Earlier this week, Disney and coffee company Starbucks announced a partnership to open six Starbucks locations on Disney property—one inside each of the six domestic theme parks. Rumors of a Starbucks inside Disneyland have been circulating online for years, most recently perking up when Starbucks opened a location in Disney Village outside Disneyland Paris in 2009. Many expected it to be a matter of months before Disney announced an agreement covering the U.S. resorts, but talks reportedly stalled and some Disney insiders considered the deal dead. Last fall, we caught the first whispers that negotiations had resumed, though Disney and Starbucks consistently declined to comment.
Now that the coffee beans have been spilled, Walt Disney World Director of Media Relations Kim Prunty agreed to answer some questions about the planned new locations, and how this agreement will—and won't—affect other resort operatons.
According to the official announcement, the first location is inside Disney California Adventure park, in the new Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe on Buena Vista Street, which is scheduled to open on Friday, June 15. The café format will serve Starbucks-branded beverages and food items all day, plus breakfast items in the morning. The café will also serve a menu of Disney food items "ranging from specialty sandwiches and house-made soups to desserts and sweet treats."
Disney would not comment on the various rumors that claim, depending on which blog you read, that the Disneyland location will be inside the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe, will take over the Main Street Market House, or will be part of the soon-to-reopen Carnation Cafe/Blue Ribbon Bakery complex, saying that the five other locations have not yet been finalized. Nor would the company comment on the timing of the other five stores. We would not be surprised if the Disneyland location is the second to open; it would make sense from a training and operations sense for Disney to open both Disneyland Resort locations before expanding to Walt Disney World.
Although we knew it would be unrealistic for Prunty to give us anymore information beyond the six, we did ask if there were any plans to open locations in the Disney resort hotels. Prunty said, "This announcement is specific to the theme parks locations mentioned." Still, the answer was not an unequivocal no. Assuming the in-park locations perform well, we expect that Disney will certainly consider additional locations. What makes more sense than to join national hotel chains in adding Starbucks outlets in hotel lobbies?
Many readers asked if this new partnership will have any impact on the coffee sold or served elsewhere in the Disney parks and resorts, and the answer seems to be a very clear no. Starbucks coffee will not replace Nestle-branded brewed coffee drinks in Disney-operated restaurants, nor affect the Disney branded “Theme Parks” coffee products sold in theme park shops. You also won't find Frappuccino bottles nestled in the ice of the outdoor vending carts. Starbucks will be sold only inside the Starbucks shops (at least inside the theme parks; non-Disney restaurants that currently serve Starbucks coffee will continue to do so), and Nescafé will continue to be served at all other Disney-operated locations.
Walt Disney World visitors may be be happy to know that these new food-focused Starbucks cafés will participate in the Disney Dining Plan, an option that will likely see DDP patrons slurping up their snack credits with venti iced no-whip skinny upside-down half-caf caramel macchiatos.
MousePlanet readers asked whether the new cafés will accept the Starbucks gift cards and participate in the My Starbucks Rewards program. The Starbucks cafés will accept the Starbucks card, but if you use a mobile app to manage your Starbucks account, you will need to bring your physical card on vacation. For now, the Disney locations will not be equipped to process payments from the mobile Starbucks app, though Prunty said, "We are always exploring opportunities for the future."
However, the Disney locations will not participate in the My Starbucks Rewards program, which means purchases won't count towards earning Green or Gold star status, and members will pay full-price for their drinks (no free syrup or soy milk here).
Reader reaction to the Starbucks news has been mixed, with supporters responding with comments like "a match made in heaven," "finally," and "thank goodness." Many are just happy for any alternative to Nescafé coffee, described by some readers as as "swill" or "sludge."
Some not thrilled by the news wonder why Disney didn't partner with California-based chains like Peet's or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, at least for the Disneyland Resort locations. A few have complained about having an outside company with a large presence inside Disney, comparing the plan with the controversial partnership that brought McDonald's food into Disney theme parks. "It's bad enough we're bombarded with [Starbucks] on practically every streetcorner," complained one reader, saying, "it may be my last visit when they finally arrive."
Despite the complaints, the new Starbucks cafés are bound to be popular, with readers joking that Disney should install Fastpass for the new stores. That won't happen, but don't be surprised to see apps like MouseWait and Touring Plans offer updated wait times for the Starbucks shops as they open.