I wonder if Chick-fil-A knows there is a target on its back. Luke Bradbury, founder and CEO of Project Pollo, is determined to shut it down by 2030.
Luke opened his first Project Pollo, a food truck, in September 2020. He had spent his whole career working in executive positions for various restaurants, including Which Wich, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, Dunkin’ Donuts, Champs Chicken. When the pandemic hit, he was a partner in Earth Burger, a vegetarian burger chain. As he watched traditional fast-food locations closing due to the pandemic, he thought, “If not now, when?” He grabbed the opportunity to replace them and challenge traditional chicken with cruelty-free, delicious, affordable vegan food that is kinder to our environment.
The “second generation” locations keep his overhead low—food chains can spend at least $1 million to make each location identical. Luke has found that people come to Project Pollo for the food and the experience. No one cares that it doesn’t look like all the other Project Pollos. It’s enough that they are all squeaky clean with fresh, fabulous food.
He set up his first brick-and-mortar Project Pollo in San Antonio, Texas, with vegan versions of chicken sandwiches and wraps, burgers and sides such as mac and cheese. On World Vegan Day, he gave away 1,600 vegan chicken sandwiches. Since then, Luke has averaged one new store every 30 days with a goal of 100 stores across the country by 2024.
Selections from Project Pollo Menu
- Original Project: Breaded chikn topped with aioli and dill pickles (proceeds from every purchase goes to saving animals)
- Grilled Chikn Caesar Sandwich or Wrap: Grilled chikn with chopped romaine, kale, Violife parmesan cheese, croutons and Caesar dressing
- Nashville Hot: Classic chikn tossed in signature Nashville Hot sauce on a brioche bun with a pickle and creamy coleslaw
- Backyard Burger: House-made patty, smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, ketchup and mustard
- Mushroom Impossible: Double patty, smoked provolone cheese, caramelized onions and beer-marinated mushrooms
- Brunch Burrito: Spinach tortilla stuffed with papas, Just Egg, crispy chikn, Credo cashew queso, pico de gallo (salsa) and chipotle ranch dressing.
- Plant Protein Bowl: Roasted sweet potato, charred cauliflower and onions on a bed of brown rice, topped with roasted garbanzo beans, pepitas and crispy kale, and served with red pepper tahini dressing
- Jacked Mac: Elbow noodles smothered in creamy Credo queso topped with bacon and jalapenos
Project Pollo and the Employees
In addition to providing eco-friendly, healthier alternatives to typical fast food, Luke wants to be part of a “workplace renaissance.” In his previous positions in fast food, Luke learned that the most successful companies treated their employees really well.
Luke knows that employees want to be an integral part of a company, to matter, and to be compensated accordingly. He provides higher-than-average wages, health and dental insurance, and paid vacation time. He gives his workers opportunities to learn more and make more money. He saw first-hand that the high turnover rate in the fast-food industry is very costly, so why not pay people what they are worth from the outset? In his business plan, retaining workers is crucial to the company’s survival.
Project Pollo and the Environment
A plant-based lifestyle is about more than saving animals. It is about sustainability and environmental responsibility. The chicken industry is unregulated and produces excessive amounts of waste that cause hazardous runoffs that pollute our rivers and streams.
Some organizations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for one, describes plant-based diets as a significant means of mitigating and adapting to climate change.
Project Pollo and the Community
The Original Project is that $1 is donated to animal welfare organizations for each chikn sandwich sold.
The Free People Project makes plant-based food affordable for everyone via a “pay what you can” menu item. If a customer pays $5.50 for a sandwich, it pays for that sandwich and for two more to feed people in need. This initiative, and people’s generosity, has built up a huge reserve of sandwiches for Project Pollo to give away regularly.