Lent’s here. So what are U.S. restaurants up to?
By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
Published on 16 February, 2012
Many major U.S. restaurant chains are taking advantage of the fast-appraoching Lenten season with new fish sandwiches and other seafood items.
It’s a big time of year for seafood sales. Lent, which starts on Wednesday and ends on 5 April, is honored by more than 1.18 billion baptized Catholics worldwide. There are a number of other non-practicing Catholics who also recognize the tradition of not eating meat on Fridays during Lent.
“Lent is the perfect time for operators to introduce new seafood offerings or promote existing items. Many in America give up meat on Fridays in observance of Lent. And since these consumers are already giving up something, a restaurant visit can serve as a little treat, often for the entire family,” said Aaron Jourden, editor at Chicago-based foodservice research and consulting firm Technomic.
Jack in the Box, for instance, recently began promoting its “Fish Sandwich Combo” for USD 2.99, for a limited time. The sandwich is made with two lightly battered Alaska pollock fillets.
“Our Fish Sandwich Combo is a filling meal and a great value for our guests, especially at this time of year when a lot of people are looking for an alternative to burgers and chicken,” said Tracy Dunn, director of menu marketing and promotions for Jack in the Box.
The San Diego-based fast-food chain has more than 2,200 restaurant, primarily on the western United States.
Arby’s — the 1,170-unit quick-service chain known for its roast beef sandwiches — recently brought back its fried fish sandwich and is promoting it with a fun “Tweet Aquarium” on its website. Tweets about Arby’s fish sandwich “swim” on fishes around an aquarium on Arby’s website.
El Pollo Loco — an up-and-coming grilled-chicken chain headquartered in Costa Mesa, Calif. — also recently brought back its fish tacos.
“As the Lenten season draws near, we expect to see more and more quick-service chains that don’t generally focus on seafood – such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s – put some marketing dollars behind their fish offerings,” said Technomic’s Jourden.
Of course, fast-food outfits aren’t the only chains taking advantage of the Lenten season. Ruby Tuesday recently launched new menu items as part of its “Seafood Festival,” including Shellfish Trio, Basil Pesto Tilapia, Mediterranean Shrimp Pasta and Shrimp Fondue.
Additionally, casual seafood heavyweight Red Lobster is currently offering a four-course Seafood Feast for USD 15 per person.