Meat is no longer a requirement for burgers, as plant-based options, like the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger, rise in popularity.
Chicago restaurants are betting that meat-loving Midwesterners will opt for a veggie burger in disguise.
A new group of plant-based burgers that are made to mimic the taste and texture of real beef burgers — in some cases, they even “bleed” beet juice — was introduced at a handful of Chicago burger restaurants over the summer.
Restaurants have tried veggie burgers on their menus before with limited success, and big chains, like McDonald’s, have largely discontinued veggie burger offerings due to lack of sales.
But players in the latest plants-imitating-meat trend say that the new crop of veggie burgers is finding success where others have not. The reason? The burgers, many of which are made by leading purveyors of plant-based protein like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, are aimed at meat eaters as well as vegetarians. They provide a substitute for the the taste and texture of meat for those who crave it, while also allowing vegetarians or vegans an option that resembles the meals of their meat-eating friends.
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They cost at least $1 more than beef versions at local restaurants, but chain operators say plant-based burgers are incredibly popular, and in some cases outpace traditional burgers in sales. That’s especially important in a crowded and competitive restaurant industry, especially among so-called fast-casual restaurants.
David Friedman, the founder of Chicago chain Epic Burger, was the first to bring a meatlike plant burger to Chicago’s diners in July. He said the launch came after a “search for a decent veggie burger, which we never found.”