/ Monday, July 29th, 2013

Editor’s Note: In the last edition of WWDPD, we took a look at the accessibility of Disney trains to those with strollers.  We assessed whether Disney could follow the policy some “other” theme parks have, which includes a stroller swap station by train stations.  Based on the discussion, 70% of readers felt Disney could look into making the railroad easier to access for families with strollers, while 30% did not.

Social media has been on fire the last couple of weeks, discussing Disney’s announcement that they would be implementing a new refillable resort mug system, called Rapid Fill.  Disney’s new mug policy will enable guests to purchase a mug with an embedded RFID chip.  The mug will entitle the guest to free soft drink refills for a pre-determined amount of time (the price of the mug varies, based upon the number of days that are purchased.)  At the moment, these refills are available only for the resort hotels–not the parks.

photo (6)Disney Parks are not the only ones to have policies regarding refillable drinks.  In fact, some parks have policies regarding refillable FOOD, too!

At Busch Gardens-Williamsburg, guests are able to purchase an official refillable mug (a new one is released every calendar year).  The purchase allows guests to pay a very discounted price to refill their mug during the same (or return) visit.  For example, guests can purchase a large mug for $7.99.  This is filled with the purchase.  After this purchase, guests may pay $.99 to refill the mug as often as they wish for the length of the season (guests with annual passes receive an additional discount as well.)

The policy applies not just to soft drinks.  Guests also may purchase a popcorn container for $7.39 and pay $.99 to have it refilled during the same day or during future visits (again, annual passholders receive an additional discount).

The system differs from Disney’s in that refills are not free; however, the discount offers a significant savings over the purchase of separate drinks, is valid in the park itself, and is in effect for the duration of the season.  The addition of a popcorn refill option is something not available at Disney.

So, What Would Disney Parks Do?  Could (and should) Disney implement a soft drink refill policy in the theme parks that enables guests to purchase a specific mug (maybe have it change with the seasons of the year?) and then allow guests to refill it at a price much lower than buying a fountain drink?  Further, should Disney implement a policy like this for popcorn (they are already selling the souvenir bucket!)


1. Guest Satisfaction:  I can see park guests really enjoying the ability to refill their drinks within the parks.  While there is a cost associated, guests likely will enjoy knowing that they are purchasing a soft drink at a discount.  Additionally, if the soft drink mugs remained a part of some of the Disney dining plans, people will feel there is an additional value to purchasing the plan.

2. Potential Easing of Congestion: Clearly, I am NOT an industrial engineer, so this is just an average person’s conjecture.  But if Disney implemented this program, they could designate specific lines for “refills only.”  (Sesame Place, also a Busch Gardens property, has something like this.)   If all the people who wanted only soda or popcorn refills were diverted to other lines, it might ease some of the lines we see at quick service and snack locations.

3. Revenue: From Disney’s point of view, this could HELP the bottom line, even though drinks are being sold more cheaply.

  • Psychologically, people may be more easily convinced to purchase an additional refill of a soft drink for $1 than part with $2.50 (or a snack credit) for one.  Maybe it is just me, but I am always pained to put out $2.50 for one bottle of diet Coke on a sweltering day, but at $1, I would likely be willing to do so several times, which would ultimately have me spending more money.
  • In addition, it would allow Disney to reduce the number of cups and straws it purchases–a win for the bottom line AND the environment!
  • If Disney were to have refillable popcorn, people will likely need / want a drink to go along with it.  Again, this increases the potential money coming in to the company.
  • The mugs and popcorn buckets would make for great souvenirs at home as well.   People might be more likely to purchase them if they knew they would have multiple opportunities to use them in the parks AND then again at home.
  • Finally…..  Who knows?  Between the Magic Bands and RFID technology, Disney probably could establish completely self-service stations for refills, eliminating the need for numerous cast members to supervise the stations, thus freeing the cast to “make magic” in other ways.


1. More “Stuff” to Carry: I am a mom–also known as the designated “Holder of all things we brought into the park.”  I know what will happen–these mugs and popcorn holders are not small.   Someone (mom) would have to resign themselves to absolutely carrying a bag just for these items.  This means waiting in a bag inspection line and then dragging something along all day long.

2. Working the System: Undoubtedly, there would be people who would figure out how to abuse the system….  Not being a person who looks to do so, I am not sure what that would be, but I am certain it would happen.  It may not be worth Disney’s effort to implement a system like this if it gave them one more thing to monitor.

3. Affect on Sales of Resort Mugs: I am not really sure, given that this is all conjecture anyway… but IF Disney were to implement this system in tandem with the current Rapid Fill policy, it may adversely affect the sales of Rapid Fill.  It also could confuse guests needlessly, as there are two competing policies with differing mugs.  However, IF Disney were to sell a mug good at BOTH resorts and parks, I think they could easily charge more for the mug, as it would avail guests to soft drinks throughout the day.

Popcorn, so far as I know, could not be refilled at the resorts, so the price would have to reflect access only at the parks.

So, What do YOU think?  Should Disney adapt its refillable soft drink policy–and add a refillable popcorn policy?

Please vote in the poll below (you can select as many options as apply), and feel free to leave your observations on refillable mugs and popcorn (in Disney or at other parks) in the comments below.  And stay tuned for our next edition, where we will examine the concept of CYBER CAFE in the parks!

Should Disney adapt its soft drink and popcorn sales policies?

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12 thoughts on “WWDPD: Refillable Drinks and Popcorn”

  1. Norman Cavey says:

    To do refillable mugs at the parks would mean that the places to get refills would be very limited because you can not hand a mug or drink cup back over the counter. I work at Casey’s and we are NOT allowed to take anything back over the counter, so it would have to be places that you get your own drink and in the Magic Kingdom that is very limited if any at all. To remodel these places would be more costly than the money they would make on mugs and once you move the drink stations out to the public now you would need cast members to watch that regular cups are not refilled. ???

  2. Yaelle says:

    It would be nice to have refill options, but to answer Norman’s post, maybe you wouldn’t have to bring the actual mug or popcorn bucket to get refilled. If you purchased it during this trip, maybe all you need to do is swipe your room key/ RFID and the system would recognize that this is part of a refill program and charge a discounted rate without actually having to take the item that needs refilling behind the counter. The person would get a paper cup or paper bag with the popcorn to either fill their mugs if they want or just use as is. I would prefer not to have to carry the mug with me to the park as I carry many things, so as long as I got a discounted rate, I would be happy without having to carry the heavy plastic container.

  3. Tony E (BacksideOfWater) says:

    I’m torn on this one. I would love to be able to refill my mug at a park but I can’t really think of any of the counter service placed that have self serve soda so where would you refill it at?

  4. Christy Viszoki says:

    Hi, Tony– In my wanna-be Imagineering mind, Disney would put some self serve soda stations in a couple locations. However, I am not sure it is dependent on there being a self-serve station. It’s fun to imagine, isn’t it?

  5. Steamboat Eddie says:

    I voted for bringing both to the parks, it would be a great addition.

    Have an awesome day!

  6. Becky Manion says:

    Like Christy says – it would be a pain carrying a mug round!
    The mugs aren’t small, and like a plastic water bottle – you cant throw it away once its empty!

  7. Mary C says:

    On the one Disney cruise that I went on, one purchased a lanyard with a card to cover the cost of soft drinks. That would be great in the parks (nothing to carry) and in the resorts ( no running back to the room to stash the Mugs). That’s my choice.

  8. Richie says:

    I don’t know what the correct answer is, but am I the only one that is taking a step back here and admiring how amazing it is that we’ll be drinking out of cups with chips in them? I “get it” that nothing should be shocking anymore considering what we do technologically on a daily basis — we do sorta live in the world Epcot predicted back in the 80’s — but it’s only a matter of time before we start installing chips directly into our brains!

  9. Wes Snyder says:

    I think that refillable mugs (at a lesser fee) is a great idea, but I don’t know how that would actually work at a theme park. If there were guest-centered refill stations, there could be crowding issues on hot days, issues with lines, potential cleanliness issues as people try to fill their mugs quickly, and security issues with people trying to fill their 5 gallon ice chest with RootBeer (mmm that sounds good)…

    And Richie – I think it’s interesting. Some people complain about Disney tracking our movements with the RFIDs, MagicBands, FastPasses, etc… but it all is voluntary. People pay to come to the park, and choose to spend their day there. (I personally have no problem with RFIDs)

  10. Cristabel says:

    I think they need a refillable mug that is good for both the parks AND the resorts.

  11. April says:

    Being a fan of Tokyo Disney’s refillable popcorn buckets, I really think the US should implement it. Having a popcorn bucket is nice, but it is even nicer when you get to reuse it over and over again.

  12. Jaime says:

    Living near a Cedar Fair amusement park (Kings island, Ohio), they have a mug & buckets that you can buy and then refill at 99 cents/refill. The buckets can be refilled with popcorn or cotton candy, and the mugs (which are pretty big) can be refilled with soda or water (water being free, or course! Also great for a hot day.) I would love to see Disney do something similar, as it works out pretty well here, even with having to carry the mug & bucket around.