Portfolio Company: Veggie Grill
Foodable’s Fast Casual Top 100 Social Brands 2016 Report highlights up-and-coming fast casual superstars and is the ultimate view on how fast casual brands are perceived by consumers in the digital landscape. To be in the Top 100, especially when competing against almost 2,000 other fast casual brands, is a huge honor — but to be in the elite Top 25? Now, that’s impressive. This ranking is not editorially selected, but instead, based on core social consumer metrics, reflecting the true, unfiltered opinion of the people enjoying our food.
Veggie Grill No. 13
Just because Veggie Grill is a vegetarian fast casual restaurant doesn’t mean its story has no meat to it. Co-founder and “accidental vegetarian” T.K. Pillian, who helped develop a web commerce firm in 1996 after studying engineering at MIT graduating from the UCLA business school, was reading about the poor state of health and wellness in the United States and set out to discover dining-out alternatives.
He was far from vegetarian, but found plant-based foods satisfyingly healthy. Although he lost 20 pounds and dropped his cholesterol levels from switching his diet, he knew there was another challenge: convincing non-vegetarians to step foot into a vegetarian restaurant without forcefully dragging them in. He and co-founder Kevin Boylan were determined to package healthy food options in fun, flavorful ways. That’s when Veggie Grill was born and fast casual turned a new leaf.
“Veggie Grill is the largest vegetarian fast casual chain in the United States. Veggie Grill renders the impossible possible. We create innovative, craveable, and convenient veggie-centric food. We see every season as an opportunity to celebrate the vegetable, the fruit, the grain, and the nut,” CEO Steve Heeley said.
“We try and deliver on our brand promise to our guests each and every day. We work very hard on developing…veggie-centric food to drive trial and guest loyalty,” he continued. “There is a trend of people who are trying to move vegetables to the center of their plates. …This is not a trend for us. We have been focused on celebrating the vegetable since the first day we opened our doors.”
There are other reasons for consumers to celebrate, too. Along with the brand’s loyalty app program and pre-order and $1 delivery services that make dining more rewarding and efficient, Veggie Grill offers fundraising opportunities for schools and nonprofit organizations, too. Pair that with their quirky, punny humor on social media (Can we appreciate this “Mean Girls”reference?) and the celebrity love this brand receives, it’s no wonder Veggie Grill is one of the Top 25 Fast Casual Social Brands.
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