Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts

The Commercialization of Lent?

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!

  • ChrisB

    I never really thought about it being commercialization so much as just filling a need (though, I acknowledge the difference is slight). Most restaurants seem to increase their fish offerings during Lent. I don’t observe Lent, but I look forward to it for that reason.

  • Mark Roberts

    Chris: I was struck by the promotion part, and just the irony of a sign that mentioned “Lent Promo.”

  • Bill Goff

    This is indeed an alarming development. Next thing you know somebody will commercialize Christmas!

  • Mark D. Roberts

    Bill: Touché.

  • Joshua

    Hmmm….I wonder if there is a way to commercialize fasting? Oh….that’s right: Jenny Craig.

  • In the Blogosphere ? Kingdom People

  • Nan

    I live in the Chicago area which is heavily Catholic and for many years, many restaurants have offered egg and pepper sandwiches on Fridays. This includes many fast food restaurants.

  • Mark Goodyear

    “It was tasty, but not too tasty for Lent.” That made me laugh.
    Regarding Bill’s comment: after the excesses of Christmas, giving up shopping for Lent seems completely natural to me. But then, I’m a guy.

  • Rob Bullock

    I’m just encouraged that enough people still celebrate lent that restaurants still take notice.

  • Ted Olsen

    Not really new, though, is it? Taco Bell has been promoting itself as the Lenten alternative (“Great Taste During Lent!”) for years, and last year KFC tried to get the Pope to bless its “Fish Snacker” sandwich for lent. Now THAT’S brazen.

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