NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- What's happening in small business today? 1. Fast-food restaurants are using Lent to innovate. While Lent may be a boon for eateries serving primarily nonmeat dishes, such as seafood and vegetarian restaurants, it serves up a challenge for fast foods in which menu items are primarily red-meat focused.
Some fast-food restaurants are using the Catholic holiday, which officially starts Wednesday and continues for six weeks until Easter, as an opportunity to introduce items. Operators should follow the road paved by a McDonald's ( MCD) franchisee when he introduced its Filet-O-Fish in 1962 for his Catholic customers. The item now sits on the menu year-round. "Alienating those who observe Lent on your menu could result in slower sales during this period," one industry consultant told QSR Magazine, "as well as ultimately create customer dissatisfaction in the long term." 2. Leadership tips for tough times. What does it take to lead a small business through economic malaise? Entrepreneur provided a roundup of the important traits for entrepreneurs in 2012, including giving credit where credit is due to employees and using clear communication to share important news, strategies or changes. By keeping employees in the loop you will earn their trust and be able to give them a sense of empowerment so they are not in the dark about where their company is heading. Also, make sure you keep your cool. "The days when being a screamer worked are long gone. If workers are worried whether you're in a good mood today or not, little gets done," the article says. You can also lead by example as George Washington did in his time. 3. Is now a good time to buy a franchise? As the franchise industry shows signs of recovery, now may be a good time to buy in. On Long Island, N.Y., there are certainly some bright spots in business and personal services and the health care sector, according to an article in Newsday. Long Island is attractive for its affluent demographics and proximity to New York City. Consumers are also quick to accept new concepts, such as Red Mango and other self-serve frozen yogurt chains. Home-based franchises are becoming increasingly popular due to their low entry costs. Business services such as coaching and tax preparation and home maintenance are among the best start-ups these days. -- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York. To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com. To follow Laurie Kulikowski on Twitter, go to: http://twitter.com/#!/LKulikowski