Taco Bell tosses kids meals

Fast food giant Taco Bell announced Tuesday it would phase out menu specifically aimed at children

(Sylwia Kapuscinski/ Getty Images)
2006 Getty Images

Taco Bell announced Tuesday that it will eliminate its kids menu and no longer offer promotional toys, heralding itself as the first U.S. fast food chain to discontinue its children’s offerings.

Children meal packages have traditionally acted as a draw for family diners who purchase additional meals with better profit margins. Food industry analysts say the move to eliminate what was, for Taco Bell, a marginal demographic from the company's marketing campaigns, in itself, is a strong move.

Although Taco Bell had been under pressure from parents and children’s health advocates, decrying the selling of what they call junk food to kids, company officials said marketing concerns prompted the move.

“We see more opportunity in providing our Millennial customers with a better, more relevant Taco Bell than focusing on kids' meals,” Taco Bell spokesman Rob Poetsch told Al Jazeera in an email.

Children’s offerings “aren’t a part of our brand strategy. As we listen to our customers, they tell us they want a more relevant Taco Bell, so we’re focusing on developing menu items that deliver on ‘food as experience’ such as Cantina Bell and Doritos Locos Tacos,” Poetsch added, the latter referring to the taco with a Dorito chip shell, introduced last year.  

Company CEO Greg Creed lauded the company’s decision to chart new territory in the world of fast food marketing.

“Pioneering this change on our menu is a bold move for our industry, and it makes sense for Taco Bell,” Creed said in a release.

But Poetsch also revealed that children's offerings never actually amounted to much for Taco Bell.

“Kids Meals accounted for less than a half of a percent of our total sales,” he said.

Discontinuing kids meals is a “brilliant marketing move” in itself, said John Stanton, professor of food marketing at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

“Have you ever been to a Taco Bell? Have you ever seen kids there?”

News of Taco Bell's decision trended high on Google news, hours after the decision was announced.

Stanton explained that most fast food chains “probably don’t make a lot of money off of the kids meals alone.”

“What you want to look at is the whole cash register receipt for everyone who comes in with the kids… It’s like at a grocery store, you can’t think of how much you are making a on a can of beans. You have to think of how much money you are making on Mrs. Smith.”  

Stanton said some fast food chains, like Taco Bell and Five Guys Burgers and Fries, simply do not aim to attract adult customers through their children.

Still, many Taco Bell kid's offerings aren’t going to disappear – the restaurant will start moving individual items like the “Cheese Roll-Up” to the regular menu at various locations this month.

The Roll-Up is billed by the company as “a flour tortilla rolled up with a blend of three real cheeses” The item's 190 calories, 80 of which come from fat, used to be marketed to children.

The menu adjustments are expected to be completed by January 2014.

The Taco Bell kids menu website was down at time of publication.  The Cheese Roll-Up had apparently already made its way to the regular menu.


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