Although kids' meals with toys and kids' menus continue to be the most popular options for kids under 13, both types of meals saw significant drops last year, reflecting in part a shift toward parents ordering combo and value meals for their children.
Among the under-13 set, orders for meals including a toy declined by 11% and kids' menu orders declined 4%, while combo meals were down just 2% and 99-cent value meals increased by 9%, according to CREST.
A decline in the number of kids eating out is also contributing to the trend. After three years of growth, traffic for parties with kids declined by 5% during the three months ending in February 2009 compared to the same period last year. Both quick-serve and full-service restaurants saw such traffic losses, and the declines were heaviest among kids under six.
This is hardly surprising, given that the average size of the party more than doubles when kids are along, as compared to adults-only groups -- pushing the total cost up by nearly $8, NPD's analysts point out.
Pizza continues to be by far the most-ordered fast food for kids under 12, while pasta dominates when kids are eating in full-service restaurants. Chicken nuggets and fries are also dominant items among the young set; however, these are beginning to show decline, while fruit and ice cream are on the rise, NPD reports. Hamburgers, tacos and pasta are showing increases among older kids.
These choice shifts point to kids' increasingly sophisticated tastes also being a factor in the decline seen in traditional kids' menu ordering, NPD restaurant analyst Bonnie Riggs noted in releasing the results.