You can’t use it at the resorts. Sorry, but being able to get breakfast and having unlimited drinks is one of my favorite parts of the Disney Dining plan.
  • Limited availability and so many food options in glass cases that you can’t use with the plan because they are within merchandise locations is a challenge at best.
  • When you first use the paper ticket, you will then be given a plastic card for each person. When you use the plastic card, you need to have everyone’s card as they are scanned individually and items are deducted off each card. If you are buying two snacks and a drink, remember to tell the cashier which card to charge what to, otherwise they will choose for you, leaving you with an imbalance of benefits on one or the other card.

The ugly:

  • There is so little information given about the meal plan and how to use it. The system needs to be simple and easy.
  • Upon checking in at our resort, we were directed to another desk to get our meal plan vouchers. The employee working the desk simply pointed to the kiosk and told us to follow the directions to get our tickets. Definitely not helpful. The system froze every time we tapped on the touchscreen, the system would freeze. Eventually, the system printed out paper tickets.
  • Throughout our stay, we found one employee at City Walk who gave us some great ideas on how to use our snack credits….and, she also shared that most people just let them go to waste because they don’t know how to use them.

Time to step up your game Universal. It’s a good plan if you help people understand how to use it. Keep it simple.


Quick Serve Comparison Chart: Disney vs. Universal


Disney

Universal

What is included in QS Plan?

2 QS Meals, 2 Snack/ per night of stay, 1 unlimited refill mug for duration

1 QS Meal, 1 Snack, 1 drink (no expiration date)

Price

$48.19 Adult/ $20.88 child

$21.99 Adult/ $13.99 child

Are resort meals included?

Yes

No

Expiration Date

At the end of stay

No expiration, not tied to resort stay

© 2017 Story Institute, LLC - John E. Murray, III & Teri A. Murray
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