Why is Yum! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut) Obsessed With Lent?

First they wanted the Pope to bless their Lent-themed fish sandwich, now Reader Ashi sends this photo.

Aside from the obvious answer: “There are a lot of Catholic people living on the planet.” Why is Yum! so obsessed with Lent? From their KFC Lent Fish Snacker Press Release:

“People can enjoy the flavor of the new Fish Snacker any day of the week, but we believe it will be especially popular on Fridays,” said James O’Reilly, Chief Marketing Officer for KFC. “It’s perfect for an on-the-go lunch or any time of the day when you need a quick snack but don’t want to sacrifice taste.

Lent-tastic!—MEGHANN MARCO


PREVIOUSLY:KFC Asks The Pope To Bless Lent-Themed Fish “Snacker”


Edit Your Comment

  1. gorckat says:

    I guess they don’t realize the Fundies in charge of things aren’t Catholic.

  2. a says:

    I’m wondering if various stores in certain areas with lots of Catholic people noticed a serious decrease in revenue over Lent.

    I was a waitress in the northeast for 2 years at a Denny’s-like restaurant, and there were always more fish specials over Lent, although I don’t think the menus explicitly pointed out why.

  3. Nygdan says:

    Taco Bell should clearly have a concern for what hispanics are eating. Even pizza hut, as an ‘italian’ fast food place would be smart to take special care for lent.

  4. MeOhMy says:

    Cracks me up – the Lent season is supposed to be about self-sacrifice and cutting the fat from your life for 40 days.

    I don’t care if they sell refried beans spread on matzohs. Nothing about eating at Taco Bell jives with the spirit of Lent.

  5. FLConsumer says:

    Gorckat: no, but there’s still plenty of Catholics out there who will do whatever the silly man in the dress (pope) says to do. Too bad they won’t read the bible and see all the ways Catholicism conflicts with biblical Christianity. Same for the Fundies.

  6. SpecialK says:

    It’s all about the Benjamins. McDonald’s makes a killing on Filet O Fish during Lent… and that came about back in the day (when Lent meant no meat the entire 40 days, rather than just Fridays) cuz a McD’s franchisee in a Catholic area was taking a huge hit to the business.
    Sure, it’s supposed to be about sacrifice and all, but a large number of people have no interest in cooking vegetarian meals and/or don’t know how to cook fish, so there you have it. A business opportunity.
    Hell, in South Louisiana, we always LIKED Lent, because it meant non-stop crawfish and shrimp.

  7. Tallanvor says:

    Oh, come on! The “1/2 lb. Cheesy Bean & Rice Burrito” just screams sacrifice! Well, even if you don’t sacrifice by eating that, you’re no doubt going to pay for it…

  8. amazon says:

    Goodnes, we didn’t even have that kind of thing in our school cafeteria (way back when). Our Catholic school cafeteria.

  9. acambras says:


    Yeah, I used to live in South Louisiana, and I always noticed Lenten specials at lots of restaurants, because so many people in South Louisiana are Catholic.

    I notice that a lot of Mexican restaurants in the U.S. (and I’m not calling Taco Bell Mexican, mind you) offer Lenten specials for probably the same reason — the population of Mexico is predominantly Roman Catholic.

  10. gardencat says:

    I think their obsession with lent has nothing to do with religion, but only trying to commercialize it.

    If they sent Fish Snackers to third world countries to help feed the many hungry mouths, then I think it would then be worthy of a blessing.

  11. gardencat says:

    I think their obsession with lent has nothing to do with religion, but only trying to commercialize it.

    If they sent the Fish Snacker to third world countries to help feed the many hungry mouths, then I think it would then be worthy of a blessing.

  12. gardencat says:

    Oops, sorry for the double post.

  13. kerry says:

    Lots of the fast food places around here have specials available only during Lent. They don’t advertise as such, but you only see the Burger King Big Fish sandwich and McDonald’s double fish sandwich during Lent. My guess is it’s all the Polish, Latino, Irish and German Catholics. The cafeteria at the hospital where I work serves clam chowder and some manner of fish entree every Friday year-round. Also, I’m pretty sure it’s not just Catholics that give up meat on Fridays for lent, I know some generic protestant Christians who do the same.

  14. Hirayuki says:

    I remember one Taco Bell in our heavily Catholic area pushing Lent-friendly food as far back as 2000. They didn’t have fancy placards or anything, but they put a stack of coupons for 7-Layers, etc. on the counter. Even the Chinese restaurants around here have introduced fish specials, even when they don’t otherwise offer fish at all.

    On a related note, Wendy’s “Frankenfish” commercials have replaced the earlier iPod Nano “lightwave” commmercials as my latest must-mute annoyfest. HATE.

  15. katana says:


    You hit the nail on the head. McD’s has had a monopoly on Lent fast-food for decades. Its hard to believe that its taken other FF chains this long to catch on.

  16. AcilletaM says:

    In eastern Wisconsin, Fridays during Lent are a good time to go for steak. Noticeably less people.

  17. BMR says:

    what will they do if their customers gave up eating at rat infested restaurants?

    or worse, give up eating crappy food?

  18. ct03 says:

    I don’t think it’s just Yum! Brands–I worked at a Boston Market and a Subway during high school, and I remember a big deal being made about whatever fish monstrosity Boston Market was peddling on Fridays. Same thing for the tuna sandwich at Subway. It’s definitely more about the Benjamins than the Benedicts.

  19. nakmario says:

    i think you guys are making a big deal out of this because it deals with Catholics (read: Latinos) whereas the “majority” of Americans are Protestant.

    “Why is Yum! Brands so obsessed with Lent?”???

    ummm, maybe because they think they can make a quick buck – the same reason most businesses ever do anything.

  20. Buji says:

    For those of you who think that the fatty big bean burrito isn’t an example of sacrifice, try going through all of Lent with no meat at all.

    For the past 6 or seven years, I’ve observed the full lent-al season, not as a religious excersize but more of a personal challenge and spiritual journey of my own. Each year I’ve added something, and three years ago I had built up my list to include ALL meat. This includes fish, chicken, shrimp, etc. I know that I need to get my iron and proteins still, so I eat a lot more beans and spinache during this time of year than others. An easy, tasty, option that is still available to me is bean and cheese enchoritos, 7 layer burritos and all the other goodies at Taco bell.

    Friends always expect me to drop a ton of weight when I go on lent, but because I have to eat things like more cheese and beans to make up for the diet, it rarely happens that way. That’s not the goal anyway.

    Usually I culminate the excersize by having a party the night before easter, and at midnight we grill up some choice brats and hotdogs. Then the next day we have a big easter dinner with Fried chicken (family recipe) and taters and gravy and all the favorites.

    Usually it takes a couple of days to adjust afterwards, but that first hot dog tastes soooo goood…

    So, why does taco bell take advantage of this season? Well, I know that I eat at taco bell with about 5x more frequency during lent than not, and I’m sure all of those special orders ‘without meat’ showed up on some statistic somewhere in Yum!’s computers, and I’m only one customer. I also grew up in Louisiana, and that probably has a lot to do with why I chose to observe Lent.

    FYI – this year for lent I have given up all meat, all alcohol, and all caffeine, including chocolate. I’m getting in my turns as designated driver when we go out with friends, probably twice a week, so I don’t have to hassle with it for the rest of the year.

  21. dead9uy says:

    I guess growing up in the NW has shielded me from most of these practices. I have never known of someone practicing a Lent sacrifice or any restaurants around town offering more fish options. There is the standard clam chowder on Fridays but that’s universal.

  22. I grew up in a heavily Jewish area, and every pizza place there — including Dominos — offered matzoh pizza during Passover. People still want convenience food during food-restricted religious holidays (particularly families with two jobs and multiple children); they just can’t have the standard stuff. And the stores revenues dropped by more than 1/3 over Passover if they didn’t.

    And having tried to eat out on Fridays in Lent as a Catholic before vegetarianism got popular, there were (and still are) a lot of restaurants with NOTHING meatless on the menu. I’d end up with a “Chicken Caesar Salad — No Chicken.”

    So while I realize this is profit-motivated, it’s still a Good Thing to have religiously-acceptable items on restaurant menus for those of us who are restricted, just as it’s good to have vegetarian options and allergy-compliant options. Yum! brands also operates some locations as halal in heavily Muslim areas in US cities. (Chicago has a couple.)

    (And anything that’s not a McFish sandwich is by definition a Good Thing. Ugh.)

  23. @FLConsumer: “Too bad they won’t read the bible and see all the ways Catholicism conflicts with biblical Christianity.”

    Wow, you’re smarter than a billion people, all by yourself? Has anyone published your scholarly articles on the Bible yet? I’m dying to see all this wisdom.

  24. Papa K says:

    I guess I live around a lot more Catholics then the world at large – I remember this form my days at the BK Lounge (gotta have coups) – Lent=Fish Sandwich special. Everywhere. I seldom follow lent just because of the idiocy of it, but am all for the idea of ‘sacrificing’ something more meaningful than meat to be more in tune with your religious ideals.

  25. spanky says:

    I’ve noticed a lot more Lent advertising in general this year than I have in the past, not just from fast food places but from regular restaurants and grocery stores, too.

    I assumed it was just a renewed push for the Latino demographic or something.

    Regardless, I kind of like it because fish is cheaper and fresher and more plentiful than usual. Ironically, I was a vegetarian for many years and still don’t eat that much meat relatively speaking, so with my increased fish consumption over Lent, I am more gluttonous and carnivorous than usual.

    Im in yr lent, negatin yr sacrifice!

  26. phrygian says:

    @Troy F.: Dietary restrictions during lent have nothing to do with reducing fat in one’s diet. It’s a sign of religious observance, devoutness, an numerous other things, but not a sign of being more health conscious.

    Personally, I like restaurants offering more non-meat dishes. I’m not observant of Catholic Lental practices nor do I have any dietary restrictions (religious, ethical, health or otherwise), but I just don’t like beef/chicken/pork all that much. Bring on the fish and veggie entrees! Year round, please!

  27. non-meat-stick says:

    I think it’s hilarious how you have to point out the vegeterian items on a menu to people.

    I also think it’s funny how it’s such a big deal. Every person should go without meat one day a week, no matter what religion…or lack there of

  28. wonderskunk says:

    @ Buji
    My late father was anemic. His family doctor was always adamant that his iron supplements and food that was a significant source of iron should never be consumed with dairy products etc because calcium prevents the absorption of iron. The beans, spinach etc are fine; hold the cheese if you need to get the iron from them.

  29. MeOhMy says:

    LOL. “cutting the fat from your life.” It’s an idiom. It means cutting out the unnecessary in your life. Living simply. As if you were wandering the desert for 40 days…because…well…that’s part of what Lent is supposed to symbolize.

  30. strandist says:

    What sickens me is how quickly comments turned from consumerism to bashing of different religious ideals. And the bottom line is that businesses should market to any significant demographic they can. I see nothing immoral about labeling certain choices lent-friendly or passover-friendly or any other religious observance-friendly. It’s also nothing new. I mean really, hasn’t anyone else noticed what time of year Red Lobster usually has Lobsterfest?

  31. kerry says:

    @AcilletaM: That’s weird, most of the places I’ve eaten dinner in northeastern Wisconsin serve fish on Friday nights. Friday is fish fry night, Saturday is prime rib, etc.

  32. Terminixsux says:

    What’s even funnier is that lobsters used to be what they served to prisoners in Maine. No one else really liked them all that much. Now look at the $$ per pound for an oversized aquatic bug. It’s all in the marketing.

  33. etinterrapax says:

    I didn’t notice that other regions didn’t have Lenten specials until I lived places other than New England (home to many, many Italian, Portuguese, Irish, and French-Canadian Catholics. Latino families around here tend to be Pentecostal. I don’t know if they have fast/abstinence rules for Lent). Of course, the signs didn’t all say PERFECT for LENT. Almost all restaurants here have a Friday fish special, whether or not it’s Lent, and during Lent these specials are more prominently advertised and more pervasive. Until the 1960s, abstinence on Fridays was a year-round obligation for Catholics, and many older people still observe this.

    This is why on those “what to avoid at restaurants” lists, they say never to order fish on Monday. It’s left over from Friday.

    Regardless of the spirit of Lent, meatless Fridays are not the same as Lenten fast days. Foregoing meat on Fridays and fast days is “abstinence”; on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, you fast. This means one full meal, no meat, and one or two light meals, depending on your level of observance and your personal health. Fasting only applies to people age 18-59. I don’t think it’s up to us to decide whether a person’s level of observance passes muster based on whether they eat at Taco Bell. That’s between them and God.

  34. karimagon says:

    They do this at Sonic too: it’s a fish sandwich offered as part of a “Lentan combo.”

    On another note, my father, who is not the world’s most observant Catholic, used to go to this restaurant that had a special on roast beef sandwiches on Fridays of Lent when he was in college.

  35. Techguy1138 says:

    @Troy F.

    No actually in old lenten observences not eating meat was only part of the limitation.

    No fats at all was at least a Polish tradition. I’m failrly sure that used to be normal.

    The current Catholic church has made a very deliberate effort to seperate the rules based following with a more spirtual take. So there is more focus on introspection. A lot of the old traditions are now truly forgotten.

    As an interesting side note, I discovered this information while researching the pretzel, not in church.

    The pretzel in it’s original recipe is a fat free bread,not even butter to bake it. The shape of a pretzel is to represent the crossed arms of a praying monk.

    Cool Huh!

  36. Techguy1138 says:

    To all

    What is the problem with corporations making profit?

    In this case a corporation is providing a service that makes the religious choices of certain consumers easier to follow.

    Business providing a wanted to service to consumers without any additional costs to the consumer is good.

    In no way do I feel that yum foods is commercializing or promoting Lent. In the same way I do not feel that grocery stores to not promote or unfairly profit from passover.

    Can someone clearly explain how what YUM! is doing that is offensive?

  37. MeOhMy says:

    @Techguy1138: That could be true – I offer no commentary on whether the literal trimming of fat is/was a common practice for anyone.

  38. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    Ok so accuse me of religious intolerance but I dislike all religions equally. Anyway if you are seriously worried that god will judge you based on your eating habits you need to wake up. There are sooooooo many more important things in life. I love to order the biggest juiciest steak I can find on Fridays, just to watch all the good little catholics around me give me that deer in the headlights look..

  39. ElizabethD says:

    Yes, all those “good little Catholics” are definitely staring at YOU and your Lenten-Friday steak.

    Because it’s all about YOU… ya know? Quick, somebody call the New York Times: Atheist Eats Beef on Friday”! Radical, dude.

    Pass the fish and chips pls.

  40. zolielo says:

    I thought that Lent menus are all about marketing and profits. Similar to Kashrut or others…

    I guess I should stick to Lifehacker and Jalopnik as some of you fellows are quite nasty.

  41. swalve says:

    Wow, the anti-catholic simple mindedness is astounding. To claim that all catholics are latinos or italians is ridiculous. And to claim that Catholicism is against “biblical Christianity”? That’s laughable- the catholics invented Christianity, for Christ’s sake. Get a clue…

    Why shouldn’t a restaurant offer choices that match the desires of their customers? That’s not “commercialization”, that’s good service.

  42. Hirayuki says:

    @Troy F.: Hence “Fat Tuesday” (or “Mardi Gras”), the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent–use up your cooking fat because you weren’t supposed to (or allowed to?) eat/use such rich stuff during Lent.

    We here in Metro Detroit get Polish paczki (“poonch-key”) on Fat Tuesday; they’re glazed jelly doughnuts with a nice sheen of grease. I can think of worse ways to use up fat.

  43. spanky says:

    @swalve: I don’t think anyone is saying that all Catholics are Italian or Latino. In some places, though, they do make up a very large percentage. I’ve been in Colorado for years, and I hadn’t noticed the Lent pervasiveness here until recently, and it is very clearly targeted toward the Latino market. Ads for fish products are disproportionately in both English and Spanish. (I was in a Wendy’s just this weekend where the fish sandwich was the only menu item with Spanish text.)

    So at least in this part of the country, the availability of choices for Lent is targeted toward the Latino community.

  44. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @ElizabethD: Who said I was an Athiest? I just think all religious groups are self-rightous balls of fluff.

  45. Nick says:

    Now, if only KFC had given up rodent for lent…

  46. ElizabethD says:

    @Nemesis_Enforcer: OK, you may or may not be an atheist; but in any case you’re missing my point. I’ll rephrase:

    “Breaking! Anti-religion ‘prankster’ shocks Lenten diners by eating meat! Observant Catholics take to streets to protest! Details at 11.”

  47. Techguy1138 says:


    You don’t really seem to care but I’ll respond anyway.

    Not eating meat on fridays creates a cultural identity among cathloics by removing an important part of their diet one day a week. The point is a shared experience of a ‘lesser’ life to give a sense of perspective and make spirtiual choices a greater part of your life.

    You can make any sacrifice that you want so long as it has signifiance. My girlfriend already doesn’t eat meat, so she had to choose something different. She doesn’t get a free ride because she is following the rules to the letter.

    Religion can be very good but one has to take the time to understand why things are the way they are. As far as I have seem Catholicism is one of the more flexible religions in this aspect. It’s all about spirtual growth just as any religion is.

  48. FLConsumer says:

    To those who find my comments upsetting, and to anyone who believes in any religion, I urge you to read the books/documents upon which the religion is founded.

    A (now ex-)mormon friend was shocked at what she found in the Doctrine and Covenants of her religion. Likewise, I was born Catholic, went to Catholic school all the way through high school. Did the alter boy thing, worked in the Catholic HS & church office…so I was privy to many of the happenings. Safe to say, things behind the scenes weren’t what I would call truthful, honest, nor honourable. That is what lead me to read the bible for myself. I’d come across things which I didn’t understand or were in conflict with Catholic traditions (repetitive prayers, praying to saints, indulgences, etc) and the priests weren’t able to provide me with reasonable explanations as to the difference between Scripture and the church’s practices. One of the priests even said I SHOULDN’T be reading the bible and that “everything you need” is covered in the mass. I’ve since found a church, which happens to be non-Cathloic, where open discussion and the questioning of beliefs is not only entertained but is actually encouraged.

    I’m not saying I’ve found THE religion/church and the rest are wrong. Instead, I want to encourage people to do something any smart consumer should do — read the fine print. In the case of religions, that would be their scriptures and doctrine.