The Filet-O-Fish Is More Important To McDonald's Than You Thought

You know that co-worker who's been in his job for longer than anyone can remember? And he's not especially great at it, but he's not so terrible that he draws any attention to himself either? He doesn't go to any new trainings, or pitch in for the birthday fund, or ever really try that hard. In fact, you might be starting to wonder if he has some kind of information on the boss that has kept him in play all these years, because otherwise it makes no sense that he's still around. You know that guy? McDonald's Filet-O-Fish is kinda like that.

Big Macs are obviously the cool kid in town, and chicken nuggets are the workhorses. You can even understand why chicken sandwiches are so important to McDonald's, kind of like a gang of hipsters providing an alternative lifestyle to the burgers most people pop in for. But believe it or not, the sole (sorry) fish option on the McDonald's menu has been essential to the restaurant's success since 1963, and no matter how long it has been since you had one — or how non-essential you think it may be — the Filet-O-Fish may be the lynchpin of the entire McDonald's operation (via Smithsonian Magazine).

Filet-O-Fish saves the day, is here to stay

As it happens, the Filet-O-Fish was added to the menu because the founder of McDonald's best friend happened to be a fish, who was angry about the lack of representation in a fast food world composed primarily of beef and chicken. Just kidding — it was about money. A McDonald's franchisee in Ohio noticed weekend sales plummeting each spring, when his 87 percent Catholic constituency honored Lent by abstaining from meat each Friday of the season. He proposed a meatless alternative, and the rest is history (via Reader's Digest).

Actually, not quite. The founder himself, Ray Kroc, was skeptical of the fish idea. (He thought it was a bit...suspect.) Apparently Kroc was under the distinctly ridiculous impression that customers might prefer a "Hula Burger," which was essentially pineapple and cheese on a bun. Fortunately for everyone, cooler heads prevailed (i.e. the Filet-O-Fish performed way better in a taste test) and the fish sandwich we know and love today was added to the menu, as reported by Reader's Digest. And since Lent is still a thing, and the BBC reports that plant-based diets are on the rise, the Filet-O-Fish, like your rather inefficient work colleague, probably isn't going anywhere.