Snack and food prices are rising at Walt Disney World

October 2, 2018, 6:33 PM · With the calendar flipping to October, it's now a new fiscal year at the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, which means, uh... price "adjustments" throughout the parks.

Case in point ā€” outdoor vending. Fans are reporting price increases at the snack carts around the Walt Disney World Resort.

If you're on the Disney Dining Plan, a snack credit remains a snack credit, but if you are paying directly, plan on spending more if you're looking for on-the-go snacks in the parks now.

What is your snack strategy in the parks these days ā€” for Disney and other parks?

Replies (24)

October 2, 2018 at 6:50 PM

Hey, it beats $11 for three frozen waffles, a pillow of whipped cream, and a sprinkling of candy, right?

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October 2, 2018 at 9:45 PM

Instead of whining, capitalism gives you the ability to say... NO THANKS!

And, that is priceless!

October 3, 2018 at 8:16 AM

I do not think anything at a major Theme should include change... Loose change is a PIA....

When you park, the have rounded the price so it is an even $22.00 - Parking fee + tax should always be an even dollar amount...

This makes things faster and you don't end up carrying, pennies, nickels and dimes all damn day.....

PS - I will pay whatever I need to pay for Mickey Ice Cream.... Very underrated and delicious..

October 3, 2018 at 8:20 AM

Disney Dining Plan is up 50% compared to when I last paid for it 4 years ago. Was $55, Now $75 per adult per day. Iā€™m sure another price increase will come soon to bring it above $80.

October 3, 2018 at 9:18 AM

$4.50/$3.50 for a bottle of soda/water???? That's practically highway robbery there, and crosses above the obscene costs of stadium/arena food and beverage pricing. It's one thing if you offer something that can't be had anywhere else, but when you're simply marking up pre-packaged food and drink with little else, it borders on the ridiculous to charge such high prices. Honestly, at least when it comes to drinks, Disney should be lowering pre-packaged drink prices so they can lower their labor costs. A pre-packaged drink costs virtually nothing in labor to deliver to the customer, yet Disney charges far higher markups on these than they do fountain beverages.

But what can we do??? We're a captive audience with little choice other than to lug food and drink into and through the parks, or try to find ways to reduce other expenditures in the parks so we can afford the increased food and beverage prices. At some point Disney needs to realize that guests do not have unlimited budgets and bottomless bank accounts, and increasing costs of necessities (admissions and food/drink) will result in guests spending less on luxuries. So, while food and beverage may see a slight uptick in overall revenue from these increases, other divisions are likely to see revenues flat-line or decline as a result of guests' finite budgets.

October 3, 2018 at 9:58 AM

The fact is people in general are bad at managing money and the social media nonsense has made it way easier for companies to cash in. When people go places, especially destination parks like Disney and Universal, they will pay no matter what it cost so they can post the picture on their instaface. Hell I went to a Yankees game recently and the girl next to me paid $15 for a can of Heineken...$15 freaking dollars for one can of beer.

The fact is outside the ticket price (which usually isn't bad considering what you're getting compared to other forms of entertainment), you can easily go any theme park on the cheap and have a great time without spending gobs of money on anything else.

October 3, 2018 at 9:59 AM

Also on a side note the big one i've always gotten a kick out of is merchandise, especially at Disney.

Disney is great, rides like Flight of Passage and Radiator Springs Racers are an amazing mix of design, artistry, and technology and worth the price of admission. Happily Ever After is a fantastic show...I certainly can get why people would pay big bucks for admission. But the whole idea of spending huge amounts of time and money on cheap crap that's made in Bangladesh for pennies just blows my mind. Anytime you see Disney fans near some sort of "exclusive" merchandise its like mindless sheeple on parade.

October 3, 2018 at 10:19 AM

Brian .... I'm with you on the ice-cream, I always get one. $5.75 is pushing the limit though.

the_man .... just think how much Disney must make on the millions of Mickey Ears they sell !! The single most money-making idea for a merchandise item ever created in the history of souvenirs .... maybe ???

October 3, 2018 at 10:28 AM

Russell, "Disney needs to realize that guests do not have unlimited budgets and bottomless bank accounts"
Or we need to realize that Disney caters to those with unlimited budgets and bottomless bank accounts (or more often, just those with high credit limits). Assuming everyone goes to Disney with a fixed amount of $ that they will spend, then spending a dollar on Disney Product A will take a dollar from Disney Product B. But most vacationers don't budget what they're putting on their card or taking out of an ATM, if they bother putting a budget on their vacation at all after they've booked the hotel/travel/tix. Disney knows most consumers won't pay for a luxury expense just because they saved on an incidental earlier in the day, so they overcharge people when they know they can.

October 3, 2018 at 10:56 AM

So true FloreanFortescue, but at some point you have to pay the piper, and guests that went into debt to buy DVC (and try to validate the purchase by visiting WDW every single year or more) and take annual trips to WDW on credit will eventual run out of money or banks willing to lend them money. Sure, it may generate revenue in the short term, but long term, Disney is slowly eroding the customer base that made them so successful.

Price increases like this on staples is an indication to me that Disney is trying to find ways to meet their bottom line projections. Adding $1 to the price of a bottle of soda may do that, but it perpetuates a chain reaction that started after the Great Recession where average Americans could afford regular trips to WDW, causing the constant year to year increase in attendance Disney has seen over the past decade. However, as that level of growth starts to become unsustainable, Disney is trying to deliver that same growth financially through pricing increases. The question then becomes at what point does the pendulum start swinging the other way and attendance at WDW starts to plateau, meaning that even more aggressive pricing increases are needed to meet revenue projections.

Disney is getting to the point where they are practically cutting off their nose to spite their face.

October 3, 2018 at 11:19 AM

Thanks Mako - Nice to hear for ya...

I was thinking how do theses new prices match up to something like Movie popcorn or snacks...

We do realize movie theaters make all of their monies on snacks but occasionally we sneak in a few Cherry Dr. Peppers and only but One medium bag of the popped corn... We give them some monies but we also save some...

October 3, 2018 at 11:20 AM

Yes Russell, but we're still far from that point. As other posters have pointed out, a growth in the upper middle class in the developing world gives Disney the ability to increase prices. Also, nearly all young people spend their disposable income on experiential entertainment as where other generations spent on physical goods and stuff. This increases the demand and price point for Disney vacations. I don't think we're disagreeing on the point, just that I feel that the global market has given Disney a long enough leash to pull this crap for the foreseeable future.

October 3, 2018 at 12:19 PM

I've said it before and will continue saying it when I read utter daylight robbery like this, it is only a matter of time before Disney charge us a fixed fee for breathing "their" air in their parks. It is the only thing that they do not currently charge for.

My Disney Experience Ultimate Upgrade
"You want to breathe our air? $30. Be our guest."

October 3, 2018 at 12:59 PM

Russell,

This is business 101, supply & demand. As long as demand remains high for the Disney experience then prices will increase. When (if?) they reach a point where the demand starts to plateau or decrease then they'll just stop raising prices or offer more frequent discounts until demand picks back up. The other alternative is that supply increases which would drive costs down but high quality theme park experiences are few and far between with a high barrier to entry so I don't see that happening too soon.

I think the reason so many people get rubbed the wrong way by Disney operating like a rational business and raising prices is that for a long time Disney cultivated an image of being for everyone and putting the guest first. Under Iger it definitely seems to have shifted to shareholder first.

October 3, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Profplum ..... next will be a charge to park at Disney Springs. The new parking garage is almost complete, so 3 x (no of spaces/garage) will give them another boat load of cash to line Disney's already well lined pockets.

Thing is ... will they have a tiered charge, or a flat rate? Flat rate will give them much more $$, so I'll go with that. It's called greed.

October 3, 2018 at 1:25 PM

Makorider, I have been waiting for $ parking at DS since the expansion. It is only a matter of time, I agree.

October 3, 2018 at 2:11 PM

@garybg - I'm not ignoring the supply/demand equation, but pricing moves like this aren't reflective of that mindset. Do you really think Disney is selling a high percentage of overpriced bottle soda compared to fountain soda? Are sales of generic frozen pretzels outpacing sales of more unique snack items?

I don't have any specific insight here into Disney's books, but price hikes on generic snacks like this are not likely driven by supply and demand. They are driven by a desire from leaders (and shareholders) to increase revenue. The costs for the items that are seeing price increases are not changing, and certainly not to the degree that warrant a 15-30% year over year price increase. These specific price increases are revenue driven at a point when many WDW visitors are approaching their breaking point.

It's true that attendance to WDW has been growing, but that rate of growth has slowed in the past 2-3 years (even with PtWoA) compared to the 5-8 years before, and it's clear that many of the recent price increases are aimed at increasing revenue to compensate for the decrease in the rate of attendance growth. Disney must realize that they can only stuff so many people into their parks on a given day, and only so many people will be able to shift their visits to less crowded times of the year, so as the growth in attendance slows, Disney must find other ways to capitalize on their products. However, at some point, people will only be willing/able to pay so much, at which point these price increases may seem tiny compared to what increases may be coming down the road as Disney is beholden to generating 10% year over year growth for its shareholders. Sooner or later, common sense will take over, and then Disney will be in a pickle with a reputation as a "luxury" destination with prices to boot, having to work 3 times as hard to get the blue collar visitors to come back, or at least visit with the regularity that they were over the past 15-20 years.

I'll note that stadiums/arenas around the country are starting to realize that value pricing can be more profitable than gouging a captive audience. The old rule of thumb was that concessions would increase every year or 2 to the point where many places are charging $10 for a hamburger or chicken strips and some stadiums are charging $15 or more for a beer. The thought was that people would continue to pay because they had no choice, and the stadiums/arenas had to continue to hit year over year revenue goals. So as costs to prepare concessions increased slightly, and the number of customers purchasing increasingly overpriced items slowly declined, operators had to continue to bump up prices to make their numbers.

The new Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta bucked the trend when it opened last year with concession pricing that was only slightly more than costs for similar items outside the stadium. What resulted was a net increase in overall revenue and profit despite the decreased margins provided by the lower cost items. Instead of selling 10,000 hot dogs at $8/each, they were selling 100,000 hot dogs at $5/each. With raw costs the same under each pricing scheme, the venue was realizing 5 times more profit and much higher satisfaction among fans. The success of the concession pricing in Atlanta has caused a number of other venues across the country to rethink their concession pricing, and many have adopted similar models this year to great success. It has even moved over to ticket pricing as well where teams are doing whatever they can to hold onto their fans. Disney hasn't seemed to have gotten this memo despite the similarities between a theme park and a stadium/arena.

October 3, 2018 at 2:37 PM

"Instead of selling 10,000 hot dogs at $8/each, they were selling 100,000 hot dogs at $5/each."

100,000 hot dogs in a stadium that holds 70,000 people? I don't think so.

October 3, 2018 at 6:11 PM

>>>Instead of whining, capitalism gives you the ability to say... NO THANKS!

Except it doesn't, as when in the park there is no competition. Its either a sole operator or when franchises are allowed in, a cartel.

October 3, 2018 at 7:30 PM

Regarding the garages at Disney Springs I don't think Disney will charge for those as they are not owned or operated by Disney, so i'm pretty sure the money wouldn't be going to them. Plus they want more people to go to Disney Springs because there's nothing to do there other than spend money, more people going doesn't mean much more operations cost but it does mean huge amounts of more revenue.

Also lets keep things in perspective, yes the food is very expensive BUT its about in line with what other major attractions charge as well. Like I said earlier the food at Yankee Stadium is much more expensive and I can confidently say the demand at WDW is far greater (MK 20 million in attendance vs NYY 3 million). I agree with garybg, Disney just like any other company has lots of people on the payroll whose sole job is to study food prices and the elasticity of demand. And they are hiring more https://www.google.com/search?q=food+pricing+analyst+disney&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS765US765&oq=food+pricing+analyst+disney&aqs=chrome..69i57.4832j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&ibp=htl;jobs#htidocid=F5CrMs9ZCKHkb-eXAAAAAA%3D%3D

October 3, 2018 at 7:49 PM

Interesting comparison, Russell. I hadn't heard that about Mercedes Benz Stadium. Unfortunately in NY, which is I think the best analogy for Disney World, stadia/arenas are doubling down on overcharging. Yankee Stadium, MSG, MetLife, and Barclays charge more than other major cities in the same leagues and in the case of the Yankees and Nets seem entirely willing to sacrifice attendence to overprice ticket prices. Some are now even offering cheaper admission into the stadium without access to seating areas. Hopefully Disney doesn't get any ideas and start charging for "not attraction" access to parks.

October 4, 2018 at 10:12 AM

@FloreanFortescue - I think you'll eventually see that value pricing extend to even the NYC venues. New Yankee Stadium has already adjusted their pricing from when it first opened in 2009, and while it has numerous luxury level items at exorbitant prices, they have added a few stands that directly cater to the bleacher crowd with more reasonable (at least for NYC) prices. I doubt you'll ever walk into a NY sporting venue and find a $5 beer, but I think you'll start seeing concessionaires evaluate the prices of certain items and realize that reducing prices will result in an increase in the volume of sales and overall profitability.

Perhaps sporting venues aren't the best comp to theme parks because the decreases in sporting revenue are partially driven by the increasing quality of the home-viewing experience (something theme park guests can't replicate at home), but I think it's probably the closest thing you can find.

On your last point, I think that was something that was discussed here a few years ago. There is a segment of the population that is perfectly happy just walking around and enjoying the beauty and overall atmosphere of WDW (particularly the older crowd), and spend their vacations riding very few of the attractions. I'm not sure if Disney would ever do it, but it would not surprise me if they did at some point offer an entry-only ticket that allows a guest to get through the gate, but prohibits access to any attraction or theater-based show. It would be a bit of a throwback to the classic amusement park (like Knoebell's or Nickelodeon Universe), where admission is free, but guests pay individually for each ride.

October 4, 2018 at 2:00 PM

Gosh, that's almost as much as you pay at a pro football game. Imagine that.

October 4, 2018 at 7:11 PM

As a self described middle class family, I have made several Disney trips over the past 10 years, first was as a newlywed couple with no kids, then with young children over the years, benefiting with a trip with children under 3 years. I have been looking at doing a Disney trip next year, and I was having a very hard time justifying the cost of the vacation. I don't see any value in a Disney vacation, and I guess that's the point I'm getting at. Value has disappeared from the Disney experience. They now set the bar for all the other theme parks to match with experience and price. It would be nice to see more discounts or throwback weeks (free parking month with donation that Legoland did recently) so that there are opportunities throughout the year where everyone could make Disney an affordable place to visit.

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