Disney Leverages Restaurants to Draw Consumers Back to Parks

In an effort to combat the challenges that economic pressures have posed for Disney’s U.S. resorts, the media giant is looking to its restaurant offerings to entice consumers back for the holiday season.  

The company announced Wednesday (Sep. 6) the offer of a “Disney Dining Promo Card,” promising consumers who purchase a 5-night, 4-day vacation package at select “Deluxe” resorts that they will get $1,000 in dining credits ($200/night) for visits at select times, including for much of the holiday season. Additionally, the company also shared a lower value offer for select non-Deluxe resorts. 

The move comes as, in the United States, Disney has had trouble maintaining traffic at its parks, with consumers making more conservative spending choices in the face of ongoing budgetary pressures. By plying guests with free food, the company may be able to assuage some of the concerns that are keeping them from springing for these high-cost experiences. 

In the company’s most recent earnings report, released last month, the media giant noted “lower results at our domestic parks and Disney Vacation Club, driven by lower unit sales,” noting challenges especially at its Walt Disney World Resort, where it saw “decreases in occupied room nights and attendance.” 

Indeed, in this current inflationary environment, consumers are willing to spring for the occasional indulgence, but overall, people are cutting back where they can. PYMNTS Intelligence from the study “Consumer Inflation Sentiment Report: Consumers Cut Back by Trading Down,” for which we surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. consumers in April, found that 69% have cut back on nonessential retail spending, and 57% said the same of grocery purchases. 

Yet even as consumers are cutting back, dining options remain a powerful draw, according to Intelligence from the latest installment of PYMNTS’ series “New Reality Check: The Paycheck-to-Paycheck Report,” created in collaboration with LendingClub, “The Nonessential Spending Deep Dive Edition.” 

For this report, we surveyed a census-balanced panel of more than 3,400 U.S. consumers in July about how they are spending on nice-to-have purchases, among other matters.

The results revealed that, across all financial lifestyles, consumers overwhelmingly continue to frequent bars and restaurants. In fact, a whopping 83% of those who live paycheck-to-paycheck with issues paying bills reported having spent money at a bar or restaurant in the previous 30 days.

Additionally, Disney highlighted on its most recent earnings call that, in spite of the other challenges it saw with its domestic parks, these locations observed “higher food and beverage spend” from those who did continue to visit. 

Notably, consumers have continued to carve out room in their budgets for travel, even if they are not as willing as they might otherwise be to spring for high-cost resorts. According to a joint PYMNTS-i2c study released this month, 62% of consumers planned to travel during the summer, with 30% intending to travel more than the previous year. 

That being said, among the one in four consumers traveling less this summer, the results revealed, half cited the cost as a key reason for pulling back, and 43% cited a decline in personal finances or job stability.