MRM Plant-Based: Branching Out in NYC and the Unbeetable Burger

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Copper Branch Expands NYC Footprint

Copper Branch, top photo, opened its second U.S. location and its first in New York in the Greenwich Village/SOHO section of Lower Manhattan at 195 Bleecker Street.


The company operates over 65 locations around the world, including Canada and Western Europe and has rapid expansion plans. They are planning to have over 200 locations by the end of 2020, and expansion within the United States is at the core of these plans.

Rio Infantino, CEO of Copper Branch and a veteran franchise owner, stated, “Entering the New York market has been a high priority for us as we feel that the city is as dynamic and forward thinking as we are at Copper Branch. It was a natural for us to make the city one of our first U.S. locations and we can’t wait for New Yorkers to experience our delicious and healthy menu items, all of which are plant-based.”

As with all Copper Branch stores, the Bleecker Street location will cater to on-the-go New Yorkers by featuring an all-day breakfast and an all-encompassing menu that includes power bowls, burgers and sandwiches, soups and chili, and power smoothies. The entire menu is whole food plant-based, with many non-GMO, organic, specialty and naturally gluten-free foods.

Black Bean Burger

All of Copper Branch’s locations are franchisee-owned and, in addition to further expansion within the Tri-State area, the chain is planning on expanding into California, Texas, Massachusetts, Maine, Arizona and several other states across the country. The company is also planning to propel their expansion plans by solidifying agreements with area developers who will purchase the rights to develop and own specific territories across America and in turn will sell portions of this territory to new sub-franchisees.

Although the entire Copper Branch menu is vegan, the company has found that the vast majority of its customers are not strict vegans, but rather omnivores and flexitarians who want to replicate the delicious foods they currently enjoy but in a healthier, more ethical way. “This is food I’m proud to have my children eat!” added Infantino.

As the world is well aware, the fires raging through the Amazon Rainforest are an international environmental tragedy. The world’s largest quick service plant-based restaurant chain, Copper Branch, is doing its part and is urging companies in North America and around the world to follow its lead, by their Rainforest Trust donation program.

Through its My Copper Branch Rewards, every time a customer uses their loyalty card, a donation is made by the company to the Rainforest Trust, a global organization protecting our planet’s most endangered wildlife forests and animals. The campaign was started in September of 2018 and, since that time, over 5,200 acres of rainforest land has been saved through Copper Branch’s customers’ use of their loyalty cards.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research has recently reported that more than 72,000 fires have occurred in Brazil since the start of 2019 with over half of those being in the Amazon rainforest region, known as “The Earth’s Lungs”. This has led to an 83% increase in deforestation as compared to 2018. They reported the staggering statistic that 1.5 soccer fields are burning every minute in the country. The impact has been widespread to the health of planet and its inhabitants living in these rainforest lands. Even large cities like Sao Paulo have been affected as the city has been plunged into virtual darkness due to the traveling smoke.

“Especially with the ongoing environmental catastrophe occurring in the Amazon, we at Copper Branch are proud to partner with an amazing organization like Rainforest Trust to preserve rainforest lands which are absolutely essential to the health of the planet and our species,” said Infantino. “Every time one of our 50,000 loyalty club customers uses their card they are, in their own small and personal way, helping this organization fight the destruction of these indispensable rainforest regions.”

The three-decades-old Rainforest Trust, one of the most respected environmental organizations around the world, protects threatened tropical forests and endangered wildlife by partnering with local and community organizations in and around vulnerable areas. The Rainforest Trust partnership-based approach ensures the long-term protection of tropical ecosystems and the wildlife they hold. They support projects throughout Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Over 60 nations and 2 million farmers around the globe have sustainability programs or are certified producers, which improve community livelihoods and protect the environment.

Bliss on the Menu

Coconut Bliss has had the opportunity to break into the restaurant sphere in a major way, in addition to its ongoing production of plant-based ice cream products available to consumers in-store. Coconut Bliss has found that providing plant-based dessert options at restaurants is not only widely popular, but increasingly expected, as the company’s soft serve is performing 232 percent over projections with their entire food service program up 190 percent  this year. So far, the company has partnered with Shari’s Cafe and Pies, Los Angeles-based Mel’s Diner, and Pacific Northwest fast-casual restaurant franchise, Burgerville to provide plant-based dessert menu options.

Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine asked Darcey Howard, Coconut Bliss’ Director of Marketing, to detail Coconut Bliss’ experience  in the restaurant industry,

How and why did Coconut Bliss reach out to restaurants?

All three restaurants Coconut Bliss currently works with reached out to Coconut Bliss with requests to integrate the company's plant-based ice cream into their menu options. Mel's Diner contacted Coconut Bliss through US Foods, the restaurant food supplier.

Did restaurants reach out to Coconut Bliss with ways they were using the product?

Yes, these requests came with details on how Burgerville, Mel's Diner, and Shari's Cafe and Pies were planning on using the product. All three establishments have used Coconut Bliss' soft-serve product to create plant-based shake menu items.

What are some common recipes made with the product?

Coconut Bliss' vanilla soft-serve product is most often used as a plant-based shake base. Other ingredients are then added to that base to produce various flavor combinations. Check out a sampling of recipes using Coconut Bliss ice cream here. 

Are there any cooking differences chefs should know about?

Coconut Bliss' product is a chef-professed joy to work with, as its ultra-creamy and easy to mold. These elements make Coconut Bliss a great ingredient for all types of recipes, from pies, to salad dressings, to mole sauces. 

It's Unbeetable

True Food Kitchen's all-new fall menu includes its first-ever beet-based burger. The Unbeetable Burger starts with a made-from-scratch beet and kuzu patty, packed full of anti-inflammatory benefits with a sweet and savory flavor. The patty is topped with a brush of teriyaki sauce to give it a slight kick and jicama slaw and butter lettuce for an added crunch, and it is finished off with creamy avocado, vegan mayonnaise and a delicious flaxseed bun.

True Food Kitchen's Unbeetable Burger

"The inspiration behind the Unbeetable Burger came from our dedication to culinary creativity, as well as our long-standing commitment to following the principles of the anti-inflammatory food pyramid created by our founder, Dr. Andrew Weil," said Robert McCormick, True Food Kitchen brand chef. "We wanted to focus on using only clean and unprocessed ingredients to create a dish that is traditionally thought of as indulgent. Our plant-based burger boasts an impressive nutritional profile and is perfectly balanced and full of flavor."

While beets are beneficial on their own—they are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; have anti-inflammatory qualities that help reduce the risk of cancer; and are proven to lower blood sugar and support digestive and brain health—they do even more when combined with kuzu root, the binding agent in the patty. Kuzu provides numerous health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and reducing muscular tension and migraines. It has also been proven to help balance natural sugars, and, coupled with the beets, helps supply long-lasting energy. 

"At True Food Kitchen, we believe food is medicine, and that eating healthy, nutritious foods don't require you to sacrifice taste, flavor or quality," said Christine Barone, True Food Kitchen CEO. "We are committed to providing our guests with a variety of delicious foods to choose from, all full of nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory ingredients that, prepared the right way, will lead to a better, more wholesome, fulfilled lifestyle."

The expansion of the new fall menu—the largest menu rollout in the history of the brand—will offer guests more options than ever before. In addition to beets, butternut squash and pomegranates, another starring ingredient this fall is sea buckthorn, a plant rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that has long been used for medicinal purposes. Several of True Food Kitchen's seasonal drinks—including the Ginger Margarita, Dr. Weil's Wellness Shot and Antioxidant Mimosa—will feature this juice. While sea buckthorn is naturally sour, True Food balances the ingredient with vanilla and sweetens it with other natural fruit juices to create delicious, one-of-a kind beverages.

Carl's Jr. Goes Beyond Famous in Canada

Carl’s Jr. today announced that the brand is expanding its partnership with Beyond Meat® to launch the Beyond Famous Star with Cheese in Canada, the brand’s first expansion of the product into an international market building on the success of the burger in the U.S.


The Beyond Famous Star is a flexitarian take on the restaurant’s fan-favorite Famous Star burger, featuring the 100-percent plant-based patty from Beyond Meat. The quarter-pound patty is cooked top-to-bottom over an open flame in Carl’s Jr.’s unique char broiler, packing its delicious flavour right into the burger.

“After the wild success of the Beyond Famous Star in our U.S. Carl’s Jr. locations and hearing consumer feedback and demand for a plant-based option at our Canada locations, we knew it was the perfect time to add the Beyond Famous Star to our menu internationally,” said Mike Woida, President of International, CKE Restaurants. “As market leaders in the plant-based category, we are thrilled to partner with Beyond Meat to deliver one of the most craveable burger options that is cooked and flavoured by fire.”

“Carl’s Jr. has been a strong partner in the U.S. and we’re pleased to expand the availability of the Beyond Famous Star across North America,” said Hameed Jagani, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Beyond Meat.

The Beyond Famous Star features the Beyond Burger™ patty topped with melted American cheese, lettuce, tomato, sliced onions, dill pickles, special sauce and mayonnaise on a seeded bun. The Beyond Burger patty is made without GMOs, gluten and soy, and has lower saturated fat than regular beef, but still delivers tons of flame-broiled flavor and 20g of protein.

Plant-Powered Dining in L.A.

Canadian plant-based restaurant Fresh opens its first U.S. location this September on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood, Calif. Fresh L.A. offers the Toronto establishment's signature shareable cuisine, cold-pressed juices, botanical cocktails and wines. Fresh Founder Ruth Tal has partnered with longtime friend and local hospitality powerhouse Shereen Arazm, co-owner of Terroni and former “Top Chef Canada” judge, to bring Fresh to Los Angeles. The opening marks the sixth location for the boutique restaurant empire. 

With a full-service dining room, bar and robust take-away program, Fresh serves up scratch-made vegan cuisine and cocktails. The energizing, soul-satisfying menu is designed to appeal to everyone from vegans, to flexitarians, to omnivores alike. Menu highlights include Fresh’s famous Quinoa Onion Rings, the All Star – voted Toronto’s best salad, the Powerhouse and Beach bowls, which have inspired copycat versions the world over, authentic Jerusalem-stylehummus, vegan poutine, gluten-free pancakes,  flatbreads with Italian sausage & feta – all plant-based, of course! 

Fresh L.A. features a full-service craft cocktail bar to complement the dining program, with cocktails such as Fresh’s version of Canada’s favorite hangover cure, the Julia Caesar, featuring Corbin Cash sweet potato vodka, vegan clamato, crispy cauliflower garnish and a wild salt rim, the Aloe Mojito with Crusoe Silver organic rum, Chareau aloe liqueur, crushed mint, organic lime, and spruce tipped sugar, and Smoke & Mirrors with Yola mezcal, cachaça, cold-pressed organic pineapple, organic lemon, coconut milk, and Thai basil. The diverse cocktail program is accompanied by zero-proof libations, micro-brewed ciders, house-made sodas, high-protein shakes, superfood hot chocolate, and Intelligentsia coffee program. Additionally, Fresh L.A. has a full line of nourishing raw, organic cold-pressed juices, available for both dine-in and take-away.

“When we first started thinking about bringing Fresh to the U.S., I immediately knew that L.A. was the perfect location,” shares Tal. “This city has been such an inspiration to me, from its vibrant culture to its groundbreaking cuisine. I’m excited for this to be the place to introduce Fresh to the U.S.”

“It is such a dream to collaborate with my friend and partner Ruth to open Fresh in Los Angeles,” adds Arazm. “At Fresh, we want to welcome everyone by making plant-based food accessible and enjoyable for all.”

Situated in the heart of Sunset Blvd., Tal and Arazm collaborated with Cuff Founders Kristi Bender and Wendy Schwartz to transform the 5,000-square-foot space into a dreamy, relaxed and refined lounge-like environment. The chic interior is lined with luxe, jewel-toned velvet booths against shades of melon, blue and creamy white, with antique brass and natural oak accents. Along with two bars and private event space on the second floor, Fresh L.A. also offers a lush patio with outdoor seating.

Ko-Cream Goodness

Fuji Plant Protein Labs (FPPL) is launching Ko-Cream, a plant-based cream for professional chefs, manufacturers, and foodservice. Ko-Cream is a rich plant-based cream alternative for food brands and dairy-alternative brands in North America. Ko-Cream delivers on the demand for non-dairy plant-based food products. 


Commercial food product developers can use Ko-Cream to infuse plant-based benefits into sauces, ice cream, dressings, emulsions, spreads and desserts for another layer of flavor. Its ability to be cultured to make vegan soft cheeses and spreads is unparalleled. Ko-Cream’s richness, emulsion properties, and the way it picks up flavor are far superior over other vegan and plant-based cream for professionals. The way it blends, cooks, and feels in the mouth makes it a flexible ingredient as compared to dairy cream.

What is Ultra Soy Separation? Ko-Cream is a non-dairy, non-GMO, soy-based product produced with FPPL’s patented Ultra Soy Separation process (USS). Fuji Plant Protein Labs achieves the goal to come as close as possible to real dairy cream in texture, consistency, and flavor by using their patented Ultra Soy Separation process (USS). Utilizing a method similar to that used to separate fresh milk the soy mash is separated yielding low-fat soymilk and Ko-Cream.

Juicy Dallas

Pressed Juicery will officially open its second Dallas-Fort Worth location on September 14 at Southlake Town Center.

Photo by Ashlee Huff

“We’ve been overwhelmed with the positive response we’ve experienced in Uptown Dallas since opening and can’t wait to keep the momentum going with our new store in Southlake,” said Blaine LaBron, Vice-President of Marketing Technology at Pressed Juicery. “We’ve only just begun, are going to keep expanding our footprint in Texas and can’t wait to be part of the Southlake community.”   

The Southlake store will carry cold-pressed juices, functional shots, plant-based milks, and plant based vegan soft serve Freeze topped with decadent gluten free and vegan toppings.  They will also feature trendy grab and go snacks including gluten free Bakeology Cookie bites and Simply Fuel Protein Balls.

Pressed Juicery recently announced plans to expand to Houston, with additional Dallas-Fort Worth locations on the horizon as well. The company operates 80 retail stores in six states, is available in nearly 2,000 locations through its wholesale partners, and can be purchased directly from their website to any location within the U.S.