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When it comes to visiting the Universal Orlando Resort, the planning of flights, hotels and park tickets often takes centre stage. Leaving the cost of food and drink overlooked. Yet, food and drink is a significant expense that you’ll definitely want to budget for.
However, to come up with a budget you’ll first need to know Universal Studios food prices. Thankfully, during our most recent visit to the parks (July 2023) we took note of popular quick-service food and drink;
- Bottles of beer – $10.50
- Alcoholic cocktails served in a souvenir cup – $14.50
- Single-serve soda – $4.49
- Bottle of Powerade – $5.50
- Meatball bowl – $15.49
- Turkey or Veggie Wrap – $10.49
- Tropical fruit salad – $8.49
- California roll – $13.99
While the cost of basic food and drink items at the Universal Orlando Resort hasn’t increased between our trips in the summer of 2022 and the summer of 2023, you can still see that prices are slightly inflated when compared to other quick-service restaurants (McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendys etc.) in Orlando.
However, as I mentioned, these are just quick-service prices and as a result, the price may increase further depending on where you eat. For example, a burger and fries from the quick-service restaurant Krusty Burger inside Springfield at Universal Studios Florida will cost significantly less than a burger and fries from the Hard Rock Café at Universal’s CityWalk.
As a result, you’ll want to budget at least an additional 50% for entrees when dining at table-service restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort and need to think about a tip for your server.
How Much To Budget For Food At Universal Orlando
We recommend budgeting $50 per person, per day for food at Universal Studios. This is based on a quick-service lunch, a table-service dinner, snacks and a Universal freestyle cup and / or Starbucks.
Here’s an example of how I might spend $50 on food and drink during a visit to Universal Studios;
- Cold Brew Coffee from Starbucks – $4.29
- Tacos Pollo from Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck – $11.99
- Fountain Soda – $3.99
- Butterbeer ice cream from Florean Fortescue’s – $5.99
- Smokehouse Stack from NBC Sports Grill & Brew – $17.95
- Fountain Soda – $4.29
Combined this comes out to $48.53 before tax and gratuity. As such, if I wanted to enjoy a starter or dessert with dinner, an extra drink throughout the day or an extra snack then I would be needing to budget closer to $60 or even $65.
During our most recent visit to Universal Studios Orlando (July 2023) we spent an average of $112 each day on food as a family of three. However, this is predominantly because our little boy is currently only 18 months old and is therefore eating food from the meals that we order, rather than having a kid’s meal of his own.
We travelled to Universal Orlando with our son Oliver when he was 6 months old, and again when he was 18 months and subsequently, we know a lot about baby milk and baby food at the parks.
While both Universal theme parks have a baby care centre, they are in our opinion, not as good as those at Walt Disney World. As such we highly recommend being prepared with the supplies you’ll need in advance.
Glass bottles and jars are permitted for baby food and baby medicines, although you’ll be required to show these to the security staff when entering the Universal CityWalk area. If you do find that you’ve run out of supplies then you can head to the baby care centre and see what they have available, alternatively, we’ve found Starbucks (which again is inside both theme parks) to be a fantastic location for baby food pouches.
A budget of $50 per person, per day on food means that a family of three should look to budget $150 per day, while a family of four should look to budget $200 per day.
Of course, there are plenty of ways you can save money on food at the Universal Orlando theme parks without compromising on the experience if you’re looking to make your trip more affordable, while there are equally many ways you can spend more money at Universal Orlando on food if you’re searching for fine dining experiences.
What Are Quick Service Restaurants & Table Service Restaurants
We’ve spoken a lot about the difference in price between a quick service restaurant and a table service (also known as a full service) restaurant. As such, I feel it’s important to discuss the differences between the two and provide some examples of these restaurants that you’ll encounter during your Universal Orlando vacation.
Quick Service Restaurants
Quick service restaurants are counter-service locations where you order your food from the cashier and then carry that food to your table (similar to chain restaurants and fast food locations such as Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Mcdonald’s etc.).
There is no waiting staff, you are responsible for finding your own table, and food is served in containers which can be placed in the recycling or trash once you’re finished.
This is the most popular form of food service inside the Universal theme parks with select quick service locations having both indoor and outdoor seating which can accommodate 500 or more guests at a time.
Examples of popular quick service restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort include;
- TODAY Cafe at Universal Studios Florida
- Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck at Universal Studios Florida
- Three Broomsticks at Islands of Adventure
- Cinnabon at Islands of Adventure
- Comic Strip Cafe at Islands of Adventure
- Hot Dog Hall of Fame at Universal CityWalk
- Bread Box at Universal CityWalk
- Red Oven Pizza Bakery at Universal CityWalk
The benefit of eating at a quick-service location is that you can often eat and get back to exploring the Universal Studios theme parks within an hour. There’s no waiting around for staff and in most cases the food is ready to go as soon as you order.
In fact, the longest part of the quick service experience is often ordering the food which is why Universal has released a mobile order feature within the Universal Orlando Resort app. This way you are able to browse the menu, place your order and pay for your food in advance.
The average cost of a quick service meal at Universal Studios is $12 although select locations offer combos which typically range between $18 – $22.
Table Service Restaurants
Table service restaurants, also known as full-service restaurants and are a more formal dining location. Here you will arrive at the restaurant and be seated at a table by a member of the waiting staff. You’ll be provided with a menu, and a server will take your order and deliver the food to your table.
When compared to quick-service locations at the Universal Orlando Resort especially, you’ll find a more extensive menu, and of course, the food is typically served on bone china rather than in a cardboard container.
There are far fewer table service restaurants inside the Universal Orlando theme parks when compared to quick-service, instead, you’ll find that the majority of table service locations are at Universal’s entertainment district CityWalk which is located just outside of Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Examples of some of the best table service restaurants at the Universal Orlando Resort include;
- Mythos Restaurant at Islands of Adventure
- Vivo Italian Kitchen at Universal CityWalk
- Pat O’Brien’s at Universal CityWalk
- Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at Universal CityWalk
- CowFish Sushi Burger Bar at Universal CityWalk
During the most popular times of the year, you’ll find that table service restaurants fill up quickly. As such it’s highly recommended that you make a reservation in advance. Especially if you’re looking to eat during the peak dinner time (between 5pm and 8pm).
The average cost of an entree at a table service restaurant at Universal Studios is between $20 – $35. Although select speciality dishes can easily cost upwards of $90.
How To Pay For Food At Universal Studios
Universal Studios accepts cash (U.S. dollars) alongside credit cards, debit cards, and Universal gift cards. You can also pay for food through the Universal mobile application however, you will need to set up a payment method (credit or debit card) beforehand.
That being said, using the Universal Studios mobile application can save time in the long run as you’ll be able to make mobile food orders for selected restaurants within the resort. These restaurants include;
- The Leaky Cauldron
- Krusty Burger
- Mel’s Drive-In
- Luigi’s Pizza
And more. As well as a number of restaurants at CityWalk, the adjoining entertainment district at the Universal Orlando Resort.
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Does Universal Studios Accommodate Dietary Requirements
Universal Studios does a fantastic job of accommodating the dietary needs of its guests. There are a number of restaurants and quick-service locations within Universal Studios that are great for those with allergies and dietary requirements, however, both TODAY Cafe and Richter’s Burger Company are the best since these locations offer gluten-free bread.
For those looking for kosher and halal meals, Universal offers a special made-to-order meal service, however, orders must be placed at least 4-5 days in advance.
Those with a vegan or vegetarian will find that there are plenty of options in Universal Studios to accommodate their dietary needs with restaurants offering delicious plant-based alternatives to popular entrees that aren’t just a salad.
If you have other questions about dietary restrictions and accommodations at Universal, you can reach out directly to [email protected] for more information.
Universal Orlando Dining Plan
Updated 2023: Universal Orlando has unfortunately cancelled all of its new dining plans as of July 2021 and there has been no update as to when the Universal dining plan will be returning, if at all.
Instead, the closest thing that Universal has to the old Universal Studios Dining Plan is a prepaid dining card which is only offered during Universal’s Mardi Gras.
For $65 you’ll get $75 credited to a dining card which is similar to a gift card in design, this dining card is then attached to a lanyard and can be used at any food and beverage location across Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal’s Volcano Bay, and Universal CityWalk.
This dining card has no expiration date or purchase quantity limit which makes it a great way to save money on food and drink when visiting the Universal Studios parks.
Below is previous information about the Universal Orlando dining plan should it return, or should you wish to learn more about the expired 2021 plan for reference.
There are two dining plans offered at Universal Orlando: the Quick Service Universal Dining Plan and the Table Service Universal Dining Plan.
The Quick Service plan is $25.99 per day for adults and $17.99 per day for kids 9 years old and younger. It includes;
1x – Meal at a quick service restaurant (entree and soft drink)
1x – Snack (something like a pretzel, churro, or Butterbeer)
1x – Soft drink
The Table Service plan is $64.99 per day for adults and $24.99 per day for kids 9 years old and younger.
It includes everything that the Quick Service plan includes, plus one meal at a table service restaurant (entree, soft drink, and dessert) excluding tax and gratuities.
While the Quick Service plan is available to everyone, the Table Service plan is only available to book as part of a Universal vacation package.
The Universal Orlando dining plan can be a good deal (especially the Quick Service plan) depending on how much you eat, where you plan to eat, and what you plan to order. It’s worth pricing it out beforehand to see if you would save more money with the dining plan, or by just buying food a la carte.