Is Lent a big event for operators?

Many Americans are beginning the 40-day period leading up to the Easter celebration. The rules for fasting can vary dramatically by which days and what types of food can be consumed. Some religious patrons abstain from all forms of meat and animal products while others make exceptions for food like fish, indicating that Lenten rules are evolving.

Although only part of our overall population observes Lent—about one-third of American adults, according to a 2009 study by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion—it is nonetheless significant to business. Operators should have a strategy in place to appeal to their customers and attract new customers or run the risk of losing visits to the competition.

Lessons can be learned from observing some major fast-food burger chains and their recent promotions.

fish1_500In addition to their signature Filet-O-Fish sandwich, originally developed for Lent, McDonald’s created new Fish McBites, leveraging smaller, shareable portions.

 

 

fish2_500Wendy’s went the “premium” route and promoted their Premium North Pacific Cod Fillet Sandwich, playing on a better-for-you approach.

 

 

fish3_500Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s went the route of “innovation” by creating a new Charbroiled Atlantic Cod Fish Sandwich focusing on a healthier preparation approach.

 

 

Although it’s hard to say which menu item will have the greatest success, it’s clear that each of these strategies will provide customers with appealing alternatives and options that fit their needs during Lent.

For operators who don’t have the resources to create new products, calling attention to existing vegetarian and seafood products during Lent can show customers the importance operators place on their patrons’ beliefs. As more consumers seek healthful options, incorporating more seafood and vegetarian options will benefit all consumers in general and help to improve the overall perceptions of restaurant healthfulness.

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