This is part of Nation’s Restaurant News' special coverage of the 2017 MUFSO conference, taking place Oct. 1-3 at the Hyatt Regency at Reunion Tower in Dallas. Follow coverage of the event on NRN.com and tweet with us using #MUFSO. Stay connected on the go by downloading the MUFSO app.
Bareburger plans to open a 100-percent vegan concept by next year, the company’s culinary director, Jonathan Lemon, told a “Future of Food” panel at the 2017 MUFSO conference in Dallas on Monday.
“There will not be a drop of meat in this restaurant,” Lemon told panel moderator and NRN Senior Food Editor Bret Thorn.
The New York-based burger chain has yet to decide on a name for the new concept, nor has a chef been selected to helm it, but Lemon tentatively expects it to be open in five months.
“The future is here and meat will play a smaller role in the years to come,” Lemon told NRN. “Bareburger is committed to not getting left behind and leading the industry in not only great burgers but plant-based offerings as well.”
Lemon added that his team is currently sourcing other potential meatless alternatives such as jackfruit, tempeh, tofu, textured wheat protein and lab-grown meat.
The addition of meatless alternatives signals a change for the brand, which built its name by incorporating exotic meats such as ostrich and boar in addition to traditional beef patties.
The initiative to slim down its protein options is an effort by Bareburger to boost efficiency and cut wait times in the brand’s 45 locations, Lemon told the panel.
He did not confirm what selections would be departing from the menu but said that bison would be safe due to its popularity.
Bareburger is introducing the Impossible Burger in all its U.S. locations in November, Lemon said. Impossible Foods brands their product as “the burger formerly known as plants,” and it has done well for Bareburger since its debut in March.
“It’s not cannibalizing anything,” Lemon said, adding that it’s been a sales driver where available and that many customers rotate it into their Bareburger consumption every few visits rather than eliminate their traditional meat purchases entirely.
The Impossible Burger is made with wheat protein, potato protein, coconut oil, carbohydrates from a Japanese jam called konjac, xanthan gum, natural flavors, vitamins and heme, a protein that’s abundant in red blood cells of animals, although Impossible Foods sources it from meatless sources.
The heme allows the patty to bleed as if it were a traditional meat burger.
“I think non-vegans are flocking to the impossible burger because it’s an awesome substitute,” Lemon told NRN after the panel. “As people become more aware of how sustainable plant-based diets are versus meat-based, they will naturally shift to more alternatives. Vegan food is getting better, but we feel that if we apply our culinary efforts to plant based diets we can serve a whole new demographic.”
Lemon went as far to suggest that within the century, people may cease eating meat all together.
“Eating meat will be in some back room parlor,” Lemon joked during the panel discussion, comparing futuristic meat consumption to sipping on alcoholic drinks in a prohibition-era speakeasy.
Lemon was joined on the panel by Steve Heeley, CEO of Veggie Grill which is based in Santa Monica, Calif. and currently holds 28 locations.
Heeley agreed with Lemon’s sentiments and said that his customer-base included a significant amount of meat eaters who were eager to add more vegetables into their diets.
“The old perception was that if you ate vegetarian food you had to give up flavor,” said Heeley.
He noted that younger customers such as millennials are less familiar with the vegetarian options of decades ago before the sub-sector was honed in terms of taste and variety.
Heeley says that this has helped foster a culture of “veggie positivity.”
Chad Newton, co-founder and culinary director at Asian Box Street Food, a nine-location brand based in Palo Alto, Calif. also joined the panel.
Asian Box specializes in curated box meals but Newton said that vegetarian options were important to his consumer base as well.
Contact Dan Orlando at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @DanAMX
The MUFSO Premier sponsor is The Coca Cola Company
Presenting sponsors are: Blount Fine Foods, The Coca Cola Company, UNiDAYS
Kitchen Hero Cook-Off is presented by Texas Pete/TW Garner Food Company
The Hot Concepts Reception is sponsored by Rock & Brews
The Industry Awards Gala is sponsored by Tyson Foods, Daiya Foods, Natural brands
Pillar sponsors are: Alchemy Systems, Bloom Intelligence, Boylan Bottling, Cardlytics, Mainstreet, Inc., Nudge Rewards, S&D Coffee, Smithfield Farmland Foodservice, Sweet Street, Weston Foods, Zenput
The MUFSO app sponsor is Steritech
Refreshment breaks are sponsored by Blount Fine Foods, Boylan Bottling, Royal Cup Coffee, Smithfield Farmland Foodservice, Sweet Street, Ventura Foods, and Weston Foods
The Supplier Exchange Luncheon is sponsored by Hale & Hearty, Bruce Cost Ginger Ale and Copper Moon Coffee
The Lanyard & Welcome package is sponsored by Hospitality Mints
MUFSO Breakfast sponsors are Moore’s Food Resources, Community Coffee and Natural Brands
VIP Dinner sponsored by Moment Feed, Pan Pacific Plastics and Rotella’s Bakery
The official music sponsor is Rockbot