Meatless and fish-based menu options up during Lent

March 09 2015

During the 40 days between Shrove Tuesday and Easter, those observing Lent have a few dietary restrictions to heed - such as avoiding meat on Fridays - but that doesn't mean they can't eat out.

In fact, many restaurants have realised the importance of Lent to their customers and have decided to offer a variety of limited-edition menu items to ensure there are plenty of meat-free options to choose from.

Since fish and shellfish are suitable meat alternatives for those observing Lent, a number of restaurants have upped their seafood offering. For example, Technomic reports that fast-casual chains like Newk's Eatery, Pollo Tropical and Wayback Burgers are all serving additional seafood items. At Newk's, they've added ahi tuna and shrimp entrees. Pollo Tropical now offers grilled shrimp and Wayback Burgers will be serving two new fish and chips platters until the end of March.

Of course, most restaurants already offer menu items that are suitable for those observing Lent - so new dishes don't necessarily need to be added. Instead, operators could try to promote the options they already have. This would attract customers observing Lent, as well as those who just want to make healthier food choices, since meat is often seen as a more unhealthy option.

Technomic notes that Chipotle Mexican Grill now offers Sofritas - a tofu protein option. Burger joints also provide vegetarian options. For example, Shake Shack serves up a mushroom burger and Five Guys has a veggie sandwich on its menu.

Vegetable entrees are another option for those celebrating Lent, as well as customers who want to make healthier food choices. According to Technomic's MenuMonitor online resource, these dishes have grown in number by about three per cent since last year. 

One option that has seen a big increase in recent years is the vegetable bowl. These saw a nine per cent jump from the fourth quarter of 2013 to the same period in 2014. One example is the South American Bowl from the Bread Factory Cafe. It features organic quinoa, roasted corn, red onion, plum tomatoes, cucumber and avocado.