Here’s Why the Filet O’Fish Hasn’t Left the McDonald’s Menu in Over 60 Years

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The McDonald’s menu has changed a fair amount over the years. Items have been added and stricken, while some re-emerge in a revolving timetable (the McRib, anyone?). But some are so central to the brand that they’ve never left.

It might surprise you to know that, along with the Big Mac and the McNuggets, the fish sandwich is among the tried and true.


The sandwich – fried fish, tartar sauce, and American cheese on a bun – came into being when a Cincinnati, Ohio, franchise was looking for a way to entice burger lovers through the doors during Lent. In 1959, the city was more than 85% Catholic, and their Friday sales were taking a major hit.

Franchise owner Lou Groen had the idea to add a meat alternative to the menu in order to pacify his Catholic customers, and he worked with McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc on what exactly would be the best addition. It was Groen who suggested a fried halibut sandwich with tartar sauce, since seafood isn’t considered meat for the purposes of Lent, while Kroc, who didn’t want his stores smelling like fish, opted to try a “Hula Burger” instead.


The two pitted Groen’s fish sandwich against Kroc’s pineapple and cheese concoction on a Friday night during Lent, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that it was a rout.

350 Filet-O-Fish sandwiches were sold that night, and though Groen’s basic recipe has received a few alterations – halibut has changed from to cod to pollock, for example – the sandwich has been on the McDonald’s lineup ever since. They sell 300 million of them every year, with around 25% of those sales taking place during Lent.


They’ve never had another seafood product that managed to stick around – not even the Fish McBites, which should have been a smash hit with the preschool crowd.

I’m not sure whether this is a lesson about standing up to your boss, coming up with creative ways to force people to eat fish, or a testament to McDonald’s ability to sell anything with fries, but whichever it is, the Filet-O-Fish is here to stay.

60 years and counting.