DON’T BE CHICKEN
Vegan fast-food restaurant roosts in North Austin with signature ‘chikn’
A high-flying plant-based fast-food chicken concept is spreading its wings — and sandwiches, wraps, and nuggets — in Austin.
San Antonio-based Project Pollo, founded in 2020 and following an aggressive expansion plan, will open its second Austin restaurant at 2438 Anderson Ln. on Tuesday, June 22.
Project Pollo, which also boasts a newish location in the Rosewood neighborhood, is a concept devised by vegan entrepreneur Lucas Bradbury, who aims to open 100 Project Pollo restaurants by 2024 and put fast-food chicken giant Chick-fil-A “out to pasture.”
But Bradbury’s not counting his vegan chicken restaurants before they’re hatched. Rather, he’s focused on steady, if impressively rapid, expansion, opening six other locations throughout Texas in the past year, including Project Pollo’s first Austin restaurant, as well as outposts in San Antonio and Dallas, and setting his sights on opening a total of 14 eateries by the end of this year, five of them in Texas in the Waco, Boerne, Houston, and Dallas markets.
And, carnivores, if you’ve ever stared down a meal of plant-based vegan meat and thought, “What the cluck?” Project Pollo may be the concept that wins you over to plant-based meat. In fact, according to the company, only about 20 percent of Project Pollo customers are vegan or vegetarian, with the remaining 80 percent falling into a category Project Pollo refers to as “plant curious.”
Bradbury says it’s his made-from-scratch Project Pollo menu items that separate his concept from the fast-food flock. Project Pollo’s proprietary vegan “chikn” is made with a non-GMO soy patty and all-natural spices to give it that authentic fried chicken flavor.
Specialties include the original Project Sandwich (house-breaded chikn topped with house aioli and dill pickles), a chipotle chikn wrap, and buffalo chikn nuggets, in addition to a variety of other chikn sammies, chikn wings, Impossible Meat burgers, and loaded papas (fries smothered in Credo brand cashew queso, pico, grilled onions, and chipotle ranch).
Bradbury also crows about his business’ dedication to people and the planet, noting all Project Pollo bags, containers, and cups are compostable, and offering employees double the minimum wage and benefits packages — a rarity in the fast-food industry.
Additionally, through its community-focused People Project, the company donates two additional sandwiches for the sale of every $5.50 People Project Crispy Strip sandwich, making it possible for Project Pollo to give away a minimum of 1,000 sandwiches on a designated day each quarter to those in need. In addition, for those who cannot afford the $5.50 cost, a pay-what-you-can option is available.
At its core, Project Pollo hopes to help limit the amount of animal consumption by introducing American fast-food eaters to a healthier, more sustainable plant-based meat option, with Bradbury citing the negative environmental effects of the chicken industry and the dietary dangers of eating animal proteins.
“The future is in sustainability, and there is absolutely no way that the fast-food model can continue offering animal protein as the core source of its menu,” he says. “The future of consumption in fast food is plant-based — period.”