Walt Disney World has increased prices across-the-board on countless food & beverage items around the parks & resorts. This includes everything from counter service staples to bottled beverages to mixed alcoholic drinks, table service restaurant entrees, and more. This post shares a sampling of the price jumps, plus our commentary about why this is happening and more.
Also notable is that this is the second significant resort-wide price increase for food & beverage of the year. (Hence this post having “Fall 2022” in the title to differentiate it for the sake of anthropologists researching the mysterious phenomenon of “Disney Adults” 200 years from now.) While restaurants raising menu pricing on occasion is common, it’s relatively rare for resort-wide food & beverage increases twice in the same calendar year.
Unlike past price bumps that impact outdoor vending carts or counter service spots or table service restaurants or bars, these are fairly widespread–everywhere from the kiosks at Typhoon Lagoon to the drink menu at Trader Sam’s has been impacted. The “hundreds” in the headline is no exaggeration.
Based on our spot-checking, it appears that a majority of menu items at Walt Disney World have had their prices increased as of October 11, 2022. Unfortunately, there’s no comprehensive way of tracking the before and after of every single menu, so we’re not quite sure. However, every menu I’ve checked has been impacted.
Here’s a rundown of common items that have increased in price, and by how much:
Soft Serve Cups (various locations & flavors) – Increased by $.30 from $4.99 to $5.29
All-Beef Foot-long Hot Dog (various locations) – Increased by $.30 from $10.99 to $11.29
1/3 lb Angus Bacon Cheeseburger (various locations) – Increased by $.50 from $12.29 to $12.79
Barbecued Chicken Sandwich (various locations) – Increased by $.30 from $12.29 to $12.59
Caesar Salad (various locations) – Increasing by $.30 from $11.29 to $11.59
Chicken Breast Nuggets (various locations) – Increased by $.20 from $10.29 to $10.49
Pepperoni Pizza (various locations) – Increased by $.30 from $10.99 to $11.29
Kids Power Pack Meals (various locations) – Increased by $.60 from $6.19 to $6.79
DASANI Bottled Water (various locations) – Increased by $.25 from $3.50 to $3.75
Smartwater (various locations) – Increased by $.25 from $5.50 to $5.75
Fountain drinks (various locations) – Increased by $.30 from $3.99 to $4.29
This should give you a rough idea of what the price increases look like at counter service restaurants. In general, we’re seeing stereotypical theme park entrees increasing by $.30 to $.50, although some items appear to have been overlooked entirely. (In the past, there have been second waves of price increases that have picked up those.)
For gourmet entrees, the price increases aren’t as consistent. In spot-checking, we noticed a number of “fancy” burgers, salads, and other dinner specialties that did not increase. Other menus didn’t fare quite so well. For example, many burgers at EPCOT’s new Connections Cafe & Eatery are up by $.80.
Many/most items at outdoor vending carts appear to have increased by $.25 to $.50. This may seem minor, but ODV prices shot up earlier this year and are up significantly since 2018/2019.
Personally, I’d love to see DASANI and Smartwater priced at $25 per bottle if it meant a corresponding decrease in other items. Sorry bottled water enthusiasts, but if people are buying water at Walt Disney World in the year 2022, they probably dislike having money. However, I know $25 bottled water does not equal price decreases to my beloved burgers. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works!
A multitude of table service restaurants have seen their entree prices increase by $1 to $3 each.
Buffets and regular restaurants with prix fixe menus were hit even harder on average, with prices up anywhere from $3 to $5. On the plus side, California Grill is still the low low price of “only” $89–it did not see any increase. (I joke, but given ADR availability, I’m surprised they didn’t break the $90 barrier.)
Additionally, alcoholic beverages have increased by about 5% to 20% across the board (It looks like 10% is about the average. The lower the starting price, the higher the percentage.) This shakes out to about $1 per mixed drink or beer, with some bottled wines and novelty mixed drinks increasing by $2 to $5 each.
On the plus side, those of you who recently expressed disdain about more alcohol being added to Magic Kingdom might be happy (?) to see that cost is now one barrier to drunkenness in the park. (Assuming people can’t or won’t just drink in their hotel room or a monorail resort, as they’ve been able to do since 1971.)
The takeaway for planning purposes is that if you’re visiting Walt Disney World between now and early 2023, increase your dining budget by about $1 per item. While some things didn’t increase at all and others are only up by $.25, that’s still about the average when you factor in the many entrees that jumped by $2 or $3.
Note that this is the second time this year we’ve offered this exact same advice. Back in January, there were similar increases to a partially-overlapping set of items. Many of those same things increased yet again, while others were spared. Suffice to say, we might be rehashing this story to ring in the new year!
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. While inflation appears to have peaked, consumer prices are still running hot–up over 8% year-over-year, even as month-to-month numbers have plateaued. However, that’s a sampling of a wide range of goods and services, not just food.
Anyone who has stepped foot in a grocery store in the last year knows that the cost of food has skyrocketed, outpacing the rest of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The cost of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs in particular are all up significantly. The USDA tracks a breakdown by food type in its Food Price Outlook page (towards the bottom there’s a spreadsheet with percentage changes over the last 3 years).
It should go without saying, but businesses attempt to pass higher costs on to consumers. This is clearly what’s happening at grocery stores, and explains the entirety of higher “food at home” prices on the CPI. However, you might notice that “food away from home” has not increased in lockstep with its grocery store counterpart. Whereas the latter is up by 13.5%, the former is up by 8%. This is despite higher labor costs and ongoing industry-wide staffing shortages.
One potential explanation for this is trepidation among restaurants about their ability to pass on higher prices to consumers without seeing a corresponding drop in demand. Of course, many do–especially lower margin locations that simply are not economically viable otherwise. However, not every restaurant or other business has the ability to simply pass on higher input costs to consumers, across-the-board.
On multiple earnings calls and in other interviews, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy has addressed exactly this phenomenon. In addition to raising prices, she has mentioned managing costs: “We can adjust suppliers. We can substitute products…We can look at pricing where necessary. We aren’t going to go just straight across and increase prices.”
This was also the source of her now-infamous line: “We can cut portion sizes, which is probably good for some people’s waistlines.” (Sorry, I know I reference this a lot. I still can’t get over the absurdity of her thinking this was a thing she should say out loud.)
While her comment was unfortunate, the substantive sentiment is hardly unique to Walt Disney World. Skimpflation has entered our collective vernacular (see “Meet Skimpflation: A Reason Inflation is Worse Than the Government Says It Is”), and portion sizes have become noticeably smaller in the last couple of years, with quality cuts along with them. Purely anecdotal, but this seems to be worst at Walt Disney World’s most popular restaurants.
The point is that Walt Disney World is not just increasing prices. They are reducing portions, decreasing quality, and raising prices. Obviously all three of those things aren’t happening on every single item, but Walt Disney World has been making these “adjustments” wherever possible.
With the latest rounds (plural) of food & beverage price increases, it’s now clear that Walt Disney World is going to try to pass on some of those costs to consumers. It’s erroneous to assume that this was an inevitability, or that Disney prices are predicated upon its costs. After years of increases, menu prices are wholly divorced from input costs.
As we’ve said before, Walt Disney World charges what the market will bear, increasing prices not at the rate of inflation or because its costs are rising at a commensurate level, but because they can. Walt Disney World is an extremely savvy and sophisticated business that maximizes profits to the greatest degree economically feasible. It’s not as if they have been “holding back” and could’ve unilaterally increased prices even more prior to this.
Presumably, Disney waited to increase food prices until this year (and is now making up for lost time!) because there was internal uncertainty as to how consumers would react. Not in terms of vocal complaints or outrage on social media, but behaviorally. If the extra $.50 here or $2 there causes guests to skip snacks, order less expensive entrees at table service meals, or (gasp) buy less booze, it could be counterproductive.
These items are all profitable even pre-price increase, so it’s not as if Disney “needs” to institute them in order to remain economically viable. It’s more a matter of wanting to maintain its margins without seeing reduced demand. Unlike Genie+ and park tickets, bottled drinks and other random snacks don’t have the same degree of demand inelasticity.
Now that consumers are accustomed to the impacts of inflation on food, perhaps Disney felt that would give them cover to raise prices–that people would more easily accept the prices as out of Disney’s control or commonplace in the market. It’s likely that many guests will shrug off this news, numb to headlines about inflation or skyrocketing food costs.
Honestly…that’s more or less my view. While I’m reporting about these price increases and offering commentary, I view this as far less “newsworthy” or annoying than today’s earlier announcements about the other price increases. I “joked” yesterday in our BoardWalk Deli Review that Panera inflation and skimpflation are very real. That wasn’t really a joke.
It seems like there used to be an enormous chasm between real world fast food pricing and Walt Disney World counter service prices. There’s still a gap, but it has definitely closed–and that’s even with Disney increasing prices pretty aggressively for a number of years. (Old school fast food like McDonald’s and Burger King still handily beats Disney on price, but the proliferation of ‘fast casual’ places? Not so much!)
Turning back to planning, we will once again reiterate our recommendation of having groceries delivered to Walt Disney World resorts at a reasonable cost (we’ve recently updated this with different endorsements of the various services). That’s one way to avoid at least part of this price increase by doing breakfast in your room and/or bringing their own snacks to the parks. You’ll still get hit by the price increases at table service restaurants, but the amount you save should more than offset that increase.
On the spectrum of things that are significant or important to a Walt Disney World vacation, pretty much anything sold at outdoor vending carts is on the super low end. These aren’t iconic meals, snacks, desserts, or specialty beverages that only Disney does. That’s even true of churros and Mickey-shaped novelty snacks, all of which have comparable counterparts at Costco. Pack your own snacks and allocate your dining budget towards food that’s actually unique and delicious.
Ultimately, price increases are always annoying and never welcome (unless you’re the “buys bottled water” type that hates money), but these food & beverage ones are probably the “least offensive” of the bunch by Walt Disney World. But perhaps my goalposts have moved after paying over $10 for an underwhelming and undersized sandwich at Panera.
Even though Walt Disney World menu prices are largely market-based, there’s still no denying that they’re feeling the effects of inflation and simply passing along (some of that) to consumers. I don’t think the same can be said for Genie+ or Savi’s Workshop. I could be wrong, but Lightning Lanes and lightsabers are not part of the Consumer Price Index to my knowledge.
What do you think of these and other recent price increases at Walt Disney World? Think this is a natural consequence of inflation, or another example of Disney getting more greedy? Will these price increases impact your plans for future vacations? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Think there will be long-term consequences for Walt Disney World resulting from its pricing trends the last few years? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!