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I like children - fried. W. C. Fields

Old-time comedian, W.C. Fields, always had a provocative joke. When marketing to children, restaurants must be diligent with their messages and claims, or they will be fried.

Major consumer marketing brands have come under fire for allegedly unsuitable messages to children; Joe Camel and Ronald McDonald are prime examples. What about pizza? Can pizza marketers face a backlash? Pizzerias want to attract children. Kids and young families remain core demographics for the pizza industry. With all the focus on childhood obesity, do pizza operators risk this ire?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest; is a PR group that has publically scolded fast food, Chinese food and movie popcorn and is a leader among America’s “food police”. They recommend extra taxes, restrictions and regulations in order to discourage free choice by families.

Marketing is the set of activities designed to attract consumers to your brand. Raising the flag too high, can attract the wrong kind of attention. As a result, high profile brands like McDonald’s now aggressively market foods designed to keep a squeaky clean public profile. I’m sure McDonald’s would rather sell French fries than apple slices and based on sales, I am sure kids would rather eat the French fries.

What responsibility do pizza operators have to promote healthy foods and messages to our youth?

Keep Pizza in the Family

Pizza is the ultimate family food. It is value priced, easily shared, does not require extensive preparation, or even heavy clean up. Clearly, we in the pizza industry want more kids (and their parents) to buy our products. Pairing healthy messages is a positive step; so let’s focus on what does work for kids and pizza. According to the Gallop Poll, children between the ages of 3 and 11 prefer pizza to all other food groups for lunch and dinner. For those with fussy eaters, pizza is a savior, good food kids will eat. When children reject the family dinner, busy parents substitute less nutritious meals, macaroni & cheese, instant soup or peanut butter and jelly. Create a slogan to reinforce our goodness. “Have pizza tonight and keep everyone on the same plate.”  “Choosy mothers chose pizza instead of PB&J”.

Sell the Vegetables

Where apple slices is a disconnect with burgers, salad and a slice of vegetarian pizza works as a healthy alternative. Compare the calories in a slice of pizza with a burger. Each pizza recipe is different but a bit of research finds two slices of cheese pizza and a small salad averages 461 calories. Even if the two slices have pepperoni, this meal weighs in at 599 calories. The burger meal averages 1,240 calories and 67 grams of fat. By the way, the average Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich is 500 calories.

I am proud of our industry. I am proud we feed families safe nutritious food in a family friendly environment at a value price. I’m proud our country offers food in abundance so even the poorest among us do not starve in the streets like in other parts of the world. Pizza is a big part of keeping our children well fed and happy. Let’s all market to kids and tell the public why they should visit our establishments so they feel delighted not uncertain.

Wishing you success in pizza – Ed

Ed Zimmerman is a pizza industry veteran and President of, the number 1 web portal that connects consumers to pizzerias. His almost four decades of foodservice experience includes food manufacturing and distribution leadership, food industry technology, marketing services and restaurant and grocery operations management.

User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Trent Fierro
    I know that selling to kids can be lucrative, but we're targeting parents and we're getting their kids because our pizza is great. We now have kids that are telling their parents that they want the better pizza instead of the chain pizza marketed to them.

    Not sure that we want more pizza places following our model, but we do all need to better market how we differ in calories than McDonalds.
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Ed Zimmerman
Ed Zimmerman is a pizza industry veteran and President of The Food Connector. His almost four decades of foodservice experience includes food manufacturing and distribution leadership, food industry technology, marketing services and restaurant and grocery operations management.
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