The year was 1960 and a poor sod named Lou Groen was struggling to keep his restaurant going in a town close to Cincinnati, Ohio. He had opened a franchise that seemed to have a promising future, but somehow, it wasn’t doing too well for him. The small burger joint was called McDonald’s.
While other franchises around the country began to flourish, he still struggled, barely earning enough to get by. His family laboured with him to keep the place going. What really worked against them was that sales on Fridays only touched $75. Which was strange because most restaurants had their biggest sales on that day.
So, what was wrong? Well, the Monfort Area was occupied by 87% Catholic people. And most of them refrained from eating meat on Fridays. The month of Lent was hell for Lou and his family. So Groen, in complete spy mode, went to the Big Boy close by to check what they were doing right that shot their sales up on Fridays. His research gained one simple answer – they sold fish sandwiches.
So the answer was right there and Groen even created a prototype using a fish patty and a slice of cheese between the buns. Now, the next step was convincing the management. When he excitedly pitched the idea to one Ray Kroc, the brains behind the success of McDonald’s, he was told:
“You’re always coming up here with a bunch of crap! I don’t want my stores stunk up with the smell of fish.”
Apparently, Ray himself had come up with a burger called ‘Hula,’ which had no meat but grilled pineapple, and he thought it was bound to be a hit. But good old Lou convinced Kroc to release both burgers on Good Friday in 1962 in selected outlets with the condition that whichever sells more will permanently end up on the menu. The battle began and when the day came to a close, Hula sold only 6 burgers while the bunch of crap sold 350!
The mammoth difference was enough to put Groen’s idea on the menu. It was called the Filet-O-Fish. Lent’s problem was solved and the sales shot up. In fact 23% of Filet-O-Fish sandwiches are still sold during Lent. The success was so massive that Lou’s creation also got a mascot called Phil A. O’Fish.
So whenever you look at the menu and spot or order Filet-O-Fish, remember you have Lou to thank for the wonderful tasty creation. Him and those Catholics in Monfort, Ohio, who preferred fish to pineapple.