What is in this article?:
- Seafood sales boost restaurant business during Lent
- Staying power
Popeyes, Carl’s Jr., Panda Express and other quick-service chains see success with seasonal fish offerings.
Panda Express's Golden Szechuan Fish is the chain’s first ever systemwide fish offering.
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Like many limited-time offers, those featuring seafood can pose operational challenges in terms of managing supply.
“It’s sort of equivalent to offering an eggnog shake around the Christmas holidays, because the day after Christmas it doesn’t sound that great,” Haley said.
That means carefully measuring inventory to make sure the chain doesn’t run out of supply too soon, but also making sure it doesn’t have too much of a surplus. However, some of these items might have longer staying power, especially as consumer demand for variety in general and seafood in particular, with its reputation for being healthful, is on the rise.
Carl’s Jr. tested a charbroiled cod sandwich for Lent last year that proved to be so popular that it was added as a permanent item.
“Last year we saw that the charbroiled Atlantic cod sandwich seemed to be very incremental,” Haley said, adding that the fact that the fish was grilled rather than fried probably helped. “We absolutely were gaining share for having a distinctive product instead of a me-too fish product,” he said.
The item will be offered at Hardee’s as a special this season, and Carl’s Jr. and dual-branded Hardee’s/Red Burrito restaurants also are offering a fish taco during the season.
Popeyes, with its Louisiana marketing positioning, already has a strong seafood product base with various shrimp offerings, and it has chosen Lent this year to introduce new menu boards systemwide, as well as two new permanent seafood items. One is a Cajun Fish, which is a whitefish seasoned and rolled in a crumb breading, and the other is a quarter-pound of Popcorn Shrimp. Some markets in the South are offering catfish instead of whitefish, Lynch said.
Popeyes has also launched a Seafood Mardi Gras promotion featuring eight butterfly shrimp with cocktail sauce for $4.99. In April the chain is offering a Cajun Surf & Turf of four shrimp and two chicken tenders for $4.99.
Although the practice of foregoing meat on Fridays during Lent goes back many centuries — some scholars say it predates some books of the Bible — a growing number of chains have been offering seafood items during Lent in recent years.
Wienerschnitzel introduced its first Lenten special around six years ago, according to vice president of marketing Tom Amberger, when it introduced the Sea Dog, an Alaska pollock fillet served with tartar sauce and shredded lettuce on a six-inch hot dog bun for $1.99.
Since then it has added Fish ’n Chips — two fish fillets and three ounces of fries for $3.59 — and a Fish Wrap — a fillet with mayonnaise, salsa and shredded lettuce in a nine-inch tortilla for $1.99.
Amberger didn’t give sales figures, but he said the addition of the items was an accommodation to customers’ demands, “and in that regard we’re happy with the sales that we get.”
“I think it’s prevented some of our customers from perhaps visiting QSRs that offer a fish product during the Lent season, and we do get some customers who will have fish during the week as a change of pace.”
This story has been revised to reflect the following correction: