Steve Easterbrook, the former CEO and president of McDonald’s, is now backing a vegan fried chicken restaurant chain.
Founded in 2020, Project Pollo claims to be America’s first plant-based, fast-casual chicken chain.
Its vegan menu is Chick-Fil-A and KFC-inspired, with options like Popcorn Chikn and breaded vegan burgers (both of which feature TiNDLE’s plant-based chicken), as well as oat milkshakes.
Easterbrook—who served as McDonald’s CEO from 2015 to 2019, when he was asked to step down due to inappropriate relationships with staff members—said that he “sees a future in plant-based consumption” and labels Project Pollo “an emerging leader” in the space.
As well as McDonald’s, Easterbrook has worked with major chains like PizzaExpess and Wagamama.
Project Pollo currently has several locations across Texas, and plans to open restaurants in Colorado, Las Vegas (in Nevada), and Arizona very soon. With its new investment round, it hopes to accelerate national expansion and open 100 stores by 2025.
According to the chain’s founder Lucas Bradbury, Easterbrook brings “world-class value” to the team, and will help to guide and advise him as CEO. “I know he will help me develop into the leader I am capable of becoming,” he said.
The growing appetite for vegan chicken
Chicken is the most popular meat in the US. In 2020, estimates state that Americans consumed just over 96 pounds per capita. Every year, roughly nine billion chickens are killed for food in the US.
Like Project Pollo, a number of brands have started focusing on chicken in a bid to appeal to consumers. Even KFC itself has trialed Beyond Fried Chicken, which was developed especially by plant-based meat brand Beyond Meat for the chain.
Vegan chicken also has celebrity approval. Earlier this year, Kourtney Kardashian-Barker and Travis Barker teamed up with Daring to promote its Plant Chicken product.
Bradbury says that Project Pollo is now ready to focus on a “more disciplined and strategic future” and become a leader in the plant-based industry.
He said: “Part of our success is shortening the learning curve and learning from a variety of talent that shares our mission, offering affordable access to plant-based foods for everyone.”