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How Lent created McDonald’s fish sandwich

Necessity is the mother of invention, even when it comes to the fish sandwich.

Lou Groen, who owned McDonald’s franchises in the Cincinnati area, realized in 1962 that burger sales plummeted on Fridays during Lent. His solution was to create an alternative, the Filet-O-Fish sandwich. “With determination and a knack for thoroughness, Groen convinced McDonald’s to test a breaded whitefish sandwich to help satisfy customers who abstained from eating meat on Fridays in observance of Lent,” according to the McDonald’s website.

Hs son, Paul Groen, followed in his father’s footsteps and also owns multiple McDonald’s locations. At the time of the creation of the Filet-O-Fish, Lou Groen was “barely doing $300 in daily sales” on Fridays. “My father needed that fish sandwich to survive and compete against other restaurants,” he said. “He set in motion a framework of success that would benefit future generations.”

At the same time Groen was testing the Filet-O-Fish, McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc had another meatless alternative idea — the Hula Burger, which consisted of a piece of grilled pineapple served on a bun with cheese. Although Kroc had faith in his creation, the public did not. The Filet-O-Fish proved to be far more popular than the Hula Burger, which was discontinued in 1963. In 1965, the Filet-O-Fish was added to the McDonald’s menu nationally and became the first new product ever added to the chain’s original menu.

READ: The history of Lent

At the time, the Filet-O-Fish was priced at 29 cents. According to the McDonald’s website, it was the only non-hamburger sandwich on the menu. Its base components — bun, tartar sauce, breaded fish and half-slice of cheese — have remained unchanged since its official launch. Today, in the United States, the Filet-O-Fish is made of Alaskan pollock. The sandwich is also available in many countries, with slight regional variations.

Unlike other fast-food fish offerings, which appear only during Lent, the Filet-O-Fish remains on the McDonald’s menu year-round. And true to its origins, it remains prevalent during Lent, according to the McDonald’s website. A full 25 percent of all Filet-O-Fish sandwiches are sold during the 40 days of Lent.

–Alan Goforth  | Metro Voice


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