KAI RYSSDAL: Today’s the first Friday of Lent. The period between Ash Wednesday and Easter during which many Catholics and some Protestants traditionally give up meat. To cash in on the season, the fast food giant KFC is rolling out a new fish sandwich. And the company’s asking for a little plug from on high. Marketplace’s Amy Scott reports.
AMY SCOTT: KFC’s president asked Pope Benedict to bless the new Fish Snacker sandwich. No reply yet. But Vatican historian Gerald Fogarty says good luck getting a papal endorsement.
GERALD FOGARTY: It’s like the policy in times of war where they remain impartial.
And it’s not like the fish business needs marketing help. Sales typically jump this time of year as the faithful give up meat. KFC’s sister company, the seafood chain Long John Silver’s, says the Lenten season is its busiest. Catholics make up about a quarter of the U.S. population. So they’ve got some buying power.
Amelia Nappa manages Cosentino’s Fish Market in Brooklyn. In her 19 years at the shop, she’s seen observance of Lent wax and wane with the times. Take the first Gulf War 16 years ago:
AMELIA NAPPA: We were very, very crowded. All through Lent. They came in every Wednesday and every Friday and bought fish. And I asked them — because, you know, some of them were new faces — and it was mainly their way of atoning, so that God hears them.
Nappa says business has picked up during this war, too. Trouble is, she says, when demand grows wholesalers raise their prices — so her shop does too.
In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.
RYSSDAL: You can forgive KFC’s parent, Yum Brands, for looking for some divine intervention. A New York news channel ran footage this morning of rats having a field day in one of the company’s restaurants in Greenwich Village. In December more than a hundred people got sick after eating E. Coli-tainted lettuce at one of their Taco Bells.
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