While established quick service restaurants like McDonald’s and KFC have been scrambling to offer healthier meatless food options, Hart House – Kevin Hart’s new plant-based fast food chain that officially opens in Los Angeles on August 25 – appears to be a disrupter in the $331.4 billion industry by simply providing more choice.
Conveniently located in a Westchester Village plaza inside what was once a Boston market, Hart House has landed prime real estate given that LAX – and a touristy In-N-Out Burger outpost – are nearby.
“I want to give people a plant-based option,” Hart said. The Hollywood Reporter during a media preview on August 24, citing a lack of plant-based options in the fast food world. “If I can give people a place to have the option that is placed right in the middle of where your McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A and Burger King [are]people can see a Hart House and say, “I’m going to turn to plants today.”
Hart teamed up with former &pizza president Andy Hooper, now CEO of the Hart House brand, who mentioned how impressed he was with Hart’s vision for impact in the fast food industry .
“I grew up in the restaurant business primarily in human resources, trying to figure out how to change the industry for the better by creating better jobs and more sustainability in the work experience,” Hooper said. “We found a lot of commonality in the idea that this should be something that structurally improves restaurant jobs and restaurant food.”
Investing in a new future for fast food also involves ground-level employees like cooks and cashiers, Hooper says, pointing to Hart House’s commitment to paying employees a living wage along with other benefits such as savings, retirement and lifestyle expenses. .
“Giving them all of that up front creates this social contract where you can really take them forward and perform at a much higher level,” Hooper explained. “If you want to demand that from the team and be able to create that kind of worthwhile future, you have to invest in your people first as a foundation.”
Leading culinary innovation is former Burger King culinary chef Michael Salem, who helped introduce the hit Impossible Whooper to the world. Logistically, Salem said creating Hart House’s plant-based menu was no small task.
“This menu has been cultivated in a way that really allows us to step up from where these typical fast food restaurants used to be,” Salem said. “No artificial colors, preservatives or flavors really require a layer of investment. Not all companies are ready to invest in this way, but we are.
The menu includes plant-based burgers, chicken sandwiches, and chicken nuggets with six sauce options. Two salads (caesar and kale crunch), fries and tater tots are also available.
Drink choices are plentiful: there are four plant-based shake options, organic soda from Tractor, iced tea, lemonade, and a seasonal drink. Cookies from Culver City-based Dr. Shica Bakery are also available for dessert. And there are even secret menu items like “frots” – a combination of fries and tater tots.
According to Salem, one of the pitfalls that many fast food restaurants fall into is “menu creep” or menu expansion, which Hart House plans to avoid.
“A lot of times they expand their menu just for the sake of expansion so they can pretend they have a wide variety of products that appeal to the masses,” Salem said. “If you do your homework at the start, you can create a limited menu that appeals ubiquitously, but also allows you the simplicity of being able to offer it at scale. I see us [introducing] some OLTs [limited time offers]but not to the point of slowing down operations or sacrificing food quality.
Hart not only spoke openly about his vegan lifestyle, but was also an early investor in Beyond Meat.
“After loving the [Beyond Meat] burger [over other plant-based options]I said, ‘Let me see if I can be more consistent,'” Hart explained during a May 2020 episode of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. “Since doing this, I have seen a significant change. Just be more dynamic, more active and active. My days were always long so there was a wall I hit when I ate meat, whether it was the burger patty without the bun, whether it was the steak and the egg for protein.… Whatever either, I still hit a wall a day. [Now] I don’t have these accidents.
So far, Hooper says there have been six leases signed to put Hart House in more locations, with plans to open 10 to 12 in California alone by the end of next year. . The next location, which will open soon, will be located off Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue and will offer drive-thru. Hart says he eventually hopes to see locations in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Florida and even his hometown of Philadelphia.
“The goal is to grow and not have a one-and-don,” Hart said. “We play real ball.”