California-based vegan chain Veggie Grill will expand to 50 locations in the next two years, according to CEO Steve Heeley. In 2016, the vegan chain raised $22 million and began to expand its footprint to locations outside of the West Coast, most recently Chicago, Boston, and New York City. Last month, the 33-location chain secured a partnership with food-service provider Sodexo, which will help to open Veggie Grill locations at select universities nationwide. Veggie Grill serves dishes made with Gardein, Beyond Meat, and JUST Egg and has attracted a celebrity following, including vegan filmmaker Kevin Smith who urged the chain to open a location in his hometown of Red Bank, NJ. According to Heeley, approximately 80 percent of Veggie Grill’s customers are “veggie-positive” (or people looking to reduce their consumption of animal products), and the chain plans to expand to areas with the highest concentration of such consumers. Using his expertise in growing companies on a national scale, Heeley plans to expand Veggie Grill to many more locations by 2020. “We’ll have at least 50 restaurants,” Heeley told Forbes. “We have plans to go to Washington, DC in 2020, and we’ll have more restaurants opening in universities through our Sodexo partnership.” As Veggie Grill continues its expansion, Canadian vegan chain Copper Branch recently announced its bid to become the largest vegan chain in the world and plans to open its 50th location by April 22 (Earth Day)—with an additional 150 locations to come by 2020.
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