The Fall of Fast Food and Rise of the Fast Veggie

veggie_fast_casual.JPGFast Food is getting shaken up: Chipotle’s “fast casual” is growing ever popular while sales at McDonald’s are declining. The food movement is happening. Growing awareness of the health risks of eating trans-fatty, sugar-laden, processed food, and the environmental, human health, and ethical impacts of eating industrially produced meat is pushing people to want healthier and more sustainable options. Yet, our cultural work-til-you-drop milieu doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon. The market is ripe (pun intended) for the Fast Veggie! We’ll let the marketers come up with a better slogan, but folks are already seizing the opportunity. For instance the celebrity chef Jose Andrés and his Washington, D.C., based Think Food Group have laid big plans to open up a veggie-heavy fast-casual restaurant called Beefsteak on the campus of George Washington University.Lavanya Ramanathan of the Washington Post reported earlier this month:

Early next year, Andrés will join the constellation of famous chefs across the country who are launching fast-casual restaurants. Well aware of the landscape of fast-casuals around him in Washington, he’s staking out terrain that can be his alone: He will open a fast-food eatery that is vegetable-focused. And then, if all goes well, perhaps he will open a hundred more.”

The GWU press release describes the name and the menu:

The restaurant takes its name from the beefsteak tomato, but the tongue-in-cheek reference is also meant to imply that vegetables can be just as filling as meat. To that end, the menu is built around a hearty selection of vegetables.

Beefsteak will serve meal-sized bowls of warm grains paired with flash-prepared vegetables and house made sauces. Patrons also can top off their bowls with extra protein. Though there will be a number of composed bowls, the menu is designed to mix-and-match ingredients to taste.”

We’re thrilled to imagine college students shedding the pizza and fries and loading up on a veggie bowl between classes and we envision Andrés’ dream of “opening a hundred more Beefsteaks” fulfilling itself very soon.

In the meantime, if you are hankering for something a little less veggie but still not so meaty, there are plenty of alternatives out there being developed to fulfill that same ethos that is pushing people away from meat. Kristina Johnson of Civil Eats explains that the local food scene is not just for veggies and pasture-raised meat; there are a growing number of “artisanal, local and small-batch” meat substitute outfits to feed those who are questioning their carnivory. Johnson highlights two such businesses: No Evil Foods, from Asheville, NC, and Tomato Sushi in Silicon Valley, CA. Learn more about their ventures and their savvy in capturing this progressive and lucrative market.

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