- Gourmet burger chain Red Robin will offer Impossible Foods' plant-based Impossible Cheeseburger at all of its 560 store locations starting April 1, according to Skift Table. The restaurant opted for Impossible Foods' product after the plant-based food company debuted the Impossible Burger 2.0 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas earlier this year.
- This is Impossible Foods' largest restaurant deal to date, its deal with burger chain White Castle, which now offers the plant-based protein at 377 restaurants.
- Over 5,000 U.S. restaurants now have Impossible Burgers on their menus.
Red Robin is likely adding the Impossible Cheeseburger to its menu to make it easier for groups with differing dietary preferences to dine at the restaurant as opposed to going somewhere else. The new menu item could also help the casual chain, which saw 2018 store sales and guest count slip by 4.5% and 4.4%, respectively, boost revenue and brighten its brand halo by adding an on-trend, sustainable protein option to its menu.
Plant-based proteins are trending among consumers, with 34% of Americans saying they'd consider adding plant-based food to their diets if it improved their health, according to a YouGov survey. Eighty percent of those survey respondents indicated that flavor was the biggest factor in deciding whether to make the swap.
Sales of plant-based protein products between broadline foodservice distributors and foodservice operators rising 20% between 2017 and 2018, according to The NPD Group. The figures panned out across the country, too, dispelling the assumption that plant-based diets are coastal fads.
The trend shows no sign of stopping either, with sales of plant-based protein products expected to grow by 6.7% between 2017 and 2022, according to Meticulous Research, topping out at nearly $11 billion.
Several other restaurants have already hopped on the meatless bandwagon. In January, fast food chain Carl's Jr. brought Beyond Meat's plant-based Beyond Burger to 1,100 of its restaurants. Canadian fast food chain A&W is also dishing up plant-based patties, with supplies selling out in just the first few weeks, according to the restaurant. The Beyond Burger can also be found at New York City's Bareburger locations, and several Mexican QSR chains — including Qdoba and Del Taco — are also experimenting with the company's plant-based protein substitutes.
Last year, Beyond Meat's CEO told Plant Based News that he aims to launch his plant-based patty at a number of mainstream fast food chains, including McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's. But while this menu innovation is sweeping through the QSR segment, it seems that Red Robin is one of the only — if not the only — major casual chain to partner with a major plant-based meat provider. The move could spark similar investments from rivals as sluggish casual brands struggle to catch up with the booming fast casual and fast food categories.