Veggie Grill shifts menu back to its whole-ingredient roots

Meat analogs are still available, but the plant-based chain is offering more for those seeking protein from tempeh, tofu, beans, nuts and seeds.
Veggie Grill
The new items attempt to bring more traditional protein sources to the table for those seeking "whole food" options. | Photo courtesy of Veggie Grill.

Welcome back, tempeh, tofu, beans, nuts and seeds.

Veggie Grill on Wednesday is rolling out a menu refresh designed to bring the concept back to its roots as a champion of plant-based proteins that were around before the phrase "plant-based protein" was even coined.

And that means refocusing on the “whole foods” of the plant-based world that do not necessarily imitate meat.

Sure, Beyond Meat and the chain’s plant-based “chik’n” are still on the menu at Veggie Grill and even appear in some of the new items.

But CEO T.K. Pillan said the menu shift is an attempt to offer more of a balance to “satisfy the whole foods nutrition seeker.”

“The real focus is getting back to our roots, which is amazing plant-protein-powered food with a balance that truly delivers food that everyone can love,” Pillan said. “You can get it in the whole form, or from a plant-based chicken or beef. It’s up to you, depending on what you’re in the mood for.”

The rise of meat-analog products over the past decade has sparked new interest in plant-based eating, but demand for such products has cooled as some consumers push back on products seen as overly processed.

As a result, a number of restaurant chains have shifted to plant-based offerings with less-processed ingredients, like Chick-fil-A’s cauliflower sandwich, Wendy’s Spicy Black Bean Burger and Shake Shack’s Veggie Shack, made with mushrooms, sweet potato, carrots and grains.

Pillan said the menu shift at Veggie Grill has that pushback in mind.

For the fast-casual chain, which has been a pioneer of animal-product-free dining over two decades, the move comes amid an attempt to revitalize the brand.

In August, Veggie Grill announced the closure of 12 restaurants in what Pillan called a “right-sizing” of the portfolio. The chain has 17 units remaining in California, Oregon, Washington state and Massachusetts, which are embarking on a new chapter.

Previously owned by private-equity firm Brentwood Associates, which first invested in 2011, Veggie Grill has new investors, but Pillan declined to reveal the ownership structure for the Los Angeles-based chain.

Meanwhile, the new menu items are scheduled to roll out Wednesday at all 17 locations.

The new offerings include:

Sesame Tofu Supergreens, with seared sesame tofu over power greens tossed with chili-cashew dressing, a rainbow quinoa mix, green onions and tuxedo sesame seeds.

Caesar Crunch Salad, with romaine and kale tossed with Caesar dressing, mushroom crisps, ciabatta croutons, capers, almond Parmesan and hemp hearts.

The salad is also available as a Caesar Crunch Wrap, wrapped in a flour tortilla, and guests can add Beyond Steak or Crispy Chik’n.

Ranchero Bean Fiesta includes ranchero beans, Tex-Mex Beyond Beef crumbles, steamed rice and kale tossed with a mango-lemon vinaigrette, guacamole, fresh mango chunks, grilled corn, pico de gallo, tortilla strips, queso, coconut lime drizzle, pickled onions, cilantro, and chopped green onion and pepitas.

Pesto Chick’n Parm Sandwich with crispy plant-based chick’n, arrabbiata sauce, vegan cheese sauce, blistered cherry tomatoes, basil, almond Parmesan and pesto on a brioche bun.

Truffle Mac + Cheese includes pasta in a vegan truffle cheese sauce with mushroom crisps, almond Parmesan and toasted breadcrumbs.

In addition, Veggie Grill has upgraded its popular All Hail Kale salad to include fresh mango chunks.

And two previous LTOs—a Banh Mi Sandwich and the Sunrise Kimchi Burger featuring the Yo Egg plant-based sunny side up—have been added to the menu as permanent items.

Now that the Yo Egg product is on the menu year round, guests can also add it as a protein option to other menu items as well.

Because October is National Vegetarian Month, the chain is offering a free menu item from Oct. 11-31 for those using the promo code “NEWMENU” with the purchase of any new item.


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