McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish: you either love it or you hate it. The crispy, square-shaped fried fish is topped with tartar sauce and a melty slice of processed cheese enveloped in a spongy bun. While McDonald’s started out as a burger joint, this pescatarian option appeared in the 1960s and has had a strong place on the menu ever since. Here are some fun facts you may not know about this fishy entrée.
6. Filet-O-Fish Saved a Cincinnati Restaurant
In the early 1960s, Lou Groen was struggling to keep his McDonald’s franchise afloat. While restaurants typically see brisk business on Friday nights, Groen’s Friday nights were woefully slow. This was due to the fact that the Cincinnati neighborhood in which the franchise was located was predominately Catholic. At that time, Catholics refrained from eating meat on Friday evenings year-round. Groen came up with the idea of the trademark Filet-O-Fish sandwich in order to compete with the fish sandwiches offered by nearby competitor Frisch’s Big Boy.
5. Filet-O-Fish Had to Compete with Pineapple
When Lou Groen first approached McDonald’s CEO Ray Kroc with his fishy idea, Kroc wanted nothing to do with it. Instead, Kroc pushed for his own vegetarian option, which he named the “Hula Burger.” The Hula Burger consisted solely of grilled pineapple, cheese, and a bun. When Groen’s fish burger and Kroc’s pineapple burger competed head-to-head for Friday night business, the fish burger came out the clear winner. And thus, the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish was born.
4. Filet-O-Fish was the First Addition to the Original Menu
When Dick and Mac McDonald opened their first hamburger restaurant in the 1940s, the menu consisted of only a few items: burgers, fries, milkshakes, and beverages. Ray Kroc became the franchise agent for the brothers and continued their menu when he acquired the company in 1961. Ray Groen’s addition of the fish sandwich was the first expansion to the original menu. Groen is not the only franchise owner to successfully introduce new menu items. The Big Mac was invented by franchise owner Jim Delligatti in 1967. The Egg McMuffin was invented by Santa Barbara franchise owner Herb Peterson in 1972.
3. Lent Is Peak Filet-O-Fish Season
In 1965, the Vatican relaxed its rules on abstaining from meat. Those of the Catholic faith are now allowed to consume meat on Fridays, abstaining mainly during the season of Lent. While the Filet-O-Fish sandwich is available year-round, McDonald’s sees 25% of its annual Filet-O-Fish sales during the 40 days of Lent. This period runs from Ash Wednesday each year through Easter.
2. Filet-O-Fish Is Made from Sustainable Fish
McDonald’s makes their trademark fish sandwich with Alaskan pollock. Their fishery, located in the Pacific Northwest, is a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fishery. This fishery has a low rate (1%) of catching non-targeted fish. In addition, the fishery has a zero waste policy, using fish oil, roe, and bones for other purposes in addition to using the meat of the fish for food production. McDonald’s boasts of MSC certification in North America, Europe, and Brazil.
1. Filet-O-Fish Nutrition Facts
At 390 calories, the Filet-O-Fish sandwich has more calories than the 250-calorie hamburger or 300-calorie cheeseburger. However, it is still one of the lowest-calorie sandwiches on the menu. In comparison, a 10-piece serving of Chicken McNuggets comes in at 440 calories. With 5 grams of sugar and 19 grams of fat, the Filet-O-Fish sandwich provides 6% of the recommended daily value of calcium, 10% of iron, and 23% of sodium.