Fish for Lent

By | February 29, 2012

“Alienating those who observe Lent on your menu could result in slower sales during this period,” she advised, “as well as ultimately create customer dissatisfaction in the long term.”

It’s part of advertising history that McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish was invented in 1962 by Cincinnati-based franchisee Lou Groen to deal with slow sales during Lent in his largely Catholic territory. Today, the Filet-O-Fish is served year-round, but there are special prices on it during Lent.

Other chains, like Arby’s, Wendy’s and KFC, have special fish items on the menu during Lent, as does the local hamburger chain Culver’s with its walleye specials.

In Dallas, Texas, another chain, Pizza Patrón, is meeting the usual drop in sales during Lent head-on this year, according to Restaurant Magazine. Pizza Patrón has launched its Pizzas de Cuaresma (Cuaresma is Spanish for Lent) campaign with two Lenten pizzas: spinach and vegetarian.

Andrew Gamm, brand director, told Restaurant, “Cuaresma is an important time of year for our brand because it gives us the opportunity to demonstrate what makes Pizza Patrón different from other pizza chains and it allows us to stay close to the heart of our heavily Catholic customer base.”

Restaurant-hospitality.com, an industry trade site, noted the popularity of fish fries at churches and schools during Lent and advised retail restaurants in February that, “When there’s so much demand that amateurs can do a couple of hundred covers in a church basement or school gym setting, you know there has to be a sizable number of customers eager to see what professionals are turning out in traditional restaurant settings.”

Yes, they’re listening to Catholics about our Catholic traditions and rules when it comes to food. (And money is the main factor, obviously.) Now, if we could only get the business world — and the broader secular community — to be so accommodating about Catholic traditions in other areas. Like maybe contraception and sterilization and natural family planning?

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