In August this year, a former Burger King restaurant in Encinitas, California, was taken over by another company which continued to serve burgers, fries and shakes via the drive-thru window. There was one major difference though: the items on the menu are all vegan.
Plant Power Fast Food moved into the premises previously occupied by the fast-food giant to open its second location after the successful launch of its flagship store in Ocean Beach, San Diego, just 18 months earlier in January, 2016.
Founders Jeffrey Harris, Zach Vouga and Mitch Wallis started Plant Power Fast Food to combat the impact that the consumption of animal products has had on the health of millions of Americans by providing a plant-based fast-food alternative. “The fast-food industry has successfully answered a need by providing a convenient way to get our meals on the go while at the same time delivering a consistent taste experience. The downside is that, by and large, this type of food isn’t very good for you,” says Harris. “Our goal has been to inspire people to begin to ask themselves some important questions about where our food comes from and perhaps to begin to think differently about their choices. But we’re not doing it in a way that’s preachy or confrontational.”
As well as containing no animal ingredients, the comfort food dishes on offer at Plant Power Fast Food are also free from cholesterol, GMO, artificial colorings, flavorings and preservatives, thereby appealing to people who want healthier fast-food options. “We’re really a plant-based, healthier version of McDonald’s, In & Out, Burger King, Wendy’s or Jack in the Box,” says Harris.
It’s a concept that’s proving to be popular, as demonstrated by a successful equity crowdfunding campaign in April this year that raised close to $400,000, as well as the company’s sales figures. In its first year, the Ocean Beach location turned over $1.1 million, with the second year tracking at $1.8 million by close of December 2017. Meanwhile, according to Harris, the newly opened Encinitas location is tracking $2.2 million for its first year, and the number of customers served by both restaurants by the end of the second year is estimated to be more than 1 million.
“Although we were only open for 11 months and six days in 2016, our San Diego location far exceeded our 12-month sales projections. That location is expected finish the second year of operations with growth of over 63% from the first year,” says Harris.
And here’s the kicker: It’s not vegans or vegetarians who are responsible for the company’s success. According to Harris, the vast majority of customers are “omnivores who want to try something new”.
Even though the company initially focused on opening in Southern California, the plan is to expand nationwide, eventually transitioning to a franchise model. “At the present time, our brand is apparently a bit bigger than our business and we regularly get requests to franchise our restaurants from all over the US and the world. The extraordinary interest is reflective of a big change in our society; one that we hope to be part of,” says Harris.
In the short term the company is in the process of completing a commissary which will allow it to centralize food production and distribute to locations throughout Southern California. It’s also actively scouting for locations in the Inland Empire, Orange County and Los Angeles County and hopes to put two or three new restaurants into development in the next six to eight months. “As we expand our company infrastructure we feel that it will be easier to expand more rapidly and we’d like to be able to open several locations a year within the next 24 months,” says Harris.