Popular vegan fast-casual chain Veggie Grill opened its latest location at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus, taking over the space that was once occupied by New York-style chain pizzeria Sbarro. This will be Veggie Grill’s 31st opening and its first on-campus location.
Members of the on-campus non-profit organization Associated Students UCLA (ASUCLA) had voted to replace the pizza joint with the healthier vegan fast-food chain, Cindy Bolton, ASUCLA food services director, told Daily Bruin. The organization’s ad hoc committee sought to add a food option not already available in the Ackerman Student Union while considering the goals of UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative, which seeks to help students make healthier, holistic lifestyle choices.
According to Bolton, ASUCLA identified the need for vegan and vegetarian on UCLA’s campus due to a growing number of students concerned with the availability of vegan and vegetarian dining options. Veggie Grill’s vegan menu was decided to be the best option to meet student needs. The organization expects that the vegan fast-casual chain will improve dining hall sales numbers due to its popularity among vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike.
“We’re thrilled to open our first university location, a milestone for our growing restaurant company as we double in size by 2020,” said Veggie Grill CEO Steve Heeley in a press release. “Campus communities, particularly students, are seeking craveable plant-based alternatives to their traditional dining options, so we look forward to serving a wide audience of veggie-centric guests looking for an elevated fast-casual meal.”
The new Veggie Grill UCLA location is already attracting positive attention from students regardless of dietary preferences. Fernando Vasquez, a third-year chemistry student who has never dined at a plant-based restaurant, said that he’ll give the new UCLA vegan option a shot. Another student expressed interest in Veggie Grill’s vegetarian-friendly menu while others praised the campus for including a healthier, vegan fast-casual option.
In 2016, Veggie Grill received $22 million in investment for a nationwide expansion. The California-based chain has already touched down in the Midwest, with two locations in Chicago and a total of five restaurants expected to open in the Windy City by the end of the year. It was the first chain to carry the vegan Beyond Burger and recently started carrying the vegan Beyond Sausage as well. Earlier this year, the company hired two executives in order to focus on expansion, with a goal of doubling its 30 locations by 2020.
Image Credit: Veggie Grill