Through Project Pollo, a plant-based chicken fast casual dining chain featuring an entirely vegan menu, entrepreneur and founder Lucas Bradbury aims to make animal-free meat alternatives mainstream by opening 100 shops all across the United States within four years. The catch? He only takes over fast food chain store locations.
Kansas-based Bradbury had worked as a high-level executive with several traditional fast food companies including Hunt Brothers Pizza, Pizza Hut and Wing Stop. When he saw that traditional fast food chains were facing closures due to the pandemic, Bradbury, a vegan for the past four years, saw an opportunity to replace them with a cruelty-free concept.
He set up the first Project Pollo store in Texas in September 2020, right in the midst of the pandemic, in order to offer consumers vegan versions of sandwiches, strips, wraps, mac and cheese, and many more. On World Vegan Day, the shop served 1,600 vegan chicken sandwiches to customers, and riding on this success and demand, Bradbury plans to grow his animal-free products to reach wider audiences. Today, he has five locations in San Antonio and Austin and plans to have 12 over the course of 12 months across the State, most specifically in the Dallas and Houston areas. By 2024, he aims to have 100 shops across the country.
Each shop replaces a former fast-food restaurants. His most recent opening took over a former Jack-in-the-Box. For the next two location, the company plans to displace a Subway and a Church’s Chicken in April and May respectively. This coming spring, Project Pollo will open in a former Carl’s Jr.
So far, Project Pollo has been met with an enthusiastic response. In an interview with Veg News, Bradbury, who is also the co-founder of cocktail concepts Jet Setter and Pastiche, said: “We have seen a lot of businesses surrounding us that have lost everything, and it hurts. But we have also been fortunate to see some national chains shutter locations which give us the opportunity to try the alternative and save thousands of chicken lives every day.”
We have seen a lot of businesses surrounding us that have lost everything, and it hurts. But we have also been fortunate to see some national chains shutter locations which give us the opportunity to try the alternative and save thousands of chicken lives every dayLucas Bradbury, Founder of Project Pollo
Bradbury further believes that vegan meat can be equally delicious and affordable, much like traditional meat, with the added benefits that it is being sustainable. “The future of consumption is without a doubt in plant-based foods; modern consumption favors such. [Fast-food] concepts are all at a pivotal point and must either adapt to the market, or step aside and let Project Pollo take over.”
Apart from its ‘make vegan meat mainstream’ mission, the shop ensures that it pays its employees higher than the regulated minimum wage. In addition, Project Pollo has initiatives in place such as the Original Project, whereby for each chicken sandwich sold, US$1 sales is donated to animal welfare charities. Bradbury also supports Free People Project, which aims to make plant-based food affordable and accessible for everyone. Through the pay-what-you-can item, customers can pay US$5.50 per sandwich, meaning that it not only includes your payment but also pays it forward for the next two people who can’t afford the meals.
The future of consumption is without a doubt in plant-based foods; modern consumption favors such. [Fast-food] concepts are all at a pivotal point and must either adapt to the market, or step aside and let Project Pollo take overLucas Bradbury, Founder of Project Pollo
The company’s aggressive expansion is underscored by Bradbury’s drive to displace as many meat businesses as possible. “Right now we are on pace to save more than one million chickens this year from being slaughtered and by doing so at scale, we can really challenge the system. I’m making it a priority to start shutting down Chick-fil-A’s, one of the largest U.S. chicken fast-food chains because there is an alternative and you do not have to sacrifice quality—we call it ‘challenging chicken.”
The alternative protein industry is showing explosive growth in the fast food space. For instance, recently, U.K.-based movement Veganuary’s co-founder Mathew Glover’s vegan fried chicken brand called VFC raised a total of GBP£2.5M (approx. US$3.4M) round of seed funding that will help the company scale its production of meat alternatives.
The Good Food Institute, a non-profit that tracks and supports the industry, recently published data that highlighted the sector’s growth, as it reached an all-time high with US$3.1 billion invested into the industry in just the last year.
Lead image courtesy of Project Pollo.