Actor and comedian Kevin Hart isn’t vegan, but he believes the future of fast food lies in plants. /Photograph courtesy of Hart House.
Actor and comedian Kevin Hart opened a new quick-service concept called Hart House in Los Angeles in August, designed for rapid growth as a plant-based burger restaurant for the people.
With a targeted menu including plant-based “burgers”, “chick’n” sandwiches, salads, nuggets, fries, tots and shakes, Hart House joins a growing number of non-food alternatives. animal-based fast food restaurants popping up in Southern California.
But this concept is remarkable for a number of reasons.
First, Hart House is led by the CEO Andy Hooper, the former president of &Pizza who left this brand after a reorganization earlier this year. Hooper said he was drawn to Hart House in part because of the opportunity to create what he calls a lasting job experience for American fast food.
“I’ve always looked for the chance to really, like structurally, change what it means to work in the quick service restaurant industry,” Hooper said. “I’ve been trying for 15 years to figure out how to crack the code on something that has 50 years of bad habits in terms of employee treatment and work experience.”
At Hart House, for example, the base salary is $19 to $22, well above the $16 minimum wage in Los Angeles. In addition, all workers are offered different levels of benefits:
Workers have access to a “lifestyle spending account”, for example, which offers them discounts for things that benefit their health and well-being, and which can include everything from a subscription to Netflix has new tires for their car.
In addition to this, workers can set up a savings account with the Sunny Day Fund, to which Hart House contributes a “turbo” interest rate to encourage employees to save. If a worker puts in $200, for example. Hart House contributes an additional $20.
“The goal is to help them get into the habit of saving, but also to give them emergency cash,” Hooper said. “In my experience, it’s not just about what someone gets paid. It’s about knowing what their work stressors are and if they can be fully present and not worry about how I’m going to pay for the new tires I need for my car or my daughter is coming to break his ankle.
And on top of that, all workers are eligible to create a 401K, which the company contributes to, even if employees don’t, Hooper said. And most low-wage workers don’t.
Also, after the first 60 days, all workers are eligible for medical coverage, regardless of the number of hours worked, he said.
And there are the celebrity perks. Hart visited during orientation and, during the first few weeks, supported the team by handing out checks for $500, Hooper said.
These investments are designed to attract workers who can meet the higher standards of Hart House, which Hooper says aims for a level of quality and service rarely seen in the quick service world.
During a recent visit to the busy restaurant, located near Los Angeles International Airport, just a block or two from a popular In-N-Out unit frequented by tourists, Hart House employees worked in the dining room, happily touching tables as if at a full-service concept and answering questions about the menu.
Hooper said all of the workers who showed up for the orientation were still on the job after two busy opening weeks. “I bet a lot of restaurants couldn’t say that,” he said.
And Hart House will be hiring soon.
The company has two more restaurants under construction in the Los Angeles area and six signed leases. Hooper said they have begun the process of finding out-of-state locations.
The first Hart House is about 3,000 square feet, but the plan is to develop multiple formats to work in food courts, end locations or as a drive-thru, Hooper said. The company already has a food truck.
There are no immediate franchise plans. In addition to actor Hart’s capital, investors include Michael Rubin, CEO of digital sports platform Fanatics and other friends and family of the management team.
Hart House also stands out in the vegetable niche by keeping menu prices accessible.
At Hart House, sandwich prices are between $5 and $7 ($10 and $12 for combo meals), which is close to what is typical in the market for meat-serving QSR brands like McDonald’s and Burger King. .
In Los Angeles, plant-based burger concepts — including growing brands like Stand-Up Burgers, Monty’s Good Burger and Honeybee Burger — tend to be more expensive, in part because most have set menus. from scratch built around more expensive ingredients like Beyond Meat or Impossible Burgers.
Hart House uses proprietary plant-based analogues for its sandwiches, ingredients that meet the brand’s standards for quality and accessibility, said Mike Salem, head of culinary innovation – who previously worked for Burger King and has brought the Impossible Whopper to this brand’s menu.
Salem said they were considering both Beyond and Impossible products, which have strong brand awareness. But Hart House already had the built-in brand power of association with actor Hart, a Hollywood hitmaker known for the films Jumanji, “Central Intelligence,” “Ride Along,” and the more recent “Me Time.”
“We felt like we had tremendous brand power, given our association with Kevin, and we were in a unique position to choose the right analogs that met our needs from a quality perspective,” said Salem said.
The move will also allow for the positioning of CPG on the road, he noted.
The burger is made with a product that uses pea and soy protein with a component of coconut fat. Crispy Chicken is a soy-free pea protein. There’s gluten in the breading, but the protein is non-GMO, and the menu contains no artificial colors or flavors, preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, or trans fats.
Hooper said Hart House was not trying to steal the share of other vegetarian concepts, but rather to prey on consumers who regularly eat fast food. He said about 40% of Americans eat fast food once a week, he said.
“It’s an option for them that’s a little bit better for them, a lot better for the world around them, and doesn’t require them to take a big step forward in their financial commitment,” he said.
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