Walt Disney World’s vacation packages have been released, and the 2019 Disney Dining Plan will include alcohol for the second year! In this post, we’ll take a look at the original announcement of beer, wine, and cocktails being added to the Disney Dining Plan, and offer some thoughts as to what that means.
Even before it happened, there were rumors about alcohol being added to the Disney Dining Plan. Being something of a cynic, my initial reaction to that was, “oh great, that means they plan on big price increases and want a way to justify it.” It seemed like a plausible rumor on that basis.
My expectation was an increase of about $10 per meal that included alcohol, so potentially $20 for each of the two lower tier plans and $30 for the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan. I have to say I’m a bit surprised by the actual amount of the price increases for the Disney Dining Plan…
The price increases are much more modest. The Quick Service Disney Dining Plan nightly cost is $52.49 per adult, up from $48.19 this year. The standard Disney Dining Plan is $75.49, up from $69.35 this year. The Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is $116.24, up from $106.68 this year.
In terms of percentage increases, these are all almost exactly 9% increases, which is more than the 4-6% jumps last year. While that’s ostensibly significant, adding 2-3 alcoholic drinks to the equation more than offsets those price increases.
In reality, the inevitable, ongoing price increases to menus throughout Walt Disney World is what will help ‘offset’ most of the price increase, making the addition of alcohol gravy, so to speak. At most, I’d say you can attribute at most $2/night of these price increases to the addition of alcohol and/or non-alcoholic specialty drinks. Even if only half your party drinks, that’s good value.
Now, if your party is mostly adults who drink, the value proposition is significantly better. Doing the math, a regular drink at a counter service restaurant has a value of around $3-4. An alcoholic beverage has a value of around $8-10. That’s a value difference of around $5-6. Double that, and the effective value gain is around $10. Not too bad for a $4.30 price increase. And, if you’re dedicated to optimizing your value, you can do even better.
The value maximization possibilities are even better for table service restaurants, where single glasses of the standard “featured wines” at some restaurants can eclipse $20. It’s entirely possible some of these will be excluded, but if not…prepare yourself for a new slew of spreadsheets and blog posts analyzing the restaurants at Walt Disney World with the most expensive wines! 😉
The caveat is that Magic Kingdom does not serve alcohol in its counter service restaurants, and that’s the park where guests spend the most time. So, unless you’re planning a hunger strike or trip to the monorail loop resorts during your Magic Kingdom days (mad props for that value maximization dedication), you are not going to realize full value potential out of the alcohol component.
The other caveat is that families with “Disney adults” who are under 21 must pay the adult price for the Disney Dining Plan, yet only will be able to use credits towards the non-alcoholic specialty drinks, which are generally cheaper than alcohol. Again, full value cannot be realized from the alcohol component from this perspective.
If you don’t drink or want a non-alcoholic specialty drink, you may not look at this change as one for greater value potential. Instead, you might be perturbed. My response: the Disney Dining Plan has always been about giving guests things they didn’t want or need.
That’s been our argument against the Disney Dining Plan for ages, so we’re not exactly receptive to those guests who are suddenly agitated about being “forced” to order alcohol or a specialty drink. Personally, a milkshake you don’t “need” sure sounds a lot better than taking home a Mickey Mouse rice krispie treat you don’t “need,” although each present waste.
All in all, it seems like a low price increase given the potential value of the addition, which makes me wonder if Dining Plan sales were low last year, and this is Walt Disney World’s way of improving sales without decreasing prices. Alcohol is incredibly high-margin, so that would make sense.
If it’s not a matter of stopping a decrease, it’s a matter of wanting to increase sales of the Disney Dining Plan, which itself is also a high-margin product (and also helps “discourage” guests from going off-site). Either way, it’ll be interesting to see whether this strategy is effective.
I think the problem for a lot of guests ultimately comes down to sticker shock. No matter what additions are made to the Disney Dining Plans, the higher sticker price leads many to balk at adding the Disney Dining Plan (unless it’s “free”) to their vacation package. For many, it does not require complex analysis to determine whether the Disney Dining Plan is “worth it.” I can quickly glance at the prices and pretty easily deduce that I could eat for less money by paying out of pocket.
With that said, I do think that the Disney Dining Plan is going to be more attractive than this year’s version for a lot of guests. If you’re a drinker or a milkshake fan, it’s easy to see the value of what’s being added to the Dining Plan and get more bang for your buck. This is true even for parties with kids or some adults who don’t drink. Even as someone who is generally critical of the Disney Dining Plan, I think the 2018 DDP presents an increase in overall value on balance, and I’d be more inclined to purchase it or recommend it next year. This does not mean I’m suddenly on Team DDP, it just means I think the changes are for the better here, for most people. The Disney Dining Plan is still not for everyone.
What do you think about the addition of alcohol to the Disney Dining Plan? Any other concerns it raises for you? Can you think of ways to leverage this change to get greater value out of the DDP? Do you think the prices of the Disney Dining Plans have reached a breaking point, irrespective of what they offer? Hearing your thoughts is half the fun, so please share any questions or comments below!