IRVINE, Calif. – Taco Bell announced plans to discontinue children’s meals and toys at its US restaurants, becoming the first national, quick-service restaurant chain to do so.
The company began phasing out children's meals at select restaurants in July. The last children's meal will be served sometime in January 2014. Menu items on the current Kid’s Meals Menu will remain available individually on the regular menu, including the Crunchy Taco, Soft Taco, Bean Burrito and Cheese Roll-up.
“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. “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.”
The move comes as fast-food restaurants are under increasing pressure to stop marketing toys linked to children's entertainment and include healthier menu items. Jack in the Box eliminated toys from children’s meals in 2011. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) acknowledged Taco Bell's decision as a “constructive step forward” but cautioned the strategy may have adverse consequences.
“Dropping the kids' menu may lead parents to order higher-calorie meals off the regular menu, and it’s not as if its adult menu is full of health food,” said Margo Wootan, CSPI Nutrition Policy director, in a news release. “We urge McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and others to follow Taco Bell’s lead and stop using toys or other premiums to lure kids to meals of poor nutritional quality. Yum Brands’ own KFC restaurants will continue to offer children's meals that are marketed using premiums.”
Creed said the future of Taco Bell – a subsidiary of Yum Brands – rests with repositioning the brand for Millennials. The company said children's meals are not part of the brand's long-term strategy, and have an “insignificant impact” on the company's sales. Taco Bell plans to focus on offering a broad range of choices that define the brand in addition to more balanced menu items.
“Pioneering this change on our menu is a bold move for our industry, and it makes sense for Taco Bell,” Creed said. “We’ll be able to better focus on creating new and inventive items that our customers love.”