The Real Reason Taco Bell Got Rid Of Its Kids Menu

Taco Bell has had its share of long-forgotten and discontinued items over the years, but there is notably an entire section of the menu — standard at many other fast-food chains — that went the way of the dinosaur some years back: the kids menu.

In mid-2013, Taco Bell announced that it would discontinue kids meals and toys, eradicating them nationwide by the start of 2014, and boasted that it would be "the first national quick service restaurant" to make the bold move.

Of course, by the early 2010s, childhood obesity had become a national concern, as rates had almost tripled in the past 30 years, even prompting then-First Lady Michelle Obama to unveil a prevention program to tackle the glaring problem (via American Heart Association).

According to ABC News, Taco Bell's decision was uniformly "applauded by children's health advocates," as critics called out the fast-food industry for spending "hundreds of millions each year marketing directly to children, posing a significant threat to children's health." However, the reasons behind the move weren't exactly altruistic.

The Taco Bell kids menu was removed for business reasons

As Time reported, kids meals were likely nixed from the menu mix due to their unimpressive sales figures. Taco Bell itself noted in a press release that "kids meals are not part of Taco Bell's long-term brand strategy and have had an insignificant impact on system sales."

How insignificant? ABC News explained that kids meals made up a paltry portion — less than one-half of one percent — of total sales, equating to just four to five meals daily per location, as the company had already changed its marketing focus from family visitors to millennials. Indeed, a spokesperson for Taco Bell confirmed that children's health advocates played no role in the removal of kids meals.

At the same time, the brand noted that the kids meal menu items (including the Crunchy Taco, Soft Taco, Bean Burrito, and Cheese Roll-Up) would remain on the regular menu. Ultimately, Time speculated, "Taco Bell may wind up feeding just as many children as it did in the past — and they're likely to pay more, while scarfing down even more calories."

Seems like the "trendsetting" decision was a financially driven no-brainer for Taco Bell, not an actual attempt to curb kiddie consumption. And with this setup, they don't even need to spring for the free toys.