Kids’ alter demands from fast-food menus

Posted by James Ferre on 1st June 2009

It appears that today’s children are less likely to be won over by a toy nestled between their chicken nuggets and chips, or with the kids’ menu, according to new research from The NPD Group in America.

Though kids’ meals with toys and kids’ menus continue to be the most popular options for children younger than 13, both offerings have experienced sharp volume declines.

According to NPD’s Consumer Reports on Eating Share Trends, which tracks consumer usage of commercial foodservice, orders for kids meals that included a toy were down 11 per cent last year, and orders from kids menus were down four per cent amongst those under 13. The next two most prominent options fared better, with combo meals down just two per cent and the 99-cent value menu up nine per cent.

“Just as adults have moved to greater use of deals and value menus, there continues to be a shift in the way kids are ordering at restaurants or, in many cases, how their parents are ordering for them,” says Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst at NPD. “What has gained in popularity is the use of value menus for kids’ meals and snacks.”

Contributing to the decline in the number of kids’ meals with toys and kids menu items ordered is that fewer kids are eating out. NPD finds that traffic for parties with kids declined five per cent in the quarter ending February 2009, compared to same quarter last year, after more than three years of positive growth. Both quick service restaurants (fast food) and full service restaurants experienced traffic losses. In both cases, losses were heaviest with kids under 6 years old.

When kids under 12 do visit restaurants, pizza is far and away the most popular fast food for children, according to NPD CREST data. On the flip side, hot chips and chicken nuggets are also popular, but beginning to fall out of favour. Up and coming items include hamburgers, tacos and pasta for older kids, with fruit and ice cream gaining in popularity for younger kids. While pizza dominates for kids at dinner in a quick service restaurant, pasta takes over that spot at full service restaurants.

“Kids’ tastes and preferences’ are changing. There is more to the shift away from kids’ meals and menus than the economy and saving money,” Ms Riggs said. “Kids today want more choices and sophisticated fare.”