Vegan chicken restaurants are coming to the US—1,000 to be exact.
Oregon-based vegan burger joint Next Level Burger launched the new plant-based chicken chain. Husband and wife duo Cierra and Matt de Gruyter founded the burger chain. It has locations in Washington state, California, New York, and Texas.
“What’s so cool about being America’s first plant-based burger joint is that we have been able to utilize that infrastructure and all the hard work that has gone into Next Level Burger to also launch America’s first national plant-based chicken brand,” Matt, the company’s CEO and co-founder, tells LIVEKINDLY over the phone.
Next Level Burger opened its first location of the vegan chicken chain, called Next Level Clucker, in San Francisco. Less than a week later, it launched its second location in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and a third location in Austin, Texas. The plant-based chicken joint offers a number of delicious-looking menu items. In addition to vegan chicken tenders, sandwiches, wings, and nuggets—these include organic fries, dairy-free shakes, and a number of sides.
The locations are currently open for pickup or delivery amid the coronavirus pandemic. Matt says that although the last ten months have been a scary time, his brand has still managed to prosper.
“I told our team at the time that hell or high water, we would see this through the other side,” he says. “What I couldn’t have anticipated is that not only would we thus far make it, but that we would thrive. And we have seen explosive growth before and so far right through the pandemic of our sales across the country.”
Vegan Chicken Chain: Creating a Legacy
Matt’s journey to opening a vegan burger joint, and subsequently a plant-based chicken chain, started when he lost his mother to breast cancer in 2010. His family celebrated his son’s third birthday four days after her passing.
“I was sitting there trying to be as enthusiastic as we could for our son’s birthday,” he says. “And I was thinking about how I wanted to see him grow up. I wanted to see him get married and have kids and hopefully grandkids, maybe even great grandkids.”
“My wife had bought all these books about plant-based eating. And I just started picking these books up and flipping through them,” he continues. “And then I started reading. I realized that everything I thought about diet looked to be backwards, upside down.”
Just two weeks into going plant-based, Matt says he saw major improvements. “I felt great. My workouts felt better. The stress seemed to roll off my shoulders at work. And, you know, I just didn’t look back,” he says.
Matt and Cierra, the company’s co-founder and Chief Visionary Officer, transitioned their children to a plant-based diet. And he decided to leave his job in the oil and gas industry after his wife brought up the idea of opening a vegan burger concept.
“I was feeling an itch to really go after something that had legacy attached to it,” he explains.
The brand has since partnered with Whole Foods. And Matt and Cierra plan to open additional NLC locations, including in East Bay, Seattle, Portland, and Brooklyn.
In addition to working to create a legacy for his children, Matt says he launched the plant-based brand to help promote sustainability. “We believe that it is a tremendous opportunity for us to help reinvent the way we eat as Americans in a way that’s gonna be good for America and good for the rest of the world,” he says.
“The number one reason that we work so hard is because of the reality of climate change. The number one thing we can do is change the way we eat,” he adds. “I think it is our moral responsibility to hand off a planet that is better off—not worse off—to the next generation.”