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The search for value

A couple of weeks ago, the TouringPlans blog invited AJ from the Disney Food Blog to look at the restaurants at Hollywood Studios and evaluate the cost and food and give her opinions of them, with the theory that Hollywood Studios features the best value.  AJ did a great job of taking into account the food, the prices and her overall feelings about the restaurant to compare and I wanted to go one step beyond just the food and look at the pure cost to see how the Studios restaurants stack up in terms of cost alone versus its theme park brothers to see how much of a value difference there is.

To undertake this challenge, I came up with a few criteria.  I would calculate the average cost of an entree at each of the sit down restaurants in Hollywood Studios and compare that to the top 3 sit down restaurants at the other three theme parks.  Next, I'd compare the buffet prices among the restaurants.  After that, I'd look at the results and see what conclusions we can draw from it. 

The first thing to do is to calculate the cost of the average entree for dinner at each of the sit down restaurants at Hollywood Studios. I headed over to the menus at All Ears and did some quick calculations and here's what I got (prices accurate as of the time of this writing from the menus provided.  When there are options in price, I always chose the cheapest option available)

Hollywood Brown Derby: $27.38
Mama Melrose: $16.32
50's Prime Time Cafe: $17.49
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant: $17.70
Hollywood & Vine: $30.99 (Fixed price buffet)

So in order of price, they rank this way....

  1. Mama Melrose
  2. 50's Prime Time Cafe
  3. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant
  4. Hollywood Brown Derby
  5. Hollywood & Vine

Hollywood & Vine has to be discounted from consideration because it is a buffet and while the most expensive, you do get more food.  Next, let's go to the other 3 parks and select three restaurants and calculate their average entree cost for dinner for an adult at sit down restaurants.

Animal Kingdom

Tusker House: $28.75
Rainforest Cafe: $36.49
Yak and Yeti: $20.24


Le Cellier: $27.89
Chefs de France: $27.65
Tutto Italia: $26.92
Garden Grill (Added this to have a buffet for comparison): $30.99

Magic Kingdom

Liberty Tree Tavern: $29.99
Tony's Town Square: $19.99
Crystal Palace: $28.99

So here is how they all stack up based on price alone from lowest to most expensive.  I've bolded the restaurants at the Studios to track how they do.

  1. Mama Melrose: $16.32
  2. 50's Prime Time Cafe: $17.49
  3. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant: $17.70
  4. Tony's Town Square: $19.99
  5. Yak and Yeti: $20.24
  6. Tutto Italia: $26.92
  7. Hollywood Brown Derby: $27.38
  8. Chefs de France: $27.65
  9. Le Cellier: $27.89
  10. Tusker House: $28.75
  11. Crystal Palace: $28.99
  12. Liberty Tree Tavern: $29.99
  13. Garden Grill: $30.99 / Hollywood & Vine: $30.99
  14. Rainforest Cafe: $36.49

I think it's pretty clear with the top 3 restaurants being at the Studios, there's a clear value to be found at restaurants at Hollywood Studios.  The buffets are mostly outliers since they all require you to pay a premium up front, but you can make it a better value depending on how much food you eat.  Here's a quick rundown of the buffets only:

  1. Tusker House: $28.75
  2. Crystal Palace: $28.99
  3. Liberty Tree Tavern: $29.99
  4. Garden Grill: $30.99 / Hollywood & Vine: $30.99

Clearly for the dinner buffet, Hollywood & Vine does not compare well, although it is worth nothing that all the buffets included here are within $3 of each other, so it's not like there is a mega difference.

 Based on the data here, you can see that overall, the sit down restaurants at Hollywood Studios are among the cheapest.  The first three restaurants in our survey come from Hollywood Studios and the Brown Derby, a two table service credit restaurant, is still cheaper than any of the buffets and in line with other "upper echelon restaurants" such as Le Cellier or Chefs de France.  

In fact, Mama Melrose is a real steal of a price with the most expensive item on the menu being $21.99.  Mama Melrose wasn't a surprise to me, but I was surprised by the 50's Prime Time Cafe, which came in second.  I had always thought of it as being more "mid-tier" in terms of price, but it came out being cheaper on average than I had expected.  I was surprised that the Hollywood and Vine placed so poorly initially until I realized that the price difference among buffets is negligible and I suppose Disney has set that the average buffet will run $30 for dinner.  And if you needed an excuse to skip the Rainforest Cafe, well, it's more expensive on average than any other restaurant (nevermind the noise and mediocre food).

So if you're looking for a sit down restaurant to eat at inside a theme park on your next trip, odds are if you eat at one at Hollywood Studios, you're going to save a few dollars compared to the restaurants at the other parks.

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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, March 03, 2010 by