American chain restaurants have long treated vegetarian and vegan dining as a niche market, but California-based Veggie Grill wants to change that. The company is looking into major nationwide expansion, reports Nation's Restaurant News, with the goal of serving meatless cuisine to herbivores and meat-eaters alike.
Veggie Grill believes the time to strike is now, because this country's diners are open to, even preferring, meals where meat isn't a focus. Add that attitude to a modern fast-casual concept, which has proven wildly successful for companies such as Shake Shack and Chipotle (before its disastrous 2015), and Veggie Grill chief energizing officer Greg Dollarhyde believes his company is a winner.
"Many people ask me if there are enough vegetarians to go to Veggie Grill," Dollarhyde told NRN. "But 70 percent to 80 percent of any of our restaurants' business is not vegetarian. We don't expect you to come to Veggie Grill all the time. You'll go have your fish sandwiches or burgers, but you'll come to Veggie Grill on your rotation. We get people who just want to eat in the better-for-you space. This is a theme in America, now, I think."
The chain currently operates 29 locations on the traditionally vegan-friendly West Coast, but Veggie Grill's expansion plans call for a push into big markets in the Midwest and South, which aren't exactly known for plant-based, healthy eating. Future outposts for Veggie Grill could land in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Miami, and Washington, D.C.
In its mission statement, Veggie Grill says it sees "every season as an opportunity to celebrate [vegetables] at the center of your plate," and it views customers "not as a diet, but as a person." If the company's track record is any indication, Dollarhyde told NRN he sees a bright future.
"If you told me five years ago we'd have a restaurant doing $2.7 million serving vegan food, I would have laughed," he said.