A 33-year veteran of the lobster business in the Maritimes thinks he may have stumbled upon a way to help the struggling industry during a recent trip to a McDonald's drive-thru.
With a few culinary upgrades, Stewart Lamont thinks the fast food giant's McLobster sandwich could be the key to a brighter future for the restaurant and the fishery.
Lamont, who spent decades selling the Atlantic delicacy abroad and tasting various lobster dishes, says a recent culinary experience got him thinking.
He stopped at the McDonald's in Dartmouth, N.S., and was pleased to see the annual lobster promotion was on.
"Instead of ordering the Big Mac, I chose the McLobster and it kind of all went downhill from there," he said.
The sandwich, made of Atlantic lobster meat, diced celery, shredded lettuce and salad dressing, was "a little disappointing.
'It was a little disappointing. It was more McDismal than McLobster.' —Stewart Lamont, lobster industry veteran
"It was more McDismal than McLobster."
Lamont says the fast food meal left a bad taste in his mouth.
"In my view, we don't have a sustainable model," he said. "We can't ask harvesters to fish for $2.75 or $3 a pound so that I can buy a $6.79 McDonald's sandwich."
A slowing economy combined with a glut of lobster has been a one-two punch for Canadian fishermen this year. With this in mind, Lamont wrote McDonald's a letter, saying they should increase the price of the lobster sandwiches to support the industry.
He says making lobster accessible in fast food restaurants is a good thing, as long as it also tastes good.
"I suggested in my email to McDonald's that I was thinking of a mythical family from Michigan that comes to Nova Scotia and their first experience with lobster is the McLobster sandwich and would they ever contemplate a lobster dinner in one of our establishments or any lobster experience? I feared that they wouldn't."
At the Catch Urban Grill in Fredericton, executive chef Greg Godfrey serves up his own version of the iconic sandwich, which sells for $17, nearly three times the price of the McLobster.
But Godfrey says that's the value of quality.
"Lobster is a great industry for the Maritimes and we really need it and customers come here just for the lobster," he said. "we want to keep that going."
Lamont says his goal is for McDonald's to join the Lobster Council of Canada as formal stakeholders.
"More than anything I want them at the table," he said. "There is a great deal we can learn from McDonald's, I am sure. I'm hoping there's a little something that McDonald's can learn from us."
Lamont says McDonald's did show some interest in his ideas at first but that was over a month ago. He says he hasn't heard from them since then.
McDonald's only comment to CBC came in the form of email from Gema Rayo, national media relations manager: "McDonald’s Canada sources its lobster from High Liner. As experts in the space, we suggest you contact them."