$12 for a hot dog? $4.50 for a soda? And $40 MAC AND CHEESE?!
Disney World is not exactly known for budget-friendly prices, whether you’re looking at park tickets, hotel rooms, or souvenirs. Today, we’re diving deep into the world of Disney FOOD to find out whether food prices in the theme parks are actually as ridiculous as many people think.
Other restaurants (often called “signature” restaurants) are more reasonable but still not easy on the wallet. Places like Le Cellier, Tiffins, and The Hollywood Brown Derby offer meals anywhere from $30 to $60 per person.
And then there’s Disney World’s fast food (counter service restaurants), which have a large range of prices throughout the parks and hotels. You can typically get a meal with a drink for under $20 per person at these locations. So are these prices really THAT much more expensive than food in the “real” world?
We’re looking into several different aspects of Disney World’s food process, including how the theme parks get their food, how much food Disney World actually sells, how Disney determines the prices, and a comparison of Disney’s food prices to other restaurants and theme parks.
Where does Disney World get its food?
Before Disney World can determine prices and sell its food, it has to GET the food! So where does all of the deliciousness that is Disney food come from? There are actually several different places, including Disney World itself.
If you’ve ever been on Living With the Land (an attraction in The Land pavilion in EPCOT), you know that Disney actually grows quite a lot of produce, herbs, and other food right on site!
According to Farm Flavor, there are 2.5 million square feet of active greenhouses on EPCOT’s property. These greenhouses can produce “over 32,000 tomatoes in a 16-month period” and 27,000 heads of lettuce in a year. In fact, Disney uses “between 20 and 30 tons of their own produce in their restaurants every year, including nearly 5,000 pounds of fish.”
And of course we can’t forget about the amazing Mickey-shaped veggies that are grown here!
So Disney does actually produce a lot of their food right inside the theme parks. It’s then sent to the parks’ amazing chefs, who use it to create culinary masterpieces.
Purchased from Other Sellers
Even though Disney World produces some of its own food, a lot of the snacks and pre-packaged items don’t actually come from the EPCOT greenhouses. Disney sources these foods from outside companies.
For example, DOLE Whip isn’t actually a Disney snack at all — it’s made by the DOLE company (which means you can find DOLE Whips at some locations outside of Disney World too!).
Disneyland’s famous churros are another outside-sourced snack. These are made by Tio Pepe’s Churros, which is owned by J&J Snack Foods Corp.
We fell in love with the Mini Mango Pie from Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but it turns out that you can get these pies at your local Kroger or Publix! They’re called Kenny’s “Minis” Mango Pies there.
The beloved Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar is an iconic Disney parks treat. Did you even go to Disney World if you didn’t eat one on Magic Kingdom’s hub grass? If you’re a big fan of these treats, hold onto your seat because we’re about to blow your mind: they’re actually made by NESTLE.
Yep — the same people who make Crunch bars and Butterfingers also create Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars. And that’s why you can find them at your local grocery store sometimes, as well!
In some cases, Disney’s restaurants are completely run by 3rd party companies. Yak & Yeti — a delicious sit-down spot in Disney’s Animal Kingdom — is owned by Landry Inc., a large chain restaurant company.
The same company also owns Rainforest Café, which has a couple of locations on Disney World property.
So Disney World does grow a lot of their food from the ground up, but there are plenty of third-party sellers involved in the food scene as well.
How much food does Disney World sell?
Disney World is a VERY popular place to be, so clearly they sell a LOT of food to the millions of guests who come through the parks every year. But exactly how much is “a lot?”
According to a 2019 press release from The Walt Disney Company, Disney World sells 1.6 million Turkey Legs, over 3.3 million Mickey Bars, and over 1.3 million DOLE Whips every year.
Guests at Disney World also purchase enough popcorn each year to fill 1.5 Olympic-sized pools! And if you lined up all the bratwurst sold at the Germany pavilion in EPCOT’s World Showcase every 2 months, the line would stretch 26 miles.
At the Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, over 60,000 of their famous Cobb Salads are sold each year. And during tomato season, more than 70 lbs of tomatoes are served at California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort every NIGHT.
And every single year, Disney World guests buy over 10 million hamburgers, 6 million hot dogs, and 9 million pounds of french fries.
It’s clear that the demand for good food is HIGH in the Disney parks. And with so many guests coming through each year, that doesn’t really come as a surprise. You need fuel to get you between rides, after all!
How does Disney determine the price?
Although we don’t know all the ins and outs of Disney’s decision-making process when it comes to pricing food, we can make some educated guesses based on how pricing works at other restaurants and what changes we’ve seen recently. There are a few factors that go into setting those prices, including cost of ingredients, guest demand, and availability.
For some foods, Disney buys ingredients (if not the entire food) from third-party sellers. The price they pay for those items will play a big part in determining the cost, as Disney wants to turn a profit. So if Disney pays $2 to Nestle for every Mickey Ice Cream Bar, they’ll increase that price in the parks so that they’re still making money.
Demand is another big factor when it comes to pricing. We’ve seen some of the most popular snacks in Disney World increase in price, and it’s possible that those price increases happened simply…well…because they can. Earlier this year, DOLE Whips went from $4.99 to $5.99, Mickey-shaped pretzels increased to $7.50 at some locations, and bottled sodas saw a $0.50 increase at select stands.
Those are some very in-demand offerings, and we’ve seen in the past few months since those price increases that people are still willing to pay the higher prices. As much as people complain about the continual price increases, many just don’t seem willing to give up their favorite Disney snacks.
That demand is why Disney can charge more than other companies for the same products. For example, remember how we said that you can get Mini Mango Pies and Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars at your local grocery stores? Well, Disney charges $5.29 for the mango pie and $5.79 for the ice cream bar. At the grocery stores, you can get the same mango pie for $1.99 and the same ice cream bar for $1.33 (the ice cream bars come in a pack of 6 for $7.99).
Increased demand and the nostalgia factor both play into those huge differences in price. As much as we love Mickey bars at home, we have to admit that they somehow taste better on Main Street, U.S.A., in Disney World. Do they taste $4.46 better? That’s really up to you to decide!
A third factor comes into play with Disney World’s food prices: supply. This has been especially prevalent with all of the global supply chain shortages recently. For example, we saw some restaurants adjusting their menus altogether because some products were simply unavailable for a while.
If certain foods are more difficult to obtain or more expensive, Disney will likely increase the prices on menu items with those ingredients.
So is Disney World’s food really that overpriced?
Now that we’ve looked at several different aspects of Disney World’s food system, let’s see if the food is actually THAT much more expensive at Disney World than it is at other restaurants and theme parks. We compared some basic dishes at Disney to those at “normal” restaurants (ones that are comparable in terms of quality) and other theme parks (namely, Universal Orlando, Six Flags, and Dollywood). Let’s see who wins most expensive in each category!
Burgers, fries, and a drink
- Disney World: Cosmic Ray’s ⅓ lb. Angus bacon cheeseburger — $11.99; and a drink — $3.99 = $15.98
- McDonald’s: Bacon quarter pounder with cheese meal = $8.79
- Five Guys: Bacon cheeseburger — $7.99; fries — $3.79; drink $2.19 = $13.97
- Universal Orlando: Krusty Burger Combo (1/3 lb. burger, fries, and a shake) = $16.49
- Dollywood: Red’s Drive-In Bacon cheeseburger with fries (no drink) = $10.99
Most expensive: Universal Orlando
- Disney World: (most counter service restaurants — $4.49 At some locations — $3.99
- Movie theaters: $4.99 to $5.79 (according to Movie Theater Prices)
- General fast food places: Raisin’ Canes — $1.79; Five Guys — $2.69; McDonald’s — $1
- Six Flags over Texas — $4.49
- Universal Orlando — $4.19
Most expensive: Movie theaters
- Disney World: Le Cellier filet mignon — $59
- Ruth’s Chris: filet – $54
- Outback Steakhouse: 9 oz filet mignon — $27.99
- Universal Orlando: Bigfire 8 oz filet mignon — $30
Most expensive: Disney World
So while Disney World’s food prices are certainly not cheap, it seems like they’re actually comparable to other theme parks and entertainment venues.
One way that Disney World is different than some entertainment venues is that you are welcome to bring in outside food and drink if you don’t want to pay for the food in the parks. According to Disney World’s website, “Guests are allowed to bring outside food and nonalcoholic beverage items into the park for self-consumption, provided they are not in glass containers and do not require heating, reheating, processing, refrigeration or temperature control and do not have pungent odors. Inform a Security Cast Member of any food items when you enter the park.”
This is different from other parks like Dollywood, which — according to the theme park’s website — does not allow outside food or drinks into the park.
If you’re really trying to avoid those high food prices in Disney, you can always bring a packed lunch! And if you want more tips for how to eat on a budget in Disney World, check out some of our posts below:
- 9 of the Best Budget-Friendly Lunches in Disney World
- How to Feed a Family of 4 for Under $100 a Day in Disney World
- 15 Cheap but Filling Disney Snacks for When You’re Ballin’ on a Budget
- What to Eat at the CHEAPEST Restaurants in Disney World
- 19 Disney Snacks for Under $10 that We Like MORE than $50 Meals
Keep following DFB for more updates on all the latest food news from Disney World!
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What’s your favorite Disney World snack? Do you think it’s worth the cost? Let us know in the comments!