Who Knew? A Cincinnati man invented a fish sandwich to save his floundering McDonald's franchise

CINCINNATI - The Tri-State is home to many fascinating facts, offbeat oddities, and "I did not know that," moments. With that in mind, we introduce this new weekly feature. Read on to find out how you can submit an idea for "Who Knew?"

  • What is it? McDonald's Filet-O-Fish was invented in Cincinnati
  • Where can I find it? Any McDonald's location in the United States
  • Who knew? Lauren Church, McDonald’s Restaurants of Greater Cincinnati

This year marks the 52nd anniversary of McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich, a popular item that wasn't originally on the menu.

Created right here in Cincinnati, the idea was not only was the first-ever addition to the restaurant's original menu, it also saved the Tri-State's first McDonald's franchise when it was floundering.

Q&A with Lauren Church

1. Who invented the Filet-O-Fish?

Ray Groen, who opened his first McDonald's restaurant in 1959 in Monfort Heights.

2. What ingredients did he use?

Groen developed a special batter for his fish and made his own tartar sauce. The original recipe used halibut and was later switched to cod.

3. How did he convince McDonald's headquarters to put his sandwich on the menu?

Groen took his sandwich to headquarters to participate in a sales competition against company founder, Ray Kroc, who had just invented the Hula Burger: a slice of pineapple on a bun.

Both were offered at a restaurant for one day, and whichever sold the most would be permanently added to the menu. Groen's recipe won by a boatload, by selling 350 Filet-O-Fish.

4. Out of all the different types of sandwiches, why fish?

In his third year of business, Groen noticed his franchise was struggling during Lent. Based in a predominantly Catholic community, his clientele abstained from eating meat during this 40-day period. Consequently, his customers headed over to competing restaurants that offered fish alternatives.

With over 300 million sandwiches consumed each year, Groen's invention of the Filet-O-Fish ultimately saved his restaurant. His son and grandson continue to operate McDonald's franchises in Northern Kentucky to this day. 

Check back next Tuesday for another edition of "Who Knew?" If you have an tip, idea or question email: holly.edgell@wcpo.com.

Connect with WCPO Contributor Paige E. Malott on Twitter: @Paigetastic01 , and check out her blog CincyWhimsy.com

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