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Toys are Out at Jack in the Box

June 24, 2011

Well meaning, but misguided. That was the consensus in an April 2010 discussion on  RetailWire about a proposal by one California town to ban fast feeders from including toys in meals marketed to kids. A poll with the same story found that 67 percent didn't think a ban would lead parents to make healthier food choices for their children.

Now comes news that Jack in the Box is pulling toys from its kids' meals in Los Angeles, no ordinances required.

"Parents were generally not choosing Jack in the Box as a dining destination because of a toy," Brian Luscomb, a spokesperson for the chain, told The Orange County Register. "We've offered Kids Meals as a convenience for parents, but rather than promote a toy we've focused on the quality of products in our Kids Meals."

Jack in the Box's action drew praise from consumer health advocates.

"It's terrific that Jack in the Box has taken this step," Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told Reuters. "It's really a monumental step that I hope their competitors will emulate."


Discussion Questions:

Discussion Questions: Will Jack in the Box's business benefit as a result of it eliminating toys with its meals for kids? Do you expect other fast food chains to follow suit?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How much will Jack in the Box's business be helped or hurt by the decision to eliminate toys from its kid's meals?


Kids like toys. Health advocates want them to eat nutritious meals. Parents want to satisfy the desires of both.

Why doesn't some fast food operator just put toys in packages of "acceptable" nutrious meals for kids? Perhaps that's the current opportunity rather than just eliminating toys from kids meals right now.

Gene Hoffman, President/CEO, Corporate Strategies International

Jack in the Box was never a kids' destination, so eliminating toys is a PR stunt. McDonald's and Burger King will not follow, nor do they need to.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

The toy is a red herring. The real issue is the nutritional value of the meal. Any restaurant chain, fast food or not, has to be able to promote and if it isn't a toy, it will be some other promotional device. Elmininating the toy promotion (even though it is obviously quite powerful) may well have a positive effect in the short term by helping parents to guide their children to healthier choices without this highly effective give-away's promotional noise. But it is not a solution to healthier eating. The question really becomes: Are there healthier choices at Jack in the Box and similar outlets? If not, then eliminating toy promotions, voluntarily or in compliance with an ordinance, doesn't produce a positive result. Jack in the Box is offering an apple side. That's going in the right direction, but it is sort of a two steps forward, one step back move with the caramel dip. To be serious about offering the American public healthier food, reduce sodium and sugar, pay attention to calories, and provide fruits and vegetables.

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Roy White, Editor-at-large, RetailWire

The move by Jack in the Box garners great publicity for the chain, makes the nutritionists happy and parents who go there can feel better about what they are buying their children. The only one who may be unhappy is the child, however, I suspect that for most children the toy is something that "just came with the meal" and not a prime reason for selecting the restaurant. Who is likely to be unhappy about this is the other QSRs who will face additional pressure to remove the toy from their kid's meals.

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Steve Montgomery, President, b2b Solutions, LLC

We'll have to see if the followers of the "Center for Science in the Public Interest" offer more than just verbal support -- will they show the support via the pocketbook, and come into the stores?

Based on past comments from this type of group, they are going to reject the dining offerings at QSR operations focused on beef and fries.

Based on the BIGresearch May, 2011 Consumer Intentions & Actions (CIA) Survey, only 27.5% of Jack in the Box customers have children under 18 in the household. Roughly a quarter of that group has children between the ages of 2-5, the potential target for toys. A total of 38.35% of McDonald's customers have children under 18, with about 26.4% having children between 2 and 5.

Jack in the Box eliminates a merchandising cost that wasn't, as they have pointed out, part of the reason that these families came into the store. They save money, simplify operations, and focus merchandising on programs that give them a bigger bang for the buck.

The earnest "food police" who would save us from ourselves can claim what they choose. Jack in the Box appears to be doing the right thing for their business.

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Roger Saunders, Global Managing Director, Prosper Business Development

If parents were generally not choosing Jack in the Box as a dining destination because of a toy, as Brian Luscomb said, then why offer toys? If the chain believes they have a quality positioning, then the inclusion of toys is contrary to that positioning. This makes sense. But, let's not credit them beyond that for this decision.

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Gene Detroyer, Professor, Independent

I don't think eliminating toys will have any real affect on Jack in the Box's business and I don't expect other fast food chains to follow suit. Especially where the larger chains often have tie-ins to popular kids' TV shows and films, toys can be lucrative in ways beyond possibly boosting sales.

Dan Berthiaume, Editor, Independent consultant

"Parents were generally not choosing Jack in the Box as a dining destination."

Abridgement intended; and non-parents, too I might add. Sad to say, but I think this has more to do with JIB hoping go get favorable (and cheap) publicity than with any kind of altruism...if the toys really helped sell meals, they'd be keeping them.


A lot to do about nothing. Those parents who were concerned about healthy meals were never influenced by the toys.

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Mel Kleiman, President, Humetrics

Let's be honest here: like any other business, restaurants do not offer free giveaways of children's toys for any reason other than marketing and positioning.

It would be better if Jack In the Box at least came clean about that and said something like "The tactic isn't working very well anyway and we are under pressure to stop it, so we have done so." Just be honest about it.

If they are in fact also improving the quality of the nutrition in their kids meals then that is good. This is an area where frankly the entire restaurant sector is quite weak. Yet when you look at the data on health we are amidst a crisis in terms of conditions directly related to health and nutrition. It is costing society billions of dollars already.

So the faster this happens the better. But it would really be better if folks put their cards on the table and get on with what needs to be done. We're all paying the bill for it anyway.

Geoffrey Igharo, Consultant, Company

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