Is it just us, or does the fast-food industry feel stale? For decades, the same roster of greasy giants have grilled, fried, and (heavily) seasoned our plates with processed meat and salty fries.
But Kevin Hart is set to make a dent this summer with Hart House—a plant-based fast-food chain debuting in Los Angeles. Partnering with entrepreneur Andy Hooper and chef Michael Salem (the former culinary chef of Burger King), Hart seeks to promote the plant-based lifestyle to vegans and carnivores alike with what he’s dubbing delicious, sustainable, and craveable food.
“It’s one thing when you hear someone’s idea and you get excited about working with a celebrity,” Salem told Los Angeles Magazine. “It’s another thing when you hear about somebody’s idea and it actually resonates with your life’s work and that’s what happened to me.”
This move isn’t much of a surprise from Hart considering the actor-comedian (turned tequila maker) lives a plant-based lifestyle. As an investor in the vegan meat alternative brand Beyond Meat, Hart is no stranger to promoting plant-based options and pushing the vegan movement into the mainstream. And he’s in good company. Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton opened the U.K. chain NeatBurger in 2019 with backing from Academy-Award winner Leonardo DiCaprio. NeatBurger is expected to hit the U.S. market this year prompting many to look to vegan chains as the future of fast food.
Is Plant-Based Meat Healthy?
Though obviously void of animal protein, plant-based meats aren’t necessarily healthier. They’re typically highly processed, and therefore higher in calories, salt, and sugar than traditional meat. Plus, a slew of flavor enhancers and preservatives are added for longer shelf life.
Why this matters: Certain food additives can cause digestive problems while others may impact nervous system disorders (like insomnia and irritability), on top of unwanted weight gain.
A 2019 study compared 137 plant-based products with their meat counterparts and found that only four percent of those plant-based alternatives were lower in sodium with sodium content ranging from 500mg per 100 grams up to a staggering 1,200mg (1).
However, a 2020 study notes that when 36 participants swapped out meat products for plant-based ones, there was improvement with cardiac risk factors and they consumed less saturated fat with more fiber (2).
The Final Verdict
Whether or not Hart House will put an emphasis on less-processed foods remains to be seen. Meatless burger options that put whole veggies and legumes front and center are always more health-forward than their ultra-processed made-to-mimic-meat alternatives (boasting less sodium and fewer additives). But we can almost guarantee that Beyond Meat will be on the menu at Hart House, considering Hart’s partnership with the plant-based meat company. And that alone means we likely can’t expect a super healthy, whole food “fast-food” option.