Vegan restaurant chain Veggie Grill announced Wednesday that it raised $22 million in its current round of investments from several firms, including majority shareholder Brentwood Associates. CEO Stephen Heeley says this new capital will be used to fund an expansion outside of the west coast—where Veggie Grill currently operates 28 locations, mostly in California—and into the midwest and east coast regions. Beyond expansion into new regions, Heeley plans to open Veggie Grill restaurants at universities and airports. “We’re getting universities approaching us,” Heeley says. “The demand for veggie-based food is really accelerating, so they’re getting feedback from students and faculty that they want not just healthy concepts but more specifically veggie-based food.” Heeley further explains that Veggie Grill aims to serve a growing customer base that is increasingly interested in consuming vegan food. “Our market research shows us there are a large number of what we call ‘veggie positive’ people who are our target consumer,” Heeley says. “It’s not just vegetarians and vegans, but people who want to move vegetables to the center of the plate.” Veggie Grill announced this week that it will serve Beyond Meat’s “bleeding” Beyond Burger—the first fast-casual chain to do so—by early December, a move Heeley described would drive new customers to the vegan restaurant’s existing locations.
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