Disney Tried to Open a Fast-Food Franchise—Here’s Why It Failed
"Mickey's Kitchen" was a short-lived venture by Disney into the world of fast food. Here's why it didn't take off.
Disney’s primary commodity is, of course, movies. But take a trip to the parks and you’ll be tempted by all sorts of quirky Disney-themed foods, from Mickey-shaped waffles to Cheshire Cat Tail pastries. Not to mention that you’d be hard-pressed to walk through a mainstream grocery store aisle without spotting some kind of Disney product placement on a package. So you’d think that the Disney brand name plus fast food would be an absolute gold mine. And yet Disney did attempt to break into the fast food business—and it failed. In a time when it seems like nearly every Disney venture is a success, why isn’t Disney brand fast food a global behemoth? In addition to Disney fast food’s lackluster performance, learn more secrets Disney employees won’t tell you.
Disney fast food appeared on the scene back in 1990. This was during the early days of the Disney Store, when Disney was expanding the store from 41 locations to over 100 nationwide. One of the new locations, in Montclair, California, contained the first iteration of Disney’s fast food restaurant, Mickey’s Kitchen. In mid-1991, they opened a second trial location outside of Chicago, also part of a Disney Store. But Mickey’s Kitchen never expanded beyond those two locations. It sadly went the way of these discontinued Disney rides we wish would come back.
In keeping with Disney’s wholesome, kid-friendly image, Mickey’s Kitchen marketed healthier options than the traditional fast food, including veggie burgers, low-fat burgers, and turkey-meat hot dogs. Despite clever, charming product names, including Jumbo Dumbo burgers, “Soup-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” and “Mouseketeer” kids’ meals, customers just weren’t willing to shell out lots of money on the healthier fast food—at least not enough to propel it to great success. At the end of the day, Mickey’s Kitchen wasn’t even close to rivaling the fast-food giants. “They were going head-to-head with a restaurant mostly appealing to kids. But McDonald’s is the leader in that,” retail analyst Douglas Christoper told the Orlando Sentinel. In addition to operating in the shadow of the Golden Arches, Mickey’s Kitchen also found that they were losing business to other fast-food spots in nearby mall food courts.
After just shy of two years, they’d barely broken even with their fast food venture. So Disney decided to cut their losses, partly in an effort to focus more on expanding the Disney Store overseas. So, in March of 1992, both Mickey’s Kitchen locations closed, relegating Mickey’s Meatless Burger, Pinocchio’s Pizza, and their culinary companions to the Disney history books. Luckily, though, you can still enjoy these tasty and whimsical foods at Disney World.