The Fishy History of the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish Sandwich

For a burger joint like McDonald’s, the Filet-O-Fish sandwich is surprisingly popular. The Atlantic-Pollock based lunch item is consumed at a rate of 300 million a year, with 23% of them being sold during Lent. We can thank the Catholics in Ohio and a struggling businessman for the fast-food classic. When Lou Groen opened the first McDonald’s in the Cincinnati area in 1959, business was tough. McDonald’s was new to the area, with strong competition from a local restaurant called Frisch’s. There was one thing, however, that Groen capitalized on: 87% of the population in the area was Catholic. That’s when he went to work creating a simple sandwich of battered, halibut-based fish, with a slice of cheese, between two buns. He took the idea to corporate in 1961, and on Good Friday in 1962, the Filet-O-Fish sandwich appeared on the menu at selected locations. By 1965, the sandwich had become a staple on the menu nationwide.