Walt Disney World has announced the reopening of three restaurants in January and February 2022, plus the return of a popular meal services at two others! This post covers opening dates, Advance Dining Reservation timeframes, plus what else we can expect from WDW dining for the next few months.
Before we get started, let’s offer a brief recap of Walt Disney World’s restaurant reopening progress. Restaurants have continued to scale up operations, as Disney has turned a corner on its staffing shortage for most dining locations. This was thanks to the return of the College Program and a hiring blitz, which brought in a lot of fresh faces and allowed for Walt Disney World to increase capacity at those restaurants.
The vast majority have returned, to the point that the number of locations that are unavailable is fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of Walt Disney World. At this point, it’s mostly Signature Restaurants and character dining experiences that haven’t returned, and today brings good news about the former…
The bad news is that there are still a lot of unfilled key positions. Walt Disney World continues to hold job fairs, and is offering hiring bonuses and higher pay for certain roles. Of particular relevance, Walt Disney World has had ongoing and significant shortages for a number of culinary positions, including cooks, dishwashers, and more.
In an attempt to attract more employees, Walt Disney World has been offering hiring bonuses for those openings. The bonuses started small, and have incrementally increased. About a month ago, some of those hiring bonuses doubled to $3,000.
There are also a few positions offering $6,000 hiring bonuses in the form of an additional $3,000 lump sum payment for eligible new hires residing 50 miles or more outside the Walt Disney World Resort area. All of this suggests that Walt Disney World isn’t having success, and is still short-staffed for a number of key positions.
Our first hand experience in continuing to see a good chunk of tables go unfilled reinforces the reality that restaurants aren’t firing on all cylinders. Even at incredibly popular restaurants that just reopened–like Story Book Dining at Artist Point–we noticed a good portion of tables going empty. In short, dining capacity has improved thanks to the dropping of physical distancing and hiring initiatives, but still pretty far from 100%.
During Disney’s fourth quarter earnings call, the company’s CFO Christine McCarthy corroborated this. She noted that Walt Disney World and Disneyland are still operating under “capacity constraints,” which are only due to staffing at this point. This has been a regular topic here, and we’ve seen the same thing play out with “sold out” hotels due to the same woes.
Suffice to say, staffing continues to be an issue–and why this is only Walt Disney World’s second major dining update since before the World’s Most Magical Celebration kicked off, following the return of Storybook Dining at Artist Point and Boatwright’s Dining Hall in mid-December.
That explains why Advance Dining Reservation availability has been so limited, and the slow pace of scaling up the remaining locations that are still shuttered. It’s also why the Disney Dining Plan still isn’t back, and although we don’t have any direct updates on the return of the DDP, both today’s news and the recent price increases on hundreds of food items bode well for the Disney Dining Plan’s prospects.
We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves with any predictions on the Disney Dining Plan front as we’ve been overly optimistic (and wrong) several times already with that. (In our defense, Walt Disney World stated it would return “soon” last summer.) Nevertheless, we’re feeling much better about the status of the Disney Dining Plan than we were even a week ago.
On that note, let’s turn to the latest Walt Disney World restaurant reopening news for early 2022…
Flying Fish at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn will be the next Signature Restaurant to return at Walt Disney World when it reopens on January 27, 2022. Enjoy a taste of luxury with unrivaled flavors, sustainable seafood, and steak offerings.
Flying Fish is advertising a range a entrees that promise to deliver. The Seafood Pearl Pasta consists of all your favorites – shrimp, lobster, scallops, clams, and mussels. For another option from the sea, consider the Plancha-seared Scallops accompanied with savory grits, sweet corn, and Peppadew emulsion. How delicious!
After indulging in your dinner, there’s no better way to conclude a trip to Flying Fish than with a sweet finish. If you love chocolate, the Cocoa Breach accompanied with delicious vanilla custard is the treat for you.
Following that, an unheralded gem will return to Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa when The Turf Club Bar and Grill reopens on February 3, 2022. Start your evening at this special spot with a reputation for delicious American flavors in every dish on a high note right out of the gate with the New York Cider-braised Mussels appetizer flavored with garlic, chorizo, fennel, Fresno chili, and apple cider topped with a grilled baguette.
As you move on to the next course, the Grilled Pork Chop or Braised Lamb Tagliatelle both have a place in the winner’s circle of flavor. And don’t forget to top off your meal with one of the delightful desserts, like the New York Cheesecake.
Next up, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge will reopen Jiko – The Cooking Place on February 17, 2022. Savor the tastes and flavors of African, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisine at this beloved Signature Restaurant.
Jiko promises a range of favorites, including the Seafood Tagine. Filled with prawns, scallops, squid, and Littleneck clams, this dish is a shellfish lover’s dream.
For a sweet finish, the returning Kilimanjaro dessert is not just gorgeous, but delicious too. It’s filled with decadent dark chocolate mousse, pistachio financier, pink peppercorn meringue, cacao nib crunch, and ras el hanout pineapples.
There’s more news to share about two other locations that have already reopened at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts. Beginning next month, Cape May Café and Ale & Compass Restaurant will be bringing back some of their beloved offerings.
Over at Cape May Café, embrace the New England vibes as you once again feast upon an all-you-care-to-enjoy, buffet breakfast with tasty items like pull-apart bread with vanilla sauce, beef hash, and an omelet station beginning February 15, 2022.
At dinner time, the buffets keep coming with options like cornbread, seasonal harvest salad, seafood boil, and a daily carving station, just to name a few. You can also choose to upgrade your meal with snow crab legs or even a whole lobster, both purchased by the pound.
While we enjoyed the modified family style meal at Cape May Cafe more than the buffet, we realize that’s an unpopular opinion among Walt Disney World fans. As such, we’re pleased to hear this news, and look forward to giving the buffet another chance. Here’s hoping the beloved Oreo Bon Bons remain on the menu!
Next door at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, the Ale & Compass Restaurant is back with some returning breakfast options and exciting, new lunch offerings beginning on January 31, 2022.
At Ale & Compass Restaurant, you’ll be able to enhance your breakfast with a buffet filled with dazzling additions to your entrée, including pastries, fresh fruit, yogurt parfaits, overnight oats, and house-made cheddar biscuits with country gravy.
Advance Dining Reservations will open for all of the aforementioned returning restaurants and meal services beginning bright and early on January 20, 2022.
Several readers have asked what “early” means, and we don’t have a good answer. The timing for new ADRs to be released is inconsistent. Sometimes it’s right at 6 am, sometimes it’s an hour earlier, other times it’s later. (It’s never midnight.)
With all of these restaurants dropping ADRs on the same morning, don’t be surprised if there are system issues on January 20. That happens on high-demand days, and that morning qualifies. So pack your patience and be prepared to sit at your computer or on your phone hitting refresh for an hour or two. (On the plus side, none of these ADRs should go as quickly as Storybook Dining at Artist Point–that was gone fast!)
Ultimately, this is some very good news for Signature Restaurant fans and guests staying in the Crescent Lake–or anyone willing to walk over from Epcot or Hollywood Studios…or take the Skyliner from those resorts. It’s also good news for those looking for more normalcy, the return of the Disney Dining Plan, or easier to score Advance Dining Reservations. In other words, this is good news for basically every Walt Disney World fan, it’s just a question of whether it’s directly or indirectly beneficial.
At this point, very few “valued” restaurants remain closed at Walt Disney World. Now, if we could only get reopening dates for Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, Victoria & Albert’s, Spirit of Aloha, Takumi Tei, and Monsieur Paul–we’d be all set!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Excited for the reopening of Jiko – The Cooking Place, Flying Fish Restaurant, Turf Club Bar & Grill, or the returning meal services at Cape May Cafe or Ale & Compass Restaurant? What do you think of this news of restaurants reopening at Walt Disney World? Any restaurant reopening announcements that you’re still anxiously awaiting? Hoping for more ‘restored normalcy’ announcements in the near future? Does this have you optimistic or pessimistic for more dining to reopen at Walt Disney World? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!