Headed to Disney World Gluten Free? Curious about Buffets (which are everywhere!)?
You’ll be happy to know that Disney World has lots of yummy buffet meals that can be safe for gluten-free folks. Obviously there’s always worry about menus, offerings and cross contact, so let’s explore what to expect at Buffets at Disney World, and some helpful tips so you can get the most of your vacation without a reaction.
While many Character Meals are Buffets, some locations are not if you don’t feel comfortable with Buffets but want to enjoy a Character Meal.
***As Always, please speak to a qualified restaurant employee when ordering food. In order to see the most accurate ingredients and risk assessment, you will need to confirm food safety in real-time. This is my personal experience, I am not employed or endorsed by companies or brands mentioned.***
Tip number 1: Understand Disney’s Allergen Disclaimer
While Disney offers options at the Buffets, you must understand that there is a very big risk of cross contact. If you use the paper menus and eat off the buffet, here’s the disclaimer that you’ll see. (not ok with the Buffet? Skip to Tip 2!)
This disclaimer is similar to what you’ll see when you do Mobile Ordering.
Buffets may be susceptible to cross contact due to their self-service approach. Guests may consult with a chef or special diets trained Cast Member before placing an order. We Use Reasonable efforts in our sourcing, preparation and handling procedures to avoid the introduction of the named allergens into these menu choices. While we take steps to prevent cross-contact, we do not have separate allergy-friendly kitchen and are unable to guarantee that a menu-item is completely free of allergens. Allergy-friendly offerings are reliant on supplier ingredient labels. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the contents of each food item. Allergy advisory statements (e.g. May Contain) are not regulated and therefore not taken into consideration when developing allergy-friendly meals. It is Ultimately our Guests’ discretion to make an informed choice based on their individual dietary needs.Disney World Allergen Disclaimer
Tip number 2: Use the Allergy Guide to your comfort level
Depending on your comfort level, you can eat straight from the buffet or get your own custom plate from the back.
The Server and Chef will typically just refer to the Allergy Guide that they give you when you are seated. They have not been offering to get items from the back, but this is something you can request.
Here’s an Example of the Allergen Guide (you’ll need to refer to your Buffet in Real Time to confirm the ingredients as they do change based on Suppliers)
If you are comfortable with the cross contact risk, you can eat at the buffet. Only you know your comfort level. If you’d prefer to have the items from the back where there is less risk of cross contact (like someone using the tongs on multiple items and spreading allergens etc), then you can ask for the Chef and talk to them about items from the back.
My personal comfort level is to talk to a Chef and ask for them to get items from the back- which is what I do every time I review or eat at a Buffet. I do not feel comfortable with the risk that someone has touched my food without knowing and spread allergens.
Still not ok with Buffets? See the other locations that have a Gluten Free Menu to choose from on your vacation.
Tip Number Three: Talk to the Chef
When you talk to the Chef, you can get items from the back that haven’t been handled by Guests who might not understand cross contact risks (and mix up items or use the utensils for something that contains gluten and contaminates the buffet)
When you talk to a Chef you can:
✔️ One, To confirm that no items have been changed based on supply. They could have changed that day, and your server is not aware. Double Checking with a Chef is helpful.
✔️ Two, Chefs often have items that are not listed on the menu, or special allergy order only. A big example of this is allergy and gluten free rolls, and desserts.
✔️Three, Inquire how something is made. If you cannot have Dessert Items that have been made in shared ovens, ask about how the item was cooked. Some locations have treats from a dedicated Gluten Free Bakery, but most do not.
Helpful Script for getting items from the back (i.e. not on the Buffet Line where Cross Contact may have occured)
Server: Are you comfortable with the Allergen Guide? (note: Disney lumps Gluten under Allergy, so that’s the language we use when talking to Staff)
You: Can I talk to someone about the options? I’m not comfortable with cross contact
Server: Sure I’ll get the Chef for you!
(in this time, I use the guide to decide what I’d like to eat, as it shows everything made without Gluten)
Chef: I hear we have an allergy?
You: Yes! Allergy to Gluten. Can you help me with items that are in the back? I don’t feel comfortable with items that other may have touched by other Guests.
Chef: Sure, we can grab those items. Do you know what you’d like to eat?
You: I do! *insert the items you looked at on the guide while you waited*
(and I’d also ask about dessert here too, as the chefs sometimes only come out once and can be hard to get for dessert).
Tip 4: Have a Backup Plan
There is so much to do at Disney World, you don’t have time to waste on a basic meal or issues with the menu. If you feel uncomfortable, or you have issues with the food, head to your backup plan instead. Every-time I’ve spoken with a Manager, they’ve either been able to get a full plate of safe food, or quickly refunded my money so I could go to the backup location. Remember to stay calm, explain clearly, and be polite. It goes a long way and helps you get everything you need faster!
For a full list of menus and recommended options, download your copy of the Unoffical Gluten Free Disney Guide.
Enjoy your Buffet Safely!
See more Helpful Posts for Planning your Vacation