If you suspect there’s something fishy going on at your favorite fast-food joint, you’re probably right. The countdown to Easter is on, and that means everyone from McDonald’s to Quiznos is cashing in on the Catholic tradition of skipping red meat in favor of fish during Lent. This year, several chains have created new menu options for customers during this, the holiest of seafood seasons.
Darren Tristano, executive vice president of food service research and consulting firm, Technomic, told Nation’s Restaurant News that most restaurant chains should consider having some kind of fish or non-meat option for people observing Lent in order to prevent a loss of traffic during the season. Many chains are taking that advice and running with it this year.
McDonald’s, the largest of the fast-food chains, introduced a new item this year in addition to its popular Filet-O-Fish sandwich. Its snack-size Fish McBites are a guilt-free option for believers as well as those concerned with the environment, as they have been certified 100 percent sustainably sourced from the Marine Stewardship Council. The packaging for the Fish McBites, as well as the Filet-O-Fish sandwich, carries the council’s blue “eco-label.”
Other chains are also picking up on the trend of disclosing the sources of fish items on their menus. This season, Wendy’s is promoting its Premium Fish Fillet by advertising its 100 percent North Pacific cod origins. And Culver’s, a Midwestern fast-food chain, is selling a seasonal Northwoods Walleye sandwich.
“That’s part of the overall trend to improve perceptions of food and ingredients through marketing,” Tristano said, “so certain regions get called out. Marketers have enhanced perceptions with the way they’ve described menu items for years. Is it more appealing during Lent? Probably.”
Other chains that are getting creative with their Lenten offerings this year include Quiznos, which is promoting its Lobster and Seafood Salad sub, and Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, whose brand-new Charbroiled Atlantic Cod Fish sandwich has arrived right on time for the seafood season.