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Disney World expands beverage options on the Disney Dining Plan for 2018

June 20, 2017, 11:07 AM · The Walt Disney World Resort has revealed some changes for the Disney Dining Plan next year, and there's a significant new benefit... that might not be welcomed by all Disney visitors.

Starting next year, meals ordered on the Disney Dining Plans will include alcoholic beverages, where available. The new beverage benefit also includes speciality beverages, including milkshakes, smoothies, and premium hot chocolate, for diners who don't want alcohol. For guests 21 and over who do, though, the new beverage benefit includes a single serving of beer, hard cider, wine, sangria, mixed drinks, or speciality cocktails. Previously, Disney Dining Plans allowed guests to order only soda, coffee, or tea as their included beverage.

Disney hasn't yet announced its 2018 prices for the Disney Dining Plan, so we don't know how much more visitors will have to pay for their beers, cocktails, and milkshakes. The Disney Dining Plan is available only as part of a vacation package at one of Walt Disney World's on-site hotels. Current Disney Dining Plan prices are $46.34 a day for the Quick-Service Plan, $67.33 a day for the regular plan, and $103.57 a day for the Deluxe Plan. Children's prices are $20.18, $24.22, and $37.62 a day for the three plans, respectively.

Of course, guests ages 10-20 will pay the full adult price for their DDP meals, but won't be able to order alcohol. And that raises just one of many questions that guests considering the Disney Dining Plan for their vacations next year will need to consider.

The inclusion of higher-priced beverages in the plan will change the math that guests need to consider when deciding if the plan makes sense for them and their families. The Deluxe DDP plan, for example, includes an entree and beverage at breakfast and an appetizer, entree, and dessert, plus beverage, for lunch and dinner, as well as two more snacks during the day. That's an immense amount of food, even for someone walking the parks all day. If you weren't going to order that amount of food a la carte every day of your visit, there's no way you should be considering that level of the dining plan.

But some guests do, and for them, the DDP can be a winner — even if many fans say the margins have tipped strongly away from guests' favor over the years. With alcohol and speciality beverages coming to the plan, guests will need to consider how many of those drinks they're likely to order when calculating the value of the plan. And for parents of teens and tweens, you'll need to consider just how many milkshakes and smoothies you're willing in to pour into your kids in an attempt to chase value from the DDP.

The Disney Dining Plan effectively encourages people to order the most expensive items on the menu in order to get their money's worth from the plan. And that, in turn, changes the economics of premium menu items for Disney. Under the plan, the company can't expect that the top-priced items on the menu will be ordered less frequently than lower-priced items. So they must procure a higher volume of those items, which could result in a decrease in quality. Will adding alcohol to the DDP lead to a similar squeeze on the quality of alcoholic beverages at the resort? Let's put that up for debate.

For plans that include table service meals, guests obviously want to book as many of their meals at those higher-priced table service restaurants as possible, to get the value they've bought from the plan. That's why reservations at table service restaurants have become so difficult to land since Disney added the dining plans, leading Disney to add more table service restaurants in an attempt to meet that added demand. Will the addition of alcohol to the DDP prompt Disney to expand the availability of alcohol at restaurants throughout the resort — including inside the Magic Kingdom — to meet what could be an increase in demand for adult drinks?

One more factor to consider: It is well documented within the hospitality industry that people drinking alcohol spend more time on their meals than people who don't drink. If the addition of alcohol to the DDP encourages more people to order alcohol with their meals at Disney, will that slow the turn-over in tables at resort restaurants? If it does, that means longer waits for people and eventually, fewer ADR positions available at each restaurant, as each table turns fewer times over the course of a day.

Is the Disney Dining Plan a good value for you and your family? Will the expansion of the beverage benefit change that math for you?

Replies (10)

June 20, 2017 at 12:06 PM · The Disney Dining Plan math tells me there's no discount for the drinks. Alcoholic mixed drinks and wine are $12, premium smoothies and beer are $8. The current prices already includes soft drinks and dessert that cannot be substituted. So if you want an appetizer, soup, a side salad, or extra sides, you'll have to pay extra (or use the snack credit) if it's not included with the entree. That difference in price between an alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink is pocketed by Disney.

This new benefit isn't about making things easier for guests. It's about making more money upfront while still making guests pay extra for sides. It also insures guests will not order everything they are entitled to, thus make more money for Disney.

Anyways, I recall ordering a milkshake at SciFi Dine-In for no extra charge.

June 20, 2017 at 12:34 PM · We're getting the DDP for our girls trip in September because we don't want to worry about food-ever. If we're hungry, we'll stop and use a snack credit. We've booked some deluxe 2 credit dining as well, something we would not have done on a lower plan. For us it makes sense to have the "all inclusive" vacation experience we're after.
June 20, 2017 at 12:43 PM · More Alcohol in the Parks?,,I Understand that you have a difficult time getting sit down service reservations. I am going through that right now. Adding alcohol will do nothing to help that. Adding more venues that serve alcohol will not help. How much do people need to drink anyway. Clean-up on Splash Mountian, Clean-up on Space Mountian, Clean-up on Big Thunder...I can see more problems than benefits.
June 20, 2017 at 1:07 PM · I wouldn't be surprised if the rumored addition of alcohol is offered as an "up-charge" much like a beverage package on a cruise ship. Not only do the economics of including alcohol with all DDPs with TS credits not make sense, but the PR of including alcohol with all TS dining credits could lead to backlash. As it stands right now, all credits are pooled together, so "child" credits are indistinguishable in the system from "adult" credits, meaning the common tactic of purchasing an appetizer or kids meal out of pocket for a child, while the parent "banks" an extra TS credit to use for another meal (a family of 4 on the standard DP gets 4 TS credits, which could be spread across 2 meals for the 2 parents), would be even more prevalent with parents using their kids' credits to make sure they can get the more expensive alcoholic drinks. I just don't see Disney going down that road, and with their experience in the cruise industry, I think an up-charge per guest over-21 connected to the reservation is the way they're going to go here, if it even happens.

The DDP can be a great value if you know how to use it, but it can be frustratingly complicated to ascertain if it's truly worth all the hassle. Not only do you need to figure out how much you would normally spend on food each day, but you have to determine if you would typically stay off-site, and if so, how much more money does it cost per day to stay on site to get access to the DDP (while also weighing/valuing the other advantages of staying on-site like free parking, transportation, Extra Magic Hours, and earlier FP+ reservation access). The DDP also requires guests to purchase theme park tickets, so those planning to visit with old non-expiring tickets, would at the very least need to purchase 1 day of admission to get access to the DDP. Also, if you don't make strategic ADRs far in advance (180-days for the most value-laden and popular restaurants), purchasing the DDP as part of a vacation package can be a losing venture over buying meals a la carte. If you're the type of person that cannot plan a vacation 6 months in advance, and instead fly by the seat of your pants, the DDP is not for you.

Our trip in October is right now stacking up to be the our first WDW visit in almost 10 years where we haven't been on the DDP, predominantly because the resorts are getting too expensive and the free DDP fall promotion had the entire month of October blacked-out.

June 20, 2017 at 1:16 PM · It's an interesting one because obviously disneyworld is meant predominantly for families so it comes as a shock to add on the alcohol as extra when people can just order the drinks separately.
Also one problem with this would be with drinking and driving. Most people drive to disneyworld with the exception of resort guests getting the disney transport, so a lot of people probably won't have the alcoholic drink apwith their meal due to having to drive home, but as it is part of the plan it would probably result in people getting it regardless as they want to get their monies worth.
June 20, 2017 at 1:25 PM · The dining plan is fine for parties of 4 or less, with the added mandatory fee added to anything above 4 even the tip is expensive. Disney should make it simple. Go with the basis 1 Table, 2 quick service. Breakfast quick at your hotel, and either lunch or dinner at a sit down venue ( of course there is always the sit down breakfast with all your favorite Disney pals ), But for the most part one sit down meal is enough as you are on the go at the parks for the remainder of the day. JMHO. Alcohol is OK when people are responsible. I think paying extra is just fine. You don't get alcohol with a meal without paying extra anywhere else in life. Why here ?
June 20, 2017 at 1:28 PM · @Jack - The DDP can only be purchased by resort guests, so theoretically anyone having a drink on the DDP would not be far from their hotel room. My concern would be that people get crazy about trying to extract maximum value from the DDP, which could lead some people to drink alcoholic drinks who should probably abstain. For that reason, I think Disney has to make this an up-charge, and not a standard offering on the DDP.
June 20, 2017 at 2:37 PM · The language on the Disney World website now states that alcoholic beverages *are* included in the 2018 dining plans. Nothing about an upcharge.
June 21, 2017 at 8:09 AM · I have no problem with having alcohol with dinner (or any other time, for that matter), but I just don't see how this will really improve the guest experience anywhere near enough to justify the potential issues it could cause, most notably the longer time spent at the table.

I'm less concerned by rampant drunkenness, since a single serving of anything available isn't really going to get you there, but it's really the time, especially with the specialty drinks that need to be mixed, blended, etc.

I'd prefer Disney look to maximize profit by working on throughput of guests more than anything else, though I know that's less easy to quantify than just simply adding a per-DDP upcharge on the umpteen thousands of DDPs purchased every year.

June 22, 2017 at 2:17 PM · I do not have a problem with adding alcohol to the DDP. I do not agree that this will add any additional time to a sit down meal. Most people eithwr order a drink when they first sit down, or with their main course. As long as the cocktail shows up by the time the main course is served, there should not be slow down in finishing a meal. From my experience as table service restruant, the bartenders are not the fastest servers. If there is an increease in alcoholic beverage orders, will disney be adding staff to keep up? I am sure there will be a few groups that will take longer than average, but I believe that will be the exception and not the rule.

Adding this option will just give people another variable to considing DDP

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