Meet the players in the emerging niche of plant-based fast food

It’s burgers, shakes and fries — with no animals involved. Who does it better, Los Angeles or New York City?


Nation's Restaurant News

Aug 01, 2022


Southern California is the cradle of American fast food. The model of a quick-service menu built around classic burgers, shakes and fries was born here and carried around the world by iconic brands like McDonald’s, In-N-Out Burger, Jack in the Box and Carl’s Jr.


Now a new niche is emerging of fast food that is very much like the iconic brands that still serve burgers, shakes and fries — only this new batch of contenders have no animal products on the menu at all.


Plant-based fast food is not a new idea. Concepts have been popping up all over the country for years, fueled in part by the growing popularity of products like Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat. Most national meat-serving restaurant chains offer plant-based alternatives. Burger King this year expanded its Impossible burger lineup, while McDonald’s recently wrapped a test of the McPlant with Beyond Meat patties. No word yet on a potential rollout.


But Southern California — and Los Angeles, in particular — has become a hotbed, with a number of entirely plant-based concepts taking root and planning national domination. There are also a number of emerging concepts growing in New York City.


Most of these concepts are franchising or plan to soon. Most have built their menus around the Impossible or Beyond burgers — or both — though some use proprietary protein alternatives. Menus also include other brand partners that have become increasingly popular in the meat-avoiding world, including Tindle or Daring chicken alternatives, Just Egg and Oatly or Ripple-based shakes.


Unlike their meat-based fast-food counterparts, this niche of plant-based concepts all boast a supporting cast of house-made sauces, sides and desserts. Common themes are menus that are free of soy, nuts, gluten, or genetically modified ingredients.


The plant-based food market enjoys some eye-popping global projections...


more, including charts