Image Source: Honeybee’s Instagram(opens in a new tab)
Honeybee Burge(opens in a new tab)r is a plant-based restaurant in LA that is quickly becoming infamous for their drool worthy menu, made exclusively with plant-based meat. Their burgers, sandwiches and breakfast burritos are so good that they’re sought out by celebrities and brands like Goop. With over 26K Instagram followers & national expansion plans in the near future, you can say that they’re setting the gold standard for how to build a business with Impossible™ meat made from plants. Today, CEO Adam Weiss is sharing his journey into the QSR market, and why plant-based food is the future.
IF: Your background is in investing. Why did you decide to launch Honeybee Burger?
Adam Weiss: About 10 years ago, I was approached by some friends who were really excited to bring Cafe Gratitude(opens in a new tab), a vegan restaurant in San Francisco, to Los Angeles. Their passion and excitement was so contagious that I decided to travel to the Bay Area to see what the buzz was about. When I got there, I was blown away! Not only was it packed, but the people were so passionate about the food and the mission.
I immediately decided to invest and it just took off. Eventually I realized that this movement was growing and that I wanted to be a part of it, so I decided to invest in other plant-based and virtuous businesses, like Plantible(opens in a new tab). That journey led me to seek out other startups who needed plant-based protein to build their products, like Impossible Foods. When I got my hands on the product, it occurred to me that they were really different from anything on the market because their plant-based meat looked and tasted like meat from animals. I saw the potential for growth and decided to build a brand that modeled QSR burger chains. There are tons of successful examples, but it has never been done with a vegan brand and that excited me.
I knew Impossible™ Burger could help people see plant-based food in a way that was more delicious, accessible and indulgent -- yet still guilt-free.
Photo of Honeybee Burger’s Queen Bee Burger with Impossible Burger
Why did you decide on the name Honeybee?
When I worked with Plantible, their protein farm was located next to a sunflower field. I noticed the place was swarming with bees and it stuck in my mind that, here we are growing next generation protein, and next door was the most ancient form of agriculture known to man. Plus, honey bees are incredible -- they're responsible for 1 out of every 3 bites of food we take and essential to our food system.
Initially, I got so much pushback because honey isn’t vegan, but I really loved it so we kept it. It’s worked really well for naming our products and the yellow color adds so much to our branding.
You serve both Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger on your menu. What’s the difference between the two?
I’m glad you asked because there is no one more qualified to answer this question! We have served hundreds of thousands of customers, and we get asked this question everyday. There are still so many customers who have never had either burger, let alone gotten to ask an expert what the difference is. Our staff asks ‘Do you want Impossible Burger or Beyond Burger’ to every guest who dines at our restaurant & while that adds to order time, education is so important to us. We have various pitches to help customers make the right choice.
Impossible Burger is our preference in store because it performs better, it sells better and it’s a better value than Beyond Burger. For the first few years, Impossible Burger outsold Beyond Burger by 5 to 1.
Image Source: Honeybee Burger Instagram(opens in a new tab)
From day one I carried both because I love both companies and the products offered options for different allergies and preferences. Initially it was wheat versus no wheat, now it’s soy protein versus pea protein. Impossible Burger outperforms Beyond by far and it always has. For the first few years Impossible Burger outsold Beyond Burger by 5 to 1.
When we launch new menu items, like our Breakfast Burrito or Mac N Meat, we always use Impossible Burger because it’s easier, it has less funk and it’s more obvious to customers. Our staff also prefers it almost 100% because it just tastes so good.
What do meat eaters think?
Our brand is founded on the principle of ‘Vegan 2.0’, which we define as less judgment and more indulgence. This helps us reach the 97% of people who don’t identify as vegan. We want to be more fun and inclusive because that’s where the money is. We cater to the decision-makers of the future: Millennials, Gen Z and young families with kids.
Vegan 2:0: Be Inclusive. Don’t be Judgmental. Use Humor. Embrace New Products. Don’t Have to Focus on Whole Foods. Embrace Change. Be Message Forward.
We embrace indulgence over health so we can get meat eaters to think, ‘Wow! This was delicious’ and ‘Wait, this is better for me AND uses less water? Cool!’ We also get a lot of customers who say: ‘I brought my dad, he didn’t know this was plant-based!’ or ‘I brought my boyfriend and didn’t tell him. He LOVED it.’ We want to win over the people who think anything vegan is bad. If we didn’t lean in and embrace meat eaters, we wouldn’t be successful.
What are your future growth plans?
I’m currently crowdfunding to help us spread our mission, so we can bring delicious food everywhere. My goal is to build an army of people who want to help us scale our brick and mortar and ghost kitchens, and eventually we want to franchise. Everyday we get requests to open franchise locations in states and global locations that might surprise you. Our goal is to get into existing real estate and put our business there so we can turn around with less capital and a quicker time to market.
So far, the reception has been phenomenal and we’ve exceeded our initial goals, so we’re going to go for a second round. We’re really excited for what’s coming next.