The marketing of fast food to children has been a hot topic in our increasingly health-conscious society as of late, with everyone from politicians to organizations like the Center for Science in the Public Interest weighing in on the touchy subject. It is in this environment that Taco Bell has made the decision to stop carrying kids’ meals, and is touting itself as the first national fast food chain to make this pioneering change.
While advocacy groups may be pleased with Taco Bell’s decision, it seems the chain is making this move less for moral reasons, and more for simple financial and branding ones.
The main incentive for dropping kids’ meals is that they don’t really jive with the chain’s core customers — the younger portion of the millennial demographic (i.e. bored high-schoolers and drunk college kids). In fact, kids’ meals represent a mere 0.5% of its sales, according to the company (compared to McDonald’s, where Happy Meals account for about 10% of U.S. sales).
“As we continue our journey of being a better, more relevant Taco Bell, kid’s meals and toys simply no longer make sense for us to put resources behind,” said Greg Creed, CEO of Taco Bell, in a statement. “What does make sense is concentrating on expanding choices that meet and exceed the diverse needs of consumers of all ages, without losing focus on what makes us great today.”
And while it’s true that Taco Bell is the first national chain to cut kids’ meals, Jack in the Box made the same move two years ago, prompting the Center for Science in the Public Interest to, at the time, call out other fast food chains, including Taco Bell: “We hope that McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell are paying attention to Jack in the Box, which has decided to stop using toys to market fast-food meals to children.”
Taco Bell plans to have completely phased out its kids’ meals by January 2014.