Black entrepreneurs and celebrities are launching plant-based challengers to fast food giants


A portrait of the Black comedian Kevin Hart in a black tuxedo jacket and white V-neck shirt.
Image Credit: Flickr/celebrityabc

The multi-hyphenate actor, producer and comedian Kevin Hart can now add restauranteur to his list of credits.


Hart is set to launch a new fast food chain focused on plant-based products later this summer, according to a report in Los Angeles magazine.


With the launch, Hart joins a growing number of Black entrepreneurs and celebrities putting a fast food spin on plant-based diets.


Called Hart House, the new fast food chain is coming at a time when interest in plant-based restaurants is at an all-time high.


Atlanta -based entrepreneur Aisha "Pinky" Cole recently raised $25 million for her own Atlanta-area plant-based fast food chain, Slutty Vegan.


A longtime favorite in the Atlanta area, Cole's wildly unhealthy spin on plant-based foods has an avid following across the city and with celebrities like Tyler Perry, Waka Flocka, Snoop Dogg, Tiffany Haddish, Vince Carter, Lil Bab, and Big Boi coming through.


"Kevin sort of conceptualized this idea at the beginning of the pandemic," chief executive Andy Hooper told Los Angeles Magazine. "If I were advising him at the time, I would say 'Don't you dare ever start a restaurant, and don't you ever start a restaurant in the middle of COVID,' but after almost two years of really working on this menu and getting the food to a place where it can deliver on that promise, we're ready to go and we're excited to tell the world about Hart House."


Cole, a longtime restauranteur who previously cooked in both New York and Los Angeles, began the Slutty Vegan franchise with a single location in Atlanta nearly four years ago.


Her business, which investors like the former Ebony publisher and Sundial Brands founder Richelieu Dennis and the celebrity restaurant owner Danny Meyer have valued at $100 million, now includes lines of sauces, four restaurants and plans to open several more along the East Coast.


Meyer is the brains behind both Michelin-starred New York restaurants and the wildly successful Shake Shack burger chain.


“I got the Michael Jordan of food on my team,” Cole told Forbes in an interview earlier this year.


Hart House is also set on establishing its own bona fides in the restaurant world. Before it launched it brought on Chef Michael Salem, the former head of culinary innovation at Burger King.


"I got the call and I couldn't believe it at first," Salem told LA Mag. "It was so surreal. I thought I was being punk'd and then I had a chance to actually meet Kevin, talk about his vision for what he wanted to create, and having pioneered bringing plant-based into mainstream QSR with Burger King, with the Impossible Whopper, I saw a tremendous opportunity to take a lot of that momentum, that success that we had with that product previously and in that environment, why couldn't we recreate and reinvent fast food."


Some of the largest fast food chains are making their own attempts at introducing plant-based items onto the menu. Burger King uses Impossible Foods burger alternatives for its Impossible Whopper and Beyond Meat is working with both McDonald's and KFC on menu items.


For Salem, plant-based could be the future for fast food and an opportunity to reinvent an industry that's nearly one hundred years old for modern palates.


“I’ve seen too many animals die. I’ve been too guilty about the food I’ve been serving the community, making people really unhealthy for a long time, and I just don’t think it’s necessary," Salem said. "I think this is really the future of fast food, so that’s why I took the gig. I just thought it was an incredible chance to really make a difference and leave a legacy on food service and an industry that’s been so good to me."


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