It's a big win for Impossible Foods, positioning it as one of the startups to beat when it comes to plant-based proteins in the industry.
— Erika Adams
White Castle’s partnership with Impossible Foods, first announced last April, is moving out of its test phase. The Impossible Slider, White Castle’s plant-based take on the chain’s original, famous slider, will be available on every menu across all 377 White Castle locations starting today.
“Sales easily exceeded our expectations,” White Castle CEO Lisa Ingram said of the Impossible Slider test in a statement. When the partnership first rolled out five months ago, White Castle put the $1.99 Impossible Slider on menus in 140 restaurants across three different regions in New York, New Jersey, and Chicago.
Jamie Richardson, the vice president of White Castle, told Skift Table that leadership was looking for measures of success with the Impossible Slider from two audiences: the customers and White Castle employees. “Our customers were going to share their thoughts with us and vote with their dollars,” Richardson explained. When it came to White Castle’s team members, the executive team relied on hearing feedback from the company’s hundreds of general managers and those interacting with customers at the store level.
It helped, too, that Impossible Foods was willing to adjust their approach as needed to work with White Castle. “Initially, when we first launched the product, we would get it in large quantities and then the team members would portion it out,” Richardson said. Individually portioning out balls of the substance took up time, and each patty wasn’t always consistently the same size as the next. Eventually, Impossible Foods switched to shipping the fake meat to White Castle pre-portioned and ready to be cooked immediately.
“White Castle is teaching us how to popularize plant-based meat and become a mainstream, mass market menu item and cultural icon,” Impossible Foods’ founder and CEO Dr. Patrick O. Brown said in a statement.
Impossible Foods typically works with much smaller restaurant operations — the company’s flagship product, the Impossible Burger, debuted at David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi in 2016 — but partnerships like this are putting the product in front of an entirely different audience.
It’s a development that both sides see as a win. “This isn’t necessarily in [our customers’] neighborhoods and affordable,” Richardson said. “We’re built on the notion that, whatever level of prosperity, you should be able to enjoy the restaurant experience.” Restaurants can ask customers to spend $15 to $18 on an Impossible Burger elsewhere, but you can find the same non-meat meat (albeit shaped in much smaller, thinner patty) for $2 at White Castle.
Richardson declined to elaborate on whether there were more Impossible Foods’ menu items in development at White Castle, saying that the company was “very excited to get to this point” with the partnership. “We’re just focused on that, and how the initial response translates to the rest of our markets,” Richardson noted.