Dining at Disney World: A Mug Full of Savings

For those of us who have been collecting the refillable mugs from the Disney resorts, we will now have to find something else to collect. Walt Disney World has released it’s new “Rapid Fill” program. Back in 2011 they started testing RFID technology to better control their beverage cost. The testing put the RFID sticker on the bottom of the paper cups at some of the resort food courts. It would only be able to be filled a certain number of times in a specified time frame. They tested it at the ALL-STAR resorts but nothing was finalized until now.

Disney has now decided to use the technology and utilize it with the refillable mugs instead. It still might be rolled out on the paper cups in the future. They have also changed the pricing structure as well. This might be a cost saver for those of you who are only making short trips to the resorts. You may buy a one day package for $8.99, $11.99 for two days,$14.99 for three days, or $17.99 for length of stay.

A few tips and tricks that you need to be aware of before you try to circumvent the system. These new mugs, because of the RFID chip are not (I repeat) not microwaveable. So you might want to pack an older mug with you in case you need to reheat your beverage. Also, there will be a five minute timeout between refills. Which means you need to wait at least five minutes in between refills. This eliminates the possibility of pouring your drink into a larger container. There will also be an LCD screen on the machine that will tell you how many days worth of refills you have left on your mug.

So by now your house may be filled with the steam coming out of your ears over this. I have read many angry tweets and other posts about how Disney is draining all of our bank accounts. However, having worked in food service for almost 20 years I kind of have a different perspective on this. Let me try and break it down into dollars and cents for you.

Without completely boring you with a ton of math. Disney buys the soda syrup in five gallon bags. The ratio from syrup to water is 5 to 1. Which means it takes five gallons of water per gallon of syrup (not to mention the CO2 to carbonate it). A bag of syrup depending on brand and type will average around $60.00. So Disney is likely paying around $.02 per ounce of finished soda. With no ice, you can get 16 ounces of soda in your refillable mug. So Disney pays about $.32 for each mug of soda. When you add the cost of the mug and RFID chip, it is probably around $3.00.

I will usually refill my mug an average of eight times a day while I am at the resort. My soda intake will cost Disney $2.56 per day: so for an eight day stay at the resort I will drink $20.48 worth of pop. Adding in the cost of the mug, it comes out to be a total of $23.48. Disney counts on people to not drink as much soda as I do a day to turn a profit.

Now imagine the thousands and thousands of people who pass through the Disney resort food courts every day. Of those people, take into account those who have been bringing old mugs, or refilling them twenty times in five minutes to fill other containers…… Disney needs to control their costs just like any other business.

The next time you are planning your Walt Disney World vacation use this equation and figure out which is the best option for you. For me as a “pop-a-holic” I will still be saving money. For others it might not be beneficial.

And please before you fire off that next angry tweet, think about Disney not only as the happiest place on Earth, but also a business that has to make a profit in order to provide the services and attractions that we all have come to expect when we visit.

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Keith was born and raised in Northeast Ohio.He now lives with his wife a few miles from his childhood home. His first trip to the Magic Kingdom was at the age of two and while the only memories are in pictures, the magic laid dormant within him. Until he saw the animated movie Robin Hood, and his love began to grow. He has always had an interest in food and the togetherness it brings. He became a classically trained chef and all around foodie. His last trip to Disney World was in 2011 and he has been learning, researching, and keeping up on all things Disney since. He hopes to bring you all of the food news from the parks, tips on how to save money on food, and all the tastes and smells from the House of Mouse (especially when smell o vision is invented). You can follow Keith on Twitter @DarthChef79.

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One Response to Dining at Disney World: A Mug Full of Savings

  1. Taryn Duncan says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I get really tired of the “everything is so expensive” rants. $18 for a full vacation worth of drinks is unbelievably reasonable when you cost it all out. I invite those who complain about it to consider how much they would spend if they were being charged the average $2-3 for a 16 ounce drink at a restaurant. I venture to say most people fill their mugs 3 or 4 times each day. With the mug they are essentially getting free drinks after the first day and a half. What is there to complain about????

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