Better Deals and More Sophisticated Palates Contribute to Kids Meals Decline

Kids meals with toys are no longer the draw they once were for the restaurant industry’s youngest customers, according to The NPD Group, a leading market research company. NPD’s foodservice market research reports that restaurant visits that included an order for kids meals with a toy have been declining for the past several years. For year ending December 2011, restaurant visits that included a kids meal with a toy declined by 6 percent compared to the same period year ago.

A contributing factor to the decline in kid’s meals is that parties (or families) with kids traffic is flat after several years of declines, according to NPD’s CREST® research, which continually tracks consumers use of foodservice outlets. In 2006, there were 21 billion parties with kids’ visits to total restaurants and 17 billion of which were to fast food restaurants, and in 2011 there were 19.5 billion parties with kids’ visits to total restaurants, 15 billion of which were to fast food restaurants.

“In addition to the economic factor, kids have become more sophisticated, and just like adults, they want to try new things, new foods,’ says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “Kids have a wider variety of foods and flavors available to them today than they have in the past.”

In addition, Riggs says that kids and moms are also responding to restaurant operators marketing and packaging more healthful foods in ways that are appealing to children. NPD’s CREST research finds that kids are eating more healthful options, like fruit, chicken wraps and fruit smoothies and eating less foods and beverages considered less healthy.

“Kids are different today than they were a decade ago. They want to grow up fast and don’t want to be thought of as kids. Moms are also more concerned with the foods that their kids are eating,” says Riggs. “Restaurant operators and foodservice manufacturers understand this and are offering more varied options on kid’s menus, downsized portions, and healthy alternatives.”

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