Down to Earth
Pioneering San Antonio vegan fast-food chain poised for national expansion
Despite the seeming uniformity of fast food, tides of public opinion about it are constantly changing. From the initial innovation, to commodification, to general mistrust, ironic obsession, and a genuine desire to enjoy something simple and ubiquitous, vegans have mostly been watching from the sidelines.
Earth Burger, the small San Antonio restaurant chain founded in 2014 that claims to have been the United States’ “first-ever plant-based fast food restaurant,” has placed a bid on the greater fast-food economy with a national expansion. The burger joint will move through the franchising process with help from Sinelli Concepts International, a Dallas group which operates and shares a founder with Which Wich Superior Sandwiches.
Sinelli Concepts and its investee Earth Burger know the market is there for franchises after receiving “hundreds of inquiries” from individuals and companies, many of whom have demonstrated experience in restaurants. A launch party on November 10 in San Antonio will invite others interested in franchising to gather information and get to know the business, from the food to the team. Attendees can also win prizes, from free Earth Burger for a year, to a full franchising fee ($30,000).
“Sinelli Concepts is proud to partner with a Texas-based brand that takes pride in offering customers accessible plant-based options,“ said founder Jeff Sinelli in a press release. “We’ve seen a trajectory of demand for plant-based food and more sustainable options. The future of fast food is here, and we know plant-based lovers and novices alike will enjoy Earth Burger’s flavorful offerings.”
The partnership initiated a complete rebranding, including unspecified changes to the menu, but the idea remains the same. The menu is meant to be very convenient — initially for co-founder Mike Behrend and his vegan collaborators’ kids — while remaining environmentally sustainable. And because Behrend, who used to be known for his chicken-fried steak, knows firsthand that none of this is useful if it doesn’t taste good, the restaurant places a heavy emphasis on flavor.
“As a Texan, I can strongly confirm meat is a central part of Texas food culture – but believe me when I tell you these burgers are just as tasty,” said Behrend in the release. “You’re not settling for an average bland fast food meal at Earth Burger. Our completely meatless menu features bold recipes and sauces we create in-house, bringing out the best flavor in our dishes. We want to provide a really delicious meal that just happens to be plant-based.”
Earth Burger makes it sustainability choices public on its website, with a list of sustainable products that it prefers to use when supply is available, including recycled and biodegradable materials. It also donates “a portion of sales from select menu items” to its Peach on Earth Project, according to a press release, although information about this foundation does not seem to be publicly accessible.
Space at the franchising event is limited. RSVP at earthburger.com, and have some info on hand to fill out the form.