Walt Disney World has increased prices on hundreds (probably thousands if you count repeats across different menus) of food & beverages at all 4 theme parks, resort hotels, and beyond as of mid-October 2023. This includes counter service meals, bottled beverages, mixed alcoholic drinks, table service restaurant entrees & more. This post shares a sampling of the price hikes, plus our commentary about why this is happening and more.
This comes amidst other price increases to start the Walt Disney Company’s new fiscal year. At Walt Disney World, this also includes Annual Passes, Memory Maker, parking, tours, dessert parties, water parks tickets, miniature golf, and more. Over in California, Disneyland increased park ticket prices…and pretty much everything else, too.
Also notable is that this is Walt Disney World’s third resort-wide price increase for food & beverages in the last two years, but first of 2023. Unlike price bumps in previous years that were more ‘narrowly targeted’ towards outdoor vending carts or counter service spots or table service restaurants or bars, these are fairly widespread.
Everywhere from the entrees at ABC Commissary to the desserts at Woody’s Lunch Box have been impacted. The “tons” in the headline is no exaggeration. Well, if you measured price increases by weight…which I guess you could if you threw one of each item into one of Walt Disney World’s food waste composting contraptions.
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, 2023. We’re pretty confident that some of these didn’t increase overnight, but rather, a couple of weeks ago. (At the time, that was isolated to a few resort restaurants and didn’t seem worthy of reporting. As it turned out, that was a ‘sneak peek’ of what was to come.)
Unfortunately, there’s no comprehensive way of tracking the before and after of every single menu, so we’re not quite sure. Almost every menu I’ve checked has been impacted, but there are a few stragglers still showing the old prices. If past precedent is any indication, they’ll be updated in the coming days, too.
Here’s a rundown of common items that have increased in price, and by how much:
Mickey Pretzel (various locations) – Increased by $.30 to $7.79 from $7.49
Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar (various locations) – Increased by $.30 from $5.99 to $6.29
Dole Whip (various locations & flavors) – Increased by $.50 from $5.29 to $5.79
Soft Serve Cups (various locations & flavors) – Increased by $.50 from $5.29 to $5.79
Chicken Sandwich (various locations) – Increased by $.20 from $12.59 to $12.79
Chicken Breast Nuggets (various locations) – Increased by $.50 from $10.49 to $10.99
Chicken Strips (various locations) – Increased by $.70 from $10.29 to $10.99
French Fries (various locations) – Increased by $.50 from $4.49 to $4.99
Freshly Brewed Joffrey’s Coffee (various locations) – Increased by $.30 from $3.49 to $3.79
Powerade (various locations) – Increased by $.30 from $4.69 to $4.99
Pepperoni Pizza (various locations) – Increased by $.50 from $11.29 to $11.79
Fountain drinks (various locations) – Increased by $.20 from $4.29 to $4.49
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 gourmet burgers, salads, and other dinner specialties that did not increase. Other menus didn’t fare quite so well, with other gourmet burgers up a dollar or more and certain alcohol beverages up by over $2 each.
Burgers are actually an interesting ‘case study’ here, as it appears that the most basic Walt Disney World burger, the 1/3 lb Angus Cheeseburger, actually decreased from $12.79 to $12.29. While the cost of wholesale beef has decreased in the last few months according to the USDA Food Price Outlook, that probably does not explain this. The price of burgers previously increased in last October, and year-over-year wholesale prices for beef are still up by double-digits. So more recent changes wouldn’t explain this.
Perhaps burgers weren’t selling as well as before? Maybe there’s an error with the menu updates and prices were meant to increase to $13.29? Could substitute suppliers, smaller portion sizes, or something else be playing a role in the lower burger price? We have no clue, but it’s curious that the ‘entry level’ burger is now less expensive, whereas many of the gourmet ones are now pricier.
Another product type that seems to have been hit hard was all things chicken. Virtually ever chicken dish that we’ve checked has increased, from counter service to table service restaurants. Many of these also went up last year, too. Nothing in the USDA data indicates that chicken should be one of the worst hit product types.
Many/most items at outdoor vending carts appear to have increased by $.25 to $.50. This may seem minor, but ODV prices shot up last year and are up significantly since 2018/2019. If my records are any indication, many of these items have seen increases of at least $.20 for each of the last few years.
There are actually a handful of pre-packaged products that went up twice last year (February and October), and are now up again in October 2023. I’ve said it before, but I wouldn’t mind if packaged products at ODVs had a “convenience tax” that subsidized lower prices on staples at counter service restaurants.
This probably won’t win me many friends, but honestly, I feel the same way about alcohol. Don’t get me wrong–I have nothing against it in the parks–but I also don’t mind family-friendly theme parks levying a heavy-handed tax on booze to discourage overindulgence. But I digress.
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. That’s a half-joke, but I will admit that I’m very surprised this popular ADR has not increased in price even once since it debuted in October 2021.
Walt Disney World fans who previously bashed California Grill’s prix fixe menu as being overpriced may soon end up eating their words. Not because they were wrong at the time or have even changed their minds…but because price increases everywhere else have inflated-away the cost-difference!
Not accepting the DDP has been a big blow to restaurant popularity in the past–it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if there are internal concerns about the same thing happening with California Grill. (I would guess so, and also that there was debate about whether it should accept the Disney Dining Plan in the first place.)
Speaking of which, the return of the Disney Dining Plan in 2024 (only a few months away!) probably helps explain many of the price increases. In the past, we often speculated that menu price increases were driven by a desire to push people towards the DDP, as they made the high cost of the meal plan look better by comparison.
There was actually a stretch of a few years when table service price increases far outpaced the Disney Dining Plan, and that really bridged the gap between the two. For 2024, the cost of the regular Disney Dining Plan is up considerably for adults, leaving us to wonder whether we’re on the precipice of more rounds of table service menu price hikes.
Speculating about that is probably beyond the scope of this post, but I’m skeptical. I want to believe that Walt Disney World is hitting its price ceiling with table service pricepoints, and between the exhaustion of pent-up demand and higher costs across the board, what’ll soon happen is guests swapping out sit-down meals for quick-service ones. In fact, I think this trend has already started and will only accelerate in 2024. But that’s simply based on my anecdotal observations, and could very well be biased given that I want this to happen.
The takeaway for planning purposes is that if you’re visiting Walt Disney World between now and early 2024, increase your dining budget by about $2-3 per table service meal, $1 per counter service meal, and 50 cents per snacking session. Some things didn’t increase at all and others are only up by $.20, so that’s still about the average when you factor in everything.
While arguably no price increase is a good increase, the silver lining is that the 2023 price increases are not nearly as bad as last year. As mentioned above, Walt Disney World has hit hard last year, with two rounds of price hikes–the first in January and February and the second in late September and mid-October. Many items increased twice last year, for a total of a few dollars and double-digit percentages! There’s almost nothing here on par with that.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Inflation appears to have peaked and is definitely decelerating as compared to last year when it was accelerating. (Note that slowing inflation is not the same as deflation–the former means a slower rise whereas the latter means a decrease. Two very different terms!)
Point being, what you’re paying at the grocery store has probably increased (and not decreased) in the last year, the percentage change is a lot lower this year than it was from late 2021 to late 2022. That’s evident from the USDA Food Price Outlook we referenced above. It’s also mirrored in the menu price increases at Walt Disney World versus the ones last year. They’re still going in the wrong direction, but to a more normal and tolerable degree than last year.
With that said, more passage of time has probably enabled Walt Disney World to find “creative” solutions to this problem aside from increasing problems. By now, you’re probably familiar with the ‘wise words’ of dearly-departed Disney CFO Christine McCarthy who mentioned managing costs on earnings calls: “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.)
This sentiment is hardly unique to Walt Disney World. Terms like “skimpflation” and “shrinkflation” have entered our collective vernacular, and Walt Disney World has become a poster child for both. On the food front, 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.
Honestly, even though 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 at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. That’s despite increases here on items that are “essential” (food) as contrasted with other price hikes on products or add-ons that are totally unnecessary.
For me at least, part of this might be a certain numbness to higher food costs. It’s happening literally everywhere, and honestly feels even more out of control in the real world. There used to be an enormous chasm between fast food/casual chain prices 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.
Given that Walt Disney World has a captive audience and a random Panera or Chipotle in a strip mall do not–and actually have competition hundreds of yards away–I have to admit that I’m slightly pleased that prices at Walt Disney World counter service restaurants haven’t gotten even more out of control. If you told me the aggregate rate of inflation per the USDA asked me to guess what entree prices would be as of October 2023 back in 2021, I probably would’ve picked higher numbers.
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, 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 underwhelming and undersized sandwiches at the strip mall. With all of that said, my go to meal at In-N-Out Burger–two Double Doubles Animal Style–is still exponentially more delicious and less expensive than the 1/3 lb Angus Cheeseburger at Walt Disney World, even post-price decrease!
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!