QSRs go fishing for Lenten season

Lent runs from Feb. 13 through March 30 and QSRs are ready to feed the believers. Seafood demand always runs high for the Lenten season, but many chains seem to be stepping things up a bit more this year.

For example, McDonald's new Fish McBites is the company's first seafood entrée launch since the Filet-O-Fish 50 years ago. Available through March, Fish McBites are crispy pieces of wild-caught Alaska Pollock. The Alaska Pollock used in both Fish McBites and the Filet-O-Fish sandwich is responsibly sourced from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable fisheries.

Fish McBites are available in four sizes: snack (3 ounces), regular (5 ounces), shareable (10 ounces) and as a Happy Meal entree. To celebrate its debut, consumers can enjoy snack-size Fish McBites for $1 from Feb. 12-14 at participating restaurants.

White Castle has also rolled out new menu options for those cutting meat out of Friday's diet during Lent, including the new Shrimp Nibblers and the Mac & Cheese Nibblers. These join the company's classic Fish Nibblers and Fish Sliders, both made with Alaska Pollock fish. The new Mac & Cheese Nibblers combine cheddar cheese and macaroni noodles and are coated with a crispy cheddar batter. Shrimp Nibblers, a new offering for the 92-year-old company, are butterfly shrimp with a crispy batter coating.

Culver's is promoting its Cod and LTO Walleye after successful sales last year. While Culver's North Atlantic Cod is available year-round, the Walleye is featured for a limited time to ensure its safe and responsible sourcing. Culver's fishery resources in Canadian waters and in the icy Barents Sea are monitored and protected from overfishing and managed for long-term sustainability.


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Northwoods Walleye and North Atlantic Cod are available as dinners with the choice of two sides, such as Culver's cole slaw and signature crinkle cut fries, along with a dinner roll and family-recipe tartar sauce with olives, capers and sweet relish. Both are also available as sandwiches in value baskets with a side and a beverage. Beginning Feb. 18, Culver's will launch its second Facebook promotion of 2013. By visiting culvers.com/facebook and posting photos of their best "fish faces," fans will have the chance to win prizes, including $100 Culver's gift cards and free North Atlantic Cod Filet sandwiches.

Since January, Arby's has been promoting its Reel Big Fillet sandwich through a new "advergame" via the brand's Facebook page. The game allows Arby's Facebook fans to "go fishing" in order to earn points and move through five different levels. Players can select a fishing-themed name (i.e. Arby's Angler) to appear on their boat, and then determine the direction and power to cast their fishing rod in pursuit of Alaskan pollock, walleye, trout or salmon. Point values are assigned for the type and size of fish caught, and fans can play as many times as they'd like to advance their score for the chance to win gift cards.

Popeyes' is promoting its limited-time Butterfly Shrimp Tackle Box, featuring eight butterfly shrimp, regular fries, a biscuit and cocktail sauce for $4.99.

Carl's Jr. and Hardee's are promoting their new charlbroiled Atlantic cod fish sandwiches through a new ad campaign featuring swimsuit model Nina Agdal. The sister brands claim to be the first in the national QSR segment to offer a charbroiled fish sandwich — not battered and deep fried. The new offering is 420 calories and includes a charbroiled Atlantic cod fillet, tartar sauce, sliced tomato and lettuce, all served on a honey wheat bun.

From Feb. 13-March 30, Wendy's will be offering its premium fish fillet sandwich. The item features a 100-percent North Pacific Cod hand-cut fillet, lightly breaded in a crispy panko crumb coating topped with lettuce and tartar sauce. The fillet weighs 3.4 ounces, which is larger than its competitors' fish offerings, according to the company.

Church's Chicken has added white fish fillets, fish and chips and crunchy, battered popcorn shrimp to the menu for a limited time through March 31. Also new to the menu is Church's baked macaroni & cheese, a creamy side dish that is topped with shredded cheddar cheese and baked until brown and crispy on top.

Rally's and Checker's have introduced the Fish Bite Box, along with the Chicken Bite Box and loaded potato skins. The boxes include seasoned fries and dipping sauce and are available for a limited time. The potato skins are seasoned similarly to the brands' signature fries.

Wienerschnitzel has brought back its "UnDer the Sea Trio" menu, featuring the Sea Dog, Fish Wrap and Fish 'n Chips, each made with flaky, white Alaskan Pollock fillets. The seafood items will be available through April 7.

Even the classic seafood players are adding promotions in time for Lent. Long John Silver's is kicking off its "40 Ways To Say 'That's What I Like'" on Feb. 13, with special offers, facts and more. The campaign complements the chain's new marketing tagline, introduced in October and created by Louisville, Ky.-based Creative Alliance. The campaign and rebranding represent the first new major marketing effort on behalf of Long John Silver's since it was purchased in late 2011, by LJS Partners LLC.

Finally, Captain D's introduced new fish tenders in January. They can be included as a $4.99 Full Meal Deal along with two sides and Hush Puppies. Captain D's has also hinted via its social media channels that new products will be introduced soon: "We have some really exciting stuff going on here in the Captain D's kitchens — be sure to stay tuned this week to see what we're up to!"

Read more about food promotions.

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