Mark D. Roberts

luby's lentWell, I never thought I’d see it. But, sure enough, somebody has figured out how to commercialize Lent. Amazing.
Luby’s Cafeteria, founded in San Antonio, now based in Houston, is making a run at a Lenten promotion. As I was driving by their restaurant in Kerrville, their sign caught my attention. In fact, I wasn’t sure if I read it correctly, so I doubled back to check. Sure enough. There it was in bold letters: TRY OUR LENT PROMO – LEMON BASIL TILAPIA – CHICKEN CORDON BLEU.
luby's lent signFor those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Tilapia is a light fish. I can imagine a Lemon Basil Tilapia that actually tastes rather Lenten: simple, basic, healthy. I’m a little less convinced about the Chicken Cordon Bleu, however. This is a rather rich dish that combines chicken, ham, and cheese. If you’re looking for a Lenten lunch at Luby’s, I’d stick with the Tilapia.
And, that is exactly what I did. I took my colleague Steven to Luby’s yesterday for a bit of Lenten cuisine. He tried the Chicken Cordon Bleu; I went with the Tilapia. It was tasty, but not too tasty for Lent.
I did a bit of Googling and was surprised to find that Luby’s Lenten promotion seems to be working. An article on investing highlighted Luby’s, noting that:

In addition, Luby’s has enjoyed 10 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth, an unusual distinction among restaurant chains at the moment. This success could stem partly from Luby’s clever promotions, such as fish during Lent; . . .

So, there you go.
I don’t know how much potential there is for Lenten marketing. Let’s face it, the commercial possibilities of Lent are limited. How do you sell your product in a season that emphasizes renunciation? I suppose one could sell purple clothing, since purple is the liturgical color for Lent. I expect there’s a small market for Lenten devotionals. Still, Lent is a tough sell. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if some people give up shopping for Lent (shopping for inessentials, that is).
I must confess that I’m not terribly thrilled about the commercializaiton of Lent. But let me also confess that I’m impressed with Luby’s unusual creativity. It takes American ingenuity to find a way to make a few extra bucks in Lent, a season that encourages the opposite of consumption and materialism. Go figure!

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