I love road trips. There’s no better way to travel than by watching new landscapes roll by through a car window. But the downfall of every road trip I’ve ever taken occurs around lunchtime. While the middle-of-nowhere fast food joints hit all of my carnivore friends’ eating needs, these same establishments aren’t as beloved by those of us with vegan and vegetarian diets. As more big-name fast food giants and even new franchise up-and-comers add plant-based fare to their menus, however, the vegetarian’s eating dilemma could be a dilemma no more.
In Deli Market News’ own backyard, fast food joint The Burger Patch has drawn quite the crowd with a Beyond Burger doctored up with a super-secret Patch sauce. I tapped the man behind the vision, Phil Horn, to pick his brain on the plant-based craze and to find out more about what very well could be the next big foodie destination in California’s farm-to-fork capital (Sacramento!).
“My wife and I have been vegan for a while now—a decision we made for reasons like health, the ethics of animal welfare, and sustainability. When we first made the switch, our biggest challenge was eating on the go. Not to mention, we were nostalgic for the fast food lifestyle,” Phil shared with me. “We missed the convenience and nostalgia of enjoying a burger in the car, which is why we started playing around with the idea of opening a plant-based fast food restaurant.”
A partnership with Beyond Meat in 2017 helped Burger Patch lock down its core menu item, and the rest grew from there. That same year, Burger Patch hosted a pop-up that served the first Beyond Burger to almost 1,000 Sacramentans, by Phil’s count. Now, Burger Patch is a bona fide fast food restaurant in the heart of Sacramento’s Midtown that has grown alongside the plant-based frenzy.
“Plant-based food is so hot right now because it speaks to so many key trends with consumers, like sustainability, convenience, and nostalgia. If you can provide people with an option that leans into their busy lifestyles and that still tastes good, I think you’ve got something that people will want to eat,” Phil explained. “Now, we see Burger Patch as a gateway for people who are veg-curious or haven’t yet tried vegan burgers.”
The fast food sector is here to stay, but what Burger Patch and other brands are doing is ensuring that the future of fast food is less polarizing—on a realm of issues. This has the potential of transforming the sector into one in which all consumers can enjoy for generations to come.
We as an industry are at an interesting crossroads at the moment, with sustainability being one of the biggest topics of discussion among food providers, retailers, and foodservice operators. As companies like Burger Patch continue to work toward a solution—and one in which flavor doesn’t fall by the wayside—I only anticipate the plant-based category changing for the better alongside traditional deli and dairy categories. I asked Phil what he foresees for plant-based, and he anticipates it staying very much at the front of consumer consciousness.
“The plant-based category isn’t slowing down anytime soon,” Phil confirmed. “Those who don’t offer plant-based items will quickly become the minority. These items will also become more convenient and affordable, and ultimately reach a broader audience.”
As we continue to navigate what it means to be sustainable and innovative food providers, Deli Market News will continue to bring you the latest from our industry’s pioneers.