Marketing vegan fast food to non-vegans, San Antonio chain aims for ‘100 mph’ growth

J@vier M@rceli

The owner of a San Antonio-based fast food chain is not just on a mission to revolutionize how Americans see vegan food, he also wants to throw out the traditional franchise model of starting slow.

Founder Lucas Bradbury started the Project Pollo sandwich chain in September after selling his home to open a food truck outside Roadmap Brewing Co. near downtown. He opened his second location three months later, in Austin, and a seventh just last month. Seven more locations are planned to open by the end of the year, averaging about one new location every 30 days.

“You can go slow and steady with a base, or you can go to market at 100 miles per hour and see what happens,” Bradbury said, sitting for a rare moment of peace in a Project Pollo location off San Pedro Avenue. His phone is ringing continually. “Throw your pickles at a wall and see what sticks. I don’t know what’s going to stick, but that’s the beauty of it.”

Lucas Bradbury, owner of Project Pollo stands outside his fast-food chain location at San Pedro near downtown.
Lucas Bradbury, owner of Project Pollo, stands outside his location on San Pedro Avenue near downtown. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Industry consultants call his aggressive growth strategy risky.

“This is a very quick expansion, there’s no question,” said Doug Fisher, president of food services consultancy FHG International. But the pace is not unheard of, he said.

Vegan and vegetarian offerings at mainstream restaurants have become more common since 2019, with Panda Express announcing plans to introduce a vegan chicken menu item using a Beyond Meat product, but an all-vegan menu is still a novelty even in urban centers.

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