Fast food and a vegan lifestyle don’t exactly go hand in hand. Considering that the majority of fast food items involve animal products of some kind, whether it’s some form of dairy, meat, or ingredients we’re unaware of, selecting vegan items at the drive-thru isn’t an easy task. Burger King, however, is making moves toward vegan offerings by launching a month-long 100% vegan menu trial at a storefront in London, which will help determine whether this could be a sustainable business model for the brand.
The trial, which will run this week through April 10, is happening at the Leicester Square location, Burger King’s flagship London restaurant. So this already seems like serious business. This is the logical next step in Burger King’s evolution; the brand launched a plant-based location last year in Cologne, Germany for one weekend only, and committed a whole storefront in Madrid, Spain, to a mostly vegan trial. The mayo on the sandwiches wasn’t vegan.
Diners at Leicester Square this month can expect to see all meat substitutes supplied by UK-based company The Vegetarian Butcher. This means that there will be a plant-based Whopper, but it’s not technically the Impossible Whopper as we know it here in the US. (The Impossible Whopper, if you’ll recall, isn’t vegan. In fact, it isn’t even vegetarian, strictly speaking, since it’s cooked on the same cooking surface as meat sandwiches.)
There are chicken substitutes on the menu as well, like a vegan katsu sandwich. Plant Based News reports that the katsu sandwich features a meatless breaded fried patty with katsu sauce, slaw, fried onions, and vegan mayo. New sandwiches like a “Bakon Double Cheeeze Xl” and “Vegan Cheeeze & Bakon Royale” are available as well. There’s even a kids menu.
What’s interesting about this trial is that, by going all-in with a vegan menu at a busy storefront in a major city, Burger King is signaling just how serious it is about catering to plant-based demand. With newly designed menu items and a dedicated storefront, it’s taking vegan choices seriously, not appending them as an afterthought to placate a small consumer base.
After trying KFC’s new Beyond Fried Chicken, Lillian Stone was left wondering just who those nuggets are for. KFC’s plant-based chicken is fried in the same oil used to fry animal products, rendering the Beyond chicken non-vegan. The only possible customer for such a product is someone who isn’t vegan, who maybe just wants to see “what all the fuss is about” or who wants to cut back on their meat consumption.
But with a menu guaranteed to be actually vegan, no asterisks, Burger King can draw in a wider variety of diners: vegan-curious customers as well as strictly adherent vegans who won’t have to pick and choose among a menu full of possibly cross-contaminated pitfalls. It can make a dramatic difference if vegan diners are suddenly able to unlock an entire fast food menu curated just for them, rather than having to strip down or otherwise modify the fast food chain’s existing options.
As of right now, I’m not sure how a Burger King location like this would fly in the United States. I feel like Americans are still reluctant to commit to meatless anything. But if the London trial goes well, maybe we’ll see a trial run in North America. Curiosity alone would lead me to give the entire menu a shot, and I’m optimistic enough to hope that some items might convince me to make some lasting changes to my order.