With its fresh new look and expansive plans for the future, Odd Burger is a fast-food brand that always has one eye on the bigger picture. Vegconomist got together with Co-Founder and CEO James McInnes to talk food tech, franchising, and the vegan fast-food future.
First of all, could you explain the process behind your recent rebranding to Odd Burger?
The process took over a year to develop and roll out, and included trademark registrations, domain name registrations, social media handle changes, as well as all-new packaging, store design and signage. It’s a daunting task, but we worked with a fantastic branding company out of Toronto called Concrete Design Communications, which assisted us in creating our new brand.
The reasons behind the rebrand were twofold. One, we wanted a brand that would better explain what we do and who we are. Two, we were unable to use our old brand in the U.S. market due to trademark restrictions, so we had to change our name anyway to enter the U.S. market.
How many restaurants do you currently have operational and where? How many customers are you serving?
We currently have four locations operational in the province of Ontario including Toronto, Windsor, Vaughan and London. We also have locations in Waterloo and Hamilton under construction that will be operational in the next month or so, bringing our total to six operational locations by the fall. Each location serves hundreds of customers daily so our total customer base is rapidly growing as we add more locations. That also means more people eating plant-based food that is healthier, more humane, and more sustainable than typical fast-food options.
“Each location serves hundreds of customers daily so our total customer base is rapidly growing”
Odd Burger has plans to have 20 total locations operational across North America in the next year, why have you chosen to pursue the chain franchise business model?
We are actually doing a combination of corporate locations as well as franchised locations. We feel that a blended approach works best because it allows us to optimize our operations through corporate stores, and then roll out these changes into the franchise system. This iterative refinement process is such an important part of developing a successful model that works for both the franchisee and the corporate-owned stores.
Why did you decide to go public and what were the pros and cons for the business?
Our decision to go public was driven by providing the average consumer with a way to invest and support our mission. We had a lot of people who wanted to invest in our company, but it’s very challenging to invest in a private company unless you are a large investor or venture capital firm. As a public company, people can simply execute a trade through their broker and become a shareholder in our company.
“Our decision to go public was driven by providing the average consumer with a way to invest and support our mission”
Plant-based fast food is an exploding market with lots of players, what makes Odd Burger stand out and why do you believe that fast food is the right place to start changing the food industry?
The fast-food industry is one of the largest sectors of the food industry. It is dominated by large players that primarily use animal-based products in their menu. We must lead a change in this industry if we are going to change the food system and address our sustainability challenges. Odd Burger stands out because we offer incredible food at a great price, and this makes plant-based food more accessible to the average consumer.
To really change the food system, we need to think about what’s available and affordable for the majority: fast food, street food, grab-and-go food. It’s great that investors are pouring hundreds of millions into 3D-printed steaks and cultured lobster meat, but what we’re doing in fast food can make a far bigger difference.
How crucial to Odd Burger is being at the forefront of modern food technology, and why?
We are a food technology company in the fast-food lane, so it’s a huge part of what we do. We believe that technology is a tool that we must use in order to make ourselves competitive in the industry, and to provide a better value proposition to the consumer. We need to make food better, cheaper, and more sustainable, and technology is a big part of how we are going to accomplish this.
“To really change the food system, we need to think about what’s available and affordable for the majority”
Our restaurants operate as smart kitchens, which means that most of the cooking is automated and pre-programmed. This allows us to offer a more consistent food experience to our customer, while also improving our operational efficiency.
Where does your food come from?
Most of the food that we serve in our restaurants is made by us in our own food manufacturing facility. In fact, we manufacture more than 30 plant-based proteins, dairy alternatives, and sauces ourselves.
This is really the heart of what we do, and where a lot of our innovation is focused. We use a lot of cutting-edge technology in our manufacturing centre to create unique plant-based foods that are less processed, and made with more natural ingredients, than other products on the market. This is what makes the food experience at Odd Burger truly unique, and something you won’t find anywhere else.
What developments does Odd Burger have in the pipeline? Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We are constantly working on additional products in our food service line for our restaurants, which includes plant-based fish, gravy, cheese curds, and egg products.
We see ourselves as a massive player in the fast-food space within the next five years, with hundreds of locations around the world.