All fast food will eventually become vegan, a leading plant-based restaurateur has said, after Burger King trialled making one of its flagship restaurants completely meat-free.
The Burger King outlet in Leicester Square, London, has been offering only vegan food for a month to test its popularity. This includes a plant-based version of its Whopper burger, as well as a “chicken” katsu burger and vegan nuggets.
Burger King said it would reintroduce meat options at Leicester Square but was exploring rolling out some of the most popular dishes from the trial in branches nationwide. In the meantime, the Vegan Royale, Vegan Nuggets and Plant-based Whopper will remain on the menu across all restaurants as standard, it said.
James Lewis, who works in marketing and product development for the vegan restaurant 123V on Bond Street, London, said this was part of a growing trend.
Lewis, who with the French chef Alexis Gauthier runs two fully vegan restaurants in London, said: “What we were looking for was to appeal to everyone in a family, a group of friends, people who weren’t vegan to begin with. We call [the vegan burger] a gateway dish, something someone is easily familiar with.”
He hoped that meat-eating friends of vegans would visit the restaurant, try its vegan burger and realise it was just as nice as a regular one – and perhaps make that swap more frequently in future.
Because much of the meat in fast-food dishes is processed, in a sauce or under a layer of condiments and cheese, vegan options have been relatively easy to substitute. When Greggs launched a vegan sausage roll in 2019, many commented that the meaty, herby mush contained within the crisp pastry was almost indistinguishable from the real thing. The chain has since made a vegan version of its popular sausage, bean and cheese melt.
“Fast food is 100% the best area to switch to vegan,” Lewis said, adding: “The chains are often sneered at by people but they are setting the trends here. There’s no point starting a vegan chain because once McDonald’s figure out how to make a good vegan burger, they will think: ‘What’s the point in the cost of keeping all these animals when we can make it just as good and grow it in the ground?’
“Not too long from now, people will be getting their burger and it’ll be a vegan one and that’ll be the norm and they won’t think any different.”
Burger King has set a target of a 50% meat-free menu by 2030.
However, the chain’s decision to turn its Leicester Square branch vegan has caused some controversy. Dominique Samuels, a commentator for the rightwing broadcaster GB News, accused the chain of being “manipulative”.
She said: “It’s extremely manipulative. It’s right where all of the clubs are and hungry drunk people, for example, won’t have many options. Burger King has been there for as long as I can remember. So it’s basically trying to force people into consuming chemically enhanced fake meat.”
Lewis said he did not agree with this assessment, adding: “I don’t think Burger King is trying to trick anyone … they’ve painted the whole thing green and put in 6ft-long letters ‘meat free’.
“A lot of people are terrified of looking at themselves in the mirror and seeing the world being changed and having their morals questioned.”