The Walt Disney Company recently held an earnings call that came with many of the things we would expect and a couple that we…would not. During the call, Disney CEO Bob Chapek discussed a number of topics updating shareholders on recent profits, the success of Disney Genie, upcoming news and data from Disney+ and more.
During one portion of the call however, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy was asked to share some insight into inflation and how this may have affected practices within the company. In somewhat of a standard response, she shared that the Walt Disney Company like nearly every company in our current economic climate is following inflation trends and making informed decisions while managing inflation. So far, so good, at least as far as one could expect for a response by a corporate entity to the question.
After going on to discuss the possibility of changing up some products or suppliers, McCarthy went on to say, We can cut portion sizes, which is probably good for some people’s waistlines. We can look at pricing where necessary. We aren’t going to go just straight across and increase prices. We’re going to try to get the algorithm right to cut where we can and not necessarily do things the same way…” At first look, the comment reads simply as a bit unprofessional, but we would go so far as to say McCarthy actually fat-shamed Guests, whether she intended to or not, during the call.
As you are probably aware if you have ever visited a Disney theme park, they are places that are enjoyed by Guests of all shapes and sizes. Moreover, these are people visiting the parks on vacation. Calories don’t count on vacation for one thing, and even bringing a comment like McCarthy’s into the conversation about how to evolve a Guest experience at all is rather frustrating. People with all kinds of varying waistlines are going to Walt Disney World for an escape from reality, where the size of their waistlines may be a (still inappropriate) part of their daily discussions. On top of this, Walt Disney World is routinely praised for being more size inclusive than most other theme parks, allowing a wide range of body types to experience more attractions than their competitors, so it is disappointing to hear a comment like this come directly from the CFO during a professional meeting.
Fat-shaming aside, there is obviously another grievance with cutting portion sizes- Will costs be cut, too? We doubt it, but generally public reception is that portion sizes sans fat-shaming is reasonable as long as costs increase, too. While we understand the economics of this, it is obviously not a good look to decrease portion sizes while increasing prices, or at the very least holding them steady.
McCarthy went on to say, “We’re producing technology to produce some of the operating cost. That gives us to absorb some inflation. We’re trying to use our heads here to come up with a way to kind of mitigate some of the challenges that we have.” She did not give further details on what this technology meant, but we are sure we will hear more about it in the coming months.
As for portion sizes, Guests have generally commented on them decreasing as the Disney Dining Plan grew in popularity. At this time however, we have no date confirmed for when the Disney Dining Plan will return, so we are unclear how this could affect restaurant profits and costs for Guests in the future.
We will keep you updated as we learn more from the call, and if we learn of any additional changes potentially coming to Disney restaurants.