Exclusive: Long John Silver’s CEO reveals plans for Lent and 2018

Long John Silver’s, the largest quick-service seafood restaurant chain in the United States, is taking a different approach to Lent this year. 

While the chain of nearly 1,000 restaurants is promoting some of its core, fried products for Lent, it is also offering grilled wild Alaskan salmon for the first time in years, along with grilled farmed shrimp.

“We are expecting a good Lent,” James O’Reilly, CEO of LJS, told SeafoodSource. “Last year, we sold more than two million pounds of seafood, and the fact that Lent is starting sooner is good for us,” 

The restaurant operator began preparing for the 2018 Lenten season, which runs from 14 February through 29 March, soon after Lent 2017 ended, planning new menu items, renovating its restaurants, and training managers, O’Reilly said.

This year, LJS will promote its Classic Cod and Shrimp Basket for USD 5.99 (EUR 4.81) at its stores nationwide. 

In addition, around 60 of its stores will carry grilled wild Alaskan pink salmon and grilled farmed shrimp meals. 

“The wild Alaskan salmon, which we haven’t sold for years, is a very high-quality product. We are using the same supplier as our cod and pollock,” O’Reilly said. 

LJS is testing the grilled wild salmon meals at a “slight premium” compared to farmed salmon meals. 

“That reflects our size and scale; we can make very high quality products at a reasonable price,” O’Reilly said.

The grilled seafood meals, tested in around 30 restaurants starting last fall, “have received a strong respone from our customers and franchisees,” O’Reilly said. 

“It’s an important menu development for Long John Silver’s, and is our largest expansion in grilled,” he said.

After Lent, LJS will add grilled fish and shrimp tacos and grilled fish and shrimp rice bowls. And for Valentine’s Day, LJS is offering customers a free deep-fried Twinkie when they state they are #GoingFishing when they order.  

"Long John Silver’s is setting the scene for possible romance with a community table set up in participating dining rooms. Customers are welcome to post selfies and stories with #PlentyFish and #GoingFishing on social media,” the restaurant operator said in a statement.

This summer, LJS will launch a new flavor of its classic hand-battered pollock and shrimp products, but O’Reilly did not want to reveal the flavor. 

“It took about a year to develop,” he said.

The chain also has new flavors of deep-fried Twinkies in development.

Throughout 2018, LJS plans to continue to improve customers’ experience, along with the flavor of its food. 

“Our customer metrics are at all-time highs right now,” O’Reilly said. “We are continuing to improve the quality of our food, including our core fish, chicken, and shrimp products.”

One of the biggest changes the brand made was converting the oil in its fryers to 100 percent high oleic canola oil, “which improved the taste of our products,” O’Reilly said.

Throughout the year, LJS will continue the transformation of the interior and exterior of all of its restaurants. The chain is aiming to give the exterior of all of its restaurants an “overall contemporary look, sleek lines, and added colors,” the company has said. LJS is also adding railing on the restaurants’ roofs, along with red and green nautical lights, which is meant to evoke the bow railing on a ship.

The restaurants’ new interior redesign features a clean, modern design with wood tones and nautical hues, while the solid brass ship’s bell and nautical highlights remain integral parts of each restaurant.

“We are seeing very positive returns from the new, modern image of the LJS brand,” O’Reilly said. The update also includes “the drive-thru of the future,” which includes 55-inch high definition digital video screens backed by “cutting-edge” audio and driven by a computer-operated ordering and display systems, according to LJS. The new technology has been rolled out in around 50 restaurants, according to O’Reilly.


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