One Small Step for a Fast Food Chain . . .

Kudos to Taco Bell for their bold decision to eliminate kids’ meals from their menu. In the USA Today article below, you’ll see that the reasoning behind this decision is that kids’ meals are “. . . inconsistent for an edgy, twentysomething brand.” I personally wouldn’t have limited Taco Bell’s appeal to twentysomethings, but if that’s the market they want to go after, more power to them.

I know many are cheering about this because it means one less unhealthy, calorie-laden option in the tiny tummy marketplace, but my reason for applauding the decision is because it’s a perfect example of defining a brand and a market and servicing them accordingly.

Since when does every restaurant have to accommodate every human being and every human palate on the planet? Once upon a time, McDonald’s had hamburgers, Kentucky Fried Chicken had chicken and Dairy Queen had dip cones; we all knew where to go for what, and the lines moved a lot faster. Then came the all-for-one-and-one-for-all mentality and the lines not only got blurred, they got slower. Admit it: life was a lot simpler when McDonald’s’ only specialty item was 2allbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonionsonasesameseedbun* and Burger King was doin’ it their way instead of ours. American commerce is now so accommodating that some brands are in serious danger of losing their identity. (Remember when Amazon meant books?)

I love kids. I have three of them. But if Taco Bell’s doing away with kids’ meals because that product represents an insignificant fraction of their business in a market they don’t want to pursue, that’s not discrimination; it’s good business — and why should anyone who’s not a YUM! shareholder have a say in what’s on their menu? If a restaurant wants a fat-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, peanut-free, caffeine-free, meat-free, kid-free or even nutrient-free menu, that should really be their choice. Our choice, as customers, will be to then go wherever we like to get what we want. That system worked quite well for a number of years and I’m wondering if we aren’t trending back in that direction. I hope so. I mean, is The Hot Dog House really going to treat your veggie patty with the love and seasonings it deserves? Doesn’t Bubba’s Bait and Coffee Shop stretch the concept of an expanded market just a tad too far?

There’s nothing at all wrong with defining and focusing on who you are, what you do well, and who’s most likely to want what you have. That’s called specializing, and telling people what’s special about you is what branding is all about. Devoting your time, energy, marketing dollars — and, in this case, menu — to supporting that brand is how small businesses turn into bigger ones.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/07/22/taco-bell-kids-meals-toys-fast-food/2574959/

*A pause here to honor superlative advertising. It’s been right at 40 years since that McDonald’s campaign, and I can still reel off that phrase, verbatim! Kudos to Charles Rosenberg, then at Needham, Harper and Steers in Chicago, for one of the best branding efforts ever.

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