Tag Archives: lent

How Restaurants Are Optimizing Sales During the Lent Season

Colorful beads, beer cans, margarita cups and random trash are the only reminders of Mardi Gras, or “Carnival,”Mardi Gras Beads the celebration that takes place in New Orleans before Lent, which is, according to Wikipedia, “…the Christian observance of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.” Many believers, especially Catholics, take this time to give up something during that 40-day period; something that would be a sacrifice, as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice when dying on the cross on Good Friday.  But the biggest tradition among believers is not eating meat on Ash Wednesday or on Fridays, instead choosing to eat a close alternative–fish or seafood.

When the custom started to abstain from meat back during the early years of Christianity in Europe, it was never a rule that you could NOT eat fish, just that you could not eat meat. So since people tend to bend the rules as much as possible without technically breaking them, it was decided that eating fish on Fridays would be the exception. Hence, the explosion of churches (especially located in the Midwest, due to the high population of German Catholics) conducting weekly Friday night Fish Frys, where attendees began coming in droves to indulge on fried fish and other meatless options, enjoying the company and conversation of other believers.

The Impact of Lent on Restaurants and How They Have Responded

Restaurants across the nation recognized this sales opportunity for the millions of Christians observing the practice and finally began incorporating different seafood options into their menus.  Fast-food restaurants have jumped on the bandwagon, too.  McDonald’s has the Filet-o-FishHealthy Food on the menu year-round, while others, such as Wendy’s, KFC, and Jack-in-the-Box, introduced seafood options available only during the Lent season.  Even Panda Express, normally known for its Asian influence, debuted a new item called Peppercorn Shrimp, using yellow onions, red peppers, and stir-frying the dish in a sauce with Thai peppercorns.

Not all restaurants are incorporating seafood though; places such as Five Guys Pizza are placing the focus on meatless and/or vegetarian options.  While Five Guys Pizza offers a grilled cheese sandwich year-round, its popularity is sporadic in comparison to its pizza; yet, during Lent season, its sales increase.

Most restaurants, both nationwide and local eateries, have either highlighted or introduced seafood or meatless options to cater to those customers celebrating the season, there are still those places that refuse to cash in on the sales opportunity.

Laura McGuire, of Chicago-based food industry consultancy, Technomic, says it’s imperative for restaurants to acknowledge their customer’s dietary restrictions during Lent.

“Alienating those who observe Lent on your menu could result in slower sales during this period,” she says, “as well as ultimately create customer dissatisfaction in the long term.”

Adding seafood, meatless or vegetarian options on a seasonal basis can attract new customers as well, according to McGuire. Plus, if the new item doesn’t test well with new and/or existing customers, it can be deleted from the menu for good.  If your restaurant is hesitant to join the seafood/meatless craze during Lent season, just look at it as a test run.  There’s always time to go back to the drawing board!

Foodservice Industry Week in Brief: February 17

Looking for some of the week’s top information? Here are five stories from the foodservice industry for February 13-17.

Tip-Income Questions with Answers from NRA
From National Restaurant Association, Read Article

As we move into tax season, the National Restaurant Association wanted to be sure some of the major questions were answered.  They put together an article that talks about restaurateurs filing tip-reporting data with the IRS, qualifications for a federal income tax credit on the FICA payroll taxes paid on certain employee tips and a reminder on law requirements.  Read the full article on the NRA website

Senate Approves Lower Minimum Wage Requirements for Servers, Bartenders, etc. in Florida
From Orlando Sentinel, Read Article

Florida workers who rely on tips aren’t too happy about a recent bill that passed through a Senate committee. Why? According to a recent Orlando Sentinel article, the minimum wage requirements will allow restaurants and employers to reduce the current minimum wage of $4.65 an hour to $2.13 an hour. Many workers are infuriated.  The Orlando Sentinel said the bill was proposed by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.  “The organization argues that it’s necessary because the minimum wage, which under state law rises annually to cover inflation, is among the expenses financially crippling restaurants in Florida,” they said.  Read article in full on the Orlando Sentinel website.

Valentine’s Day Specials at Chain Restaurants Image: alvimann/MorgueFile
From L.A. Times, Read Article

Valentine’s day was Tuesday, February 14.  It’s a very popular day for couples to eat dinner out, but with the United States’ current economic situation, not everyone can afford fine dining.  Fast food chains and quick service restaurants picked up the slack and provided great deals for those who didn’t want to cook their own Valentine’s Day dinner.  In a recent L.A. Times article, some of the specials they mentioned were Papa Murphy’s heart-shaped pizza and Dunkin’ Donuts heart-shaped doughnuts.  For more details on what restaurants were planning for, check out this L.A. Times article.

Chicago Schools Will Soon Stock EpiPens
From Education Week, Read Article

The number of food allergies is on the rise.  In a recent Education Week article, they found statistics from the American Academy of Pediatrics that say approximately every one in 25 school-age children has a food allergy.  To help prevent possible life-threatening allergic reactions, Illinois has passed a law and soon all Chicago Public Schools will stock approximately four to six EpiPens each.  They will also train school employees on how to use them.  Read the full article on the Education Week website.

Restaurants Gearing Up for Lent
From Restaurant Hospitality, Read Article

Next Tuesday, Feb. 21, is Mardi Gras–then the following day is when Lent begins.  During Lent, Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays, so many restaurants update their menu to provide Lenten specials.  In a recent Restaurant Hospitality article, they say many fast food chains have a fish sandwich, and those who don’t usually have one will add one.  Then other restaurants will provide other specials during the season with seafood menu items such as tuna and shrimp.

If your restaurant hasn’t considered updating your menu for Lent, Restaurant Hospitality says, “Pick up a couple items that would work within your restaurant’s pricing structure/service scheme and you’ll have a mini-Lenten menu you can promote.” They also say this is a good way to “pump a little life into your restaurant in what can otherwise be a drab time of the year.”  Read the full article on the Restaurant Hospitality website.

All images used from MorgueFile.com.