Lou Groen would be proud
The Filet-O-Fish has come a long way from its humble beginnings in Cincinnati’s predominately Catholic neighborhood of Monfort Heights in 1962. At the time, the sandwich’s creator, Lou Groen, was struggling to get by. His McDonald’s restaurant was taking in only USD 75 a day, and he couldn’t pay his bills.
So Groen invented a fish sandwich using 2-ounce portions of USD 2-a-pound halibut, dipping them into his homemade batter, deep-frying them and topping them with his homemade tartar sauce. Good Friday came along, and Groen sold 350 sandwiches. And with the permission of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, the Filet-O-Fish became the first addition to McDonald’s original menu.
Groen passed away just over a week ago at the age of 93. I had the pleasure of talking to Groen for the April 2007 issue of SeaFood Business magazine. It was easily one of the more fascinating interviews I’ve ever conducted. He was colorful and humorous. But, above all, he was diligent and persistent, working 365 days a year to make his restaurant — and his fish sandwich — a success. He was a true entrepreneur.
I’m sure Groen would be proud to learn that the Filet-O-Fish will bear the Marine Stewardship Council eco-label across Europe beginning in October. On Wednesday, the MSC announced that 7,000 McDonald’s restaurants across 39 European countries are in the process of achieving chain-of-custody certification. For many of the countries, this is the first time the MSC eco-label will appear at a foodservice operation.
It’s a significant step in the journey of familiarizing consumers worldwide with the concept of seafood sustainability, even though it’s just one sandwich at one fast-food chain. McDonald’s moves about 100 million Filet-O-Fish sandwiches in Europe a year. That’s a lot of sandwiches, and a lot of opportunities for consumers to think about seafood sustainability. It’s difficult to top the exposure a company like McDonald’s can give to an eco-labeling program.
Let’s face it, consumers aren’t as schooled on sustainability as the seafood community tends to perceive. (Check out SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Jason Holland’s eye-opening commentary “Are consumers engaged with sustainability?”)
And if we learned anything from Groen, it’s that success doesn’t occur overnight. It takes years of hard work and persistence to make it happen.