Popeyes, McDonald’s, and other fast-food giants are trying to win over customers with fish during Lent

Fast Food Fish Sandwich 1
Fast-food chains are going all in on fish for Lent. Hollis Johnson
  • Chains including Popeyes, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Bojangles are adding fish to the menu for Lent. 
  • Fast-food giants hope to win over Catholic customers with meat-free options. 
  • “Lent is very important … especially after a hard winter,” said industry expert John Gordon.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Popeyes is hoping that Catholic customers might fancy a fish sandwich this Friday.

Earlier in February, the chicken chain announced it was adding a Cajun Flounder Sandwich to the menu. The sandwich features Pacific flounder with Cajun seasoning, served with tartar sauce and pickles on a bun. 

Popeyes isn’t the only chain adding fish to the menu. 

Popeyes Po'boy Fast Food Fish Sandwich 3
Popeyes’ previously iteration of a fish sandwich. Hollis Johnson

Buffalo Wild Wings also debuted a new fish sandwich in February. Bojangles’ Bojangler fish sandwich recently returned to the menu, as did Sonic’s Premium Fish Sandwich. Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are once again serving their Beer-Battered Fish Sandwiches. 

The chains follow a long tradition of fast-food outlets adding fish menu items for the Lenten season, in a bid to win over Catholic customers avoiding meat.

“Lent is very important … especially after a hard winter,” John Gordon, a restaurant analyst with Pacific Management Consulting Group, told Insider. 

According to Gordon, attracting customers with fish during Lent can be crucial in transitioning from winter (when sales sometimes lag) into a successful spring. With customers looking for non-meat options on Friday during Lent, a fish-based menu item can provide a short-term sales boost driven by people avoiding burgers. 

McDonald's Filet-O-Fish Fast Food Fish Sandwich 8
McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish was developed to win over Catholic customers who weren’t eating burgers during Lent. Hollis Johnson

McDonald’s iconic Filet-O-Fish was invented to win over Catholic customers during Lent. Back in 1962, franchisee Lou Groen was struggling to sell burgers on Fridays, as Catholics were abstaining from meat. So, he developed a fish sandwich with tartar sauce. 

The Filet-O-Fish was a hit, becoming a national phenomenon in the 1960s. 

“My fish sandwich was the first addition ever to McDonald’s original menu,” Groen told the Chicago Tribune in 2007. “It saved my franchise.”

So, what makes a good Lent menu addition? Gordon says it is simple. 

“A non-boring fish – that’s how I best describe it,” he said. “A fish with some flavor and in a a logical side item that goes along with it.”