A new Plant Food Lab Incubator recently opened in Washington, DC as a test site for new vegan businesses. Founders Margaux Riccio and Shaun Sharkey—who also own Asian-fusion fast-casual shop Pow Pow—wanted a place where they can experiment with new menus and restaurant ideas and bring in chefs to test concepts before taking them out into the world. Riccio and Sharkey’s own vegan burger shop, Bubbie’s Plant Burgers, is the first concept to set up shop inside the Plant Food Lab. Bubbie’s offers seitan- and beet-based burgers with vegan pork belly bacon and cheese, French fries, and vegan crispy chicken sandwiches for takeout and delivery. Eventually, Plant Food Lab will add dine-in seating.
“It’s scary, no one’s opening restaurants right now. Everyone thinks we’re a little crazy to do this,” Riccio told media outlet Eater. “We feel that, with all the food shortages, people are trying plant-based when they wouldn’t try it normally. If anything, this is a good time to reach new people. There’s been a lot of disruption in the food supply.”
This summer, Riccio and Sharkey plan to open a separate location of Bubbie’s and transform the incubator space into New York-style deli Cenzo’s, where they can create and sell vegan cold cuts, charcuterie, and cheeses. Plant Food Lab also stocks products from Vertage, Riccio’s wholesale operation that supplies vegan cheeses and meats to other restaurants.