You may have quick service reservations for breakfast and/or lunch at Be Our Guest restaurant, but the tables are a free for all. It is not easy to find tables together for large parties. Thankfully, we pre-ordered. I highly recommend pre-ordering everything! The cute thing that happened was when I went to find tables for 12 people. I asked a cast member who was clearing tables how they knew to find us if there is no assigned seating. She said, "Magic". Brilliant answer! Not what I expected, but BRILLIANT!!
If you made reservations for a certain number of people, but one or two of them cannot make it, that is ok! As long as someone shows up for the reservation and checks in, there are no fees for the seats not being filled. While it is best to call days in advance to lower the number of guests if you know they cannot make it, it is not required to avoid a $10/person fee. Just try to call in advance, though, because you may be freeing up some space for people who have been trying to get a reservation. You freeing up those 1 or 2 seats could be giving someone that magical reservation for their family they have been trying to get for months.
Some restaurants have minimal or do not have tables that seat more than 6. Try booking two separate reservations for parties of 7 or more for the same dining time or within a few minutes of each reservation. For instance, if you have 8 people in your vacation party, book 2 tables of 4 or 1 table of 6 and 1 table of 2. Then, call Disney dining (407-939-DINE) and tell them. They will link the reservations so the tables are close together.
All members of your reservation who will be dining with you must be present in order to checkin. Be prepared that they could be running behind. So, if you are looking to get in early, it may be later than your original reservation time on very busy days.
While I encourage tipping of 20% or more for good service, Disney auto charges 18% on parties of 6 or more. Most places we dined at, including a bar at Animal Kingdom where we merely sat and had drinks until our reservation time, do not point out the auto tip already on the slip. Read your slips carefully before you sign. We ordered drinks over a certain time frame without the bartenders knowing how many people and we were auto charged the 18%. We did not realize this and added a generous tip. Thankfully, I noticed after that we gave him more than a 50% tip, because of the auto 18% tip and I had them fix it. I still gave him 35%, which is more than generous. Feel free to add on top of the 18%! I just wanted to warn you about the auto tip in places where you least expect it or if you are not used to it, like us. We have never traveled with 12 people so this was a first for us.
Depending on the circumstances, you may get a special treat for free while waiting for your reservation. We were early for our reservation at Crystal Palace, they were running behind and it was cold and windy. They were so sweet to provide hot chocolate for those waiting to dine. While we are supposed to arrive early to checkin, it appears there could be an occasional incentive depending on the weather and crowds. It was so yummy.
Have your autograph book, pen and camera ready before you walk in the door at Akershus. It was a great surprise to walk in and be brought to a small room to meet and greet a princess before you go to your table. The entire vacation party can get in the picture, too, because they have a photographer, also. But, only in that room. The rest of the pictures with the remaining princesses that come to your table will be up to you to take the pictures.