Can Disney Get Away With a $20 Cronut?

Fantasyland Dream Lights Reflections
Mark Willard Photography/Flickr
It's been 13 years since "The Simpsons" poked fun of Disney's (DIS) in-park pricing. Homer Simpson scaled the Disneyland wall, only to find that a churro would set him back $14. It was all in good fun: A Disneyland churro was just $3 at the time. However, we've finally hit the point where the family entertainment giant may be trying to charge $20 for a cronut at its most popular theme park, and Homer Simpson is nowhere in sight.

Disney began serving breakfast over the weekend at Be Our Guest Restaurant, the Magic Kingdom eatery themed to "Beauty and the Beast" with three richly detailed dining rooms. The meals are all priced at $19.99 for adults, and one of the entrees just happens to be the flaky croissant doughnut confection that was created two years ago at New York City's Dominique Ansel Bakery.

To be fair, it's more than just a croissant doughnut. The fried delicacy is topped with banana caramel sauce, pastry creme and chocolate ganache. The stiff $19.99 price also includes a breakfast beverage of choice and a plate of assorted pastries shared at the table.

However, at the end of the day, you know how this is going to play out. The court of public opinion will overlook the cronut artisan toppings and included extras. It will be all about the Mickey Mouse company trying to collect a nearly $20 ransom for a cronut, adding to the lore that will seem more real than Homer Simpson's $14 churro.

Captive Audience

Disney's Magic Kingdom in Florida also made waves in pricing news last month when it boosted the price of its one-day ticket to $105, up from $99. It became Disney's first U.S. theme park to charge more than $100 for a single-day admission.

One would argue that Disney's pricing -- whether we're talking about dolled-up croissant doughnuts or just the cost to enter a park -- has gotten out of hand. However, success has a funny way of silencing the folks shaking their heads.

Disney doesn't break out attendance counts at its theme parks, but that doesn't stop third-party researchers from doing exactly that. Themed Entertainment Association's estimates find that attendance at Disney's Magic Kingdom rose 6 percent in 2013 to 18.6 million, making it the most visited theme park on the planet.

It's a safe bet that last year was even better. Disney bragged about record results at its Florida properties through 2014, and revenue at the media mogul's theme parks division posted a 9 percent year-over-year increase in its latest quarter. With the economy humming along and gas prices low, there's no reason that 2015 shouldn't be another record-breaking year for Disney World.

Try the Gray Stuff, It's Delicious

A big reason for the recent spike in attendance at the Magic Kingdom is the park's expansion. The gated attraction's New Fantasyland area opened two years ago, complete with a couple of new rides and themed experiences.

A major part of the buildout is the Be Our Guest Restaurant. It has proven immensely popular, and not just because it's the only place in the park that serves alcohol (during the dinner seating). The lines are long for lunch, and the reservations-only dinner offering typically has to be booked months in advance unless someone lucks into a cancellation. Opening the eatery earlier in the day as Disney started doing this past weekend to entertain breakfast-hungry guests is a no-brainer. More people will get to experience the unique restaurant.

The media will gravitate to the hefty prices. Folks will argue that Disney has finally gone too far and that guests won't pay $20 for a croissant-doughnut served with a beverage and a sampling of breakfast pastries. However, guests will, just as they continue to come despite the annual admission price increases. Disney usually knows what it's doing, and that's why the country's most expensive traditional theme park is also the most visited. Be our guest, indeed.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Looking for a winner for your portfolio? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
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