Bareburger found success serving the plant-based Impossible Burger in half of its locations, but to sustain a standalone vegan concept, the menu has to go much deeper than a basic burger.
— Kristen Hawley
Bareburger, the fast-casual 46-unit fast-casual chain based in New York City, has announced plans to open an entirely vegan concept in spring 2018. The centerpiece of the menu will likely be the Impossible Burger: a breakthrough product in the plant-based food industry. Produced by Google Ventures-backed Impossible Foods, it replicates the texture, smell, taste and even the appearance of ground beef – its hallmark feature is that it “bleeds” just like a beef burger. Its not-so-secret ingredient is heme, a molecule abundant in blood that gives blood (and meat) its red color. The heme in the Impossible Burger, though, comes from plants, where it’s found in much smaller concentrations.
Bareburger has some experience with the concept — and popularity — of offering purely vegan dishes. It became the first multi-unit chain to serve the Impossible Burger, offering the menu option at its flagship store near NYU in March 2017 as part of a one-month promotion. It immediately became a customer favorite, increasing traffic and accounting for 20 percent of all burger orders. The promotion was extended indefinitely, and after four months of steadily increasing sales it was gradually rolled out to an additional 25 locations. Bareburger plans to make it a permanent menu addition at all its locations worldwide once Impossible Foods is able to meet demand.
Impossible Foods in the process of rapidly scaling production. Their new manufacturing facility in East Oakland, California will allow them to make 250 times more Impossible Burgers than they are currently producing.
While the Impossible Burger is buzzy and only growing in popularity, Bareburger has no plans of making its vegan concept a one trick pony. R&D is underway on products utilizing other popular meat alternatives such as jackfruit, Also on the table is lab-grown meat, a controversial product in vegan circles: while manufacturers tout it as being a sustainable and cruelty-free product, lab-grown meat cultures require fetal bovine serum, an extract made from the refined blood of cow fetuses.
The plant-based food industry has seen exponential growth, seeing a growth of 8.7 percent over the past two years, outpacing the 3.7 percent growth seen by the general food sector. Currently a $3.5 billion industry, plant-based products and concepts are no longer being viewed as items exclusive to health food stores, nor depending on niche concepts catering to diets or even fads.
Bareburger culinary director, Jonathan Lemon, presented the news at NRN’s MUFSO conference last week.“The future is here and meat will play a smaller role in years to come,” he told Nation’s Restaurant News. “Bareburger is committed to not getting left behind and leading the industry in not only great burgers, but in plant-based offerings as well.” The company estimates that the new restaurant will open in five months, though its name and location have not been announced.