The Lenten Tradition That Gave Birth to McDonald's Filet-O-Fish

Written by Camilla Jessen

Feb.26 - 2024 10:12 AM CET

Photo: Robson90 /
Photo: Robson90 /
McDonald's introduced the Filet-O-Fish as its first non-meat option in response to decreased cheeseburger sales during Lent.

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In 1962, McDonald's franchisee Lou Groen noticed a drop in cheeseburger sales on Fridays in Cincinnati, a city with a large Catholic population avoiding meat on Fridays during Lent. This led to the creation of the Filet-O-Fish, McDonald's first non-meat menu item, outperforming Ray Kroc's Hula Burger.

Groen's innovative solution to cater to Lent-observing customers involved testing a breaded whitefish sandwich, now known as the Filet-O-Fish.

"My father exemplified Ray Kroc’s philosophy that you can succeed if you put the customer first," said Paul Groen, who continues his father's legacy as a McDonald's franchise owner.

The Filet-O-Fish, consisting of a bun, tartar sauce, breaded fish, and a half-slice of cheese, quickly became more popular than Kroc's pineapple-based Hula Burger, leading to the latter's discontinuation in 1963.

By 1965, the Filet-O-Fish was introduced nationally at $0.29, becoming the sole non-hamburger sandwich on the menu.

Today, the Filet-O-Fish, made of Alaskan pollock in the U.S., is available year-round and remains a Lenten favorite, with 25% of sales occurring during the 40 days of Lent.