Tokyo-based burger shop Great Lakes Tokyo recently transformed into an all-vegan restaurant. Founder John Penny, a transplant from California, first opened the eatery in December 2019 with a vision to create a community hangout with a limited menu featuring beef and vegan burgers, French fries, sides, craft beer, and soft drinks. But shortly after opening, as he was preparing to expand his offerings and events, the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to close his doors. During that time, Penny realized he needed to make a change after learning about how the farmed animal industry contributed to the pandemic. 

“With the health and prosperity of our customers and planet in mind, we are making one major change to how we operate: Great Lakes is now 100-percent vegan,” Penny posted on Facebook. “COVID-19 was caused by the exploitation of animals. I can’t see any other way to move forward given the devastation around the world. Our mission hasn’t changed at all and neither has our food. If anything, I feel this makes us more inclusive.” 

So far, the new vegan menu—which includes items such as the Michigan Burger, featuring a shiitake mushroom and brown rice patty topped with vegan cheese sauce and caramelized onions—has been so successful that Great Lakes sold out twice in one week and had to close early.

Due to limited resources and staff, Great Lakes’ menu will still have photos of beef and cheese for the time being, however, Penny plans to make updates soon, including releasing a menu of summer specials, offering delivery through UberEATS, and engaging with the community virtually until he can reopen the eatery’s dining area and bar.

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