Why Lent Is Big Business For Long John Silver's

Being a fast-food chain that features seafood, Long John Silver's considers the period of Catholic Lent a special time of year. After all, those observing the fast cannot eat meat at any time and seafood only on Fridays.

Naturally, then, Lent forms a focal point for the business. However, the centrality of it is best revealed in an exclusive James O'Reilly, CEO of Long John Silver's, gave to SeafoodSource: "We are expecting a good Lent. Last year, we sold more than two million pounds of seafood, and the fact that Lent is starting sooner is good for us." The Western Christian demographic is so important that the company as a whole measures their possible fortune according to when the date of Easter is calculated in any given year.   

In more concrete terms, a 2018 piece from Business Wire explains that, in 2017, Long John Silver's saw a 130% increase in sales on Ash Wednesday, a 107% increase on the first Friday of Lent, and an 84% increase on the Lenten Fridays that followed. The vegetarian or vegan strictures under which the faithful go through the period lapses on Fridays, releasing the pent desire for flesh. Of course, Long John Silver's would keep an eye out for these days!

The rest of the industry attempts to wrest sales

When January shed its dates and became February, the rest of the Industry was very aware of the impending Lenten period.

"Lent is very important ... especially after a hard winter," John Gordon, a restaurant analyst with Pacific Management Consulting Group, explained to Business Insider, the hard winter, of course, being the endless upheaval of the pandemic. So, various brands vied with Long John Silver's and McDonald's, which had introduced the Fillet o' Fish to appeal to the fasting demographic in 1963.

However, as Restaurant Business reported, Long John Silver's had lost the last weeks of their lucrative period in 2020 due to the onset of the pandemic, and so it had rallied a management team to extract the most profits possible from this run through. While they may have benefited from the settling into a pandemic landscape during this Lent, the ever-encroaching competition seems set to reduce the customer base that fuels 20 percent of Long John Silver's annual earnings.

Between such a reliance on Lent as a period of profits and other brands growing wise to the profits, Long John Silver's may have some dark time ahead.