Vegan Fast Food

A vegan fast food restaurant formula

First of all, I would like to give some background and explain why I am writing this. When I was in junior high school, I worked in the cafeteria to earn my lunch. My mother married a seaman in the U.S. Navy. He was a seaman (E3) and earned very little. My mother had three children at the time, so we were very poor. My working in the cafeteria continued through high school. I also worked after school at a restaurant besides running my printing company.

After completing active duty in the U.S. Air Force in 1965, I ran three restaurants over a period of several years. The last one was a vegetarian restaurant in Odessa, Texas, which I ran for ten and a half months in order to work out the details of creating a vegetarian fast-food restaurant that could be run by one person per shift. I proved that it could work. If a vegetarian restaurant can succeed in Odessa then it could succeed almost anywhere since the number of vegetarians in Odessa at that time could probably be counted on one hand. Since that time I have continued developing the concept so that I could set up a vegan fast-food restaurant chain.

A few years ago I made a decision that will help veganism. I considered what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was born in 1941. The average lifespan of men in the USA is something like 76 years. Since I am vegan I should live a few years longer then that.

I have decided to sell off most of my properties.  At the very least those that require active management.  I am devoting the few years that I have left to Buddhism, veganism, animal rights, and the environment. I will continue helping with vegan projects including helping you if it does something to help veganism.

I am also going to give up developing my vegan fast-food restaurant chain. However, I am not abandoning the idea altogether but have decided instead to pass on my ideas to my fellow vegans. Vegan restaurants are very important towards having a predominantly vegan world by 2050. There will be no charge for this information but I would not be averse to a free meal when I am in the area of the restaurant. ;-) I am copyrighting the information with permission to copy it under the conditions listed below. It is given with love for all sentient beings.

Please feel free to forward this to any vegan who would be interested in opening a vegan restaurant.  Since I am copyrighting it, I will ask three things if you want to copy it.  It must contains my name, the copyright information, and the URL for the VEGAN 2050 home page:

I have developed a totally new concept in restaurants and I have test marketed it. It works! To understand what I have done, and why, you will need some additional background. In order to solve some of the restaurant problems and to provide an option to vegetarians and those interested in their health, I created this concept. Some of the problems that exist in some, if not all, fast-food restaurants are:

Here is how I solved the problems:

First, the food is low in calories, low in fat, cholesterol-free, and low in price. This appeals to a wider group of people then just vegans.

Second, I did not touch the food, except for the initial preparation work and then only when my hands were thoroughly washed. Most states now require anyone touching food wear vinyl gloves. All food was prepared in such a way that the risk of becoming infected with E. coli or other forms of food poisoning was almost non-existent.

Third, I chose the right kind of food, so waste was almost eliminated.

Fourth, I did not cook with fats (no oil was dumped in the drains). Other environmentally friendly methods were also implemented.

Fifth, a new energy-efficient building was designed.

Sixth, I had no employees. Every place was designed to be run by its owner(s). This alone eliminated many of the problems that other fast-food restaurants face.

The major reason that most restaurants go under is employees. Employees have certainly been the cause of my failures in the first two restaurants that I owned. After talking with many other owners of restaurants that have failed, I realized that is also the experience of other people.

My success came when I ran my third restaurant without employees. Here is why: Food costs for a restaurant are, on average, about a third of the price of the meal and drink costs about a quarter of the meal price. That should leave a lot of money for profit or enable the owner to offer meals at lower prices.

Instead, overhead, mainly salaries, eat away profit. Employees have to be paid even if no money is coming in. You pay them to sit around and do nothing. Yes, you can have them clean, do prep work, and so on, but there is only so much that they can do if no one comes in. Theft by employees, poor service, employees not showing up for their shifts, employees bad-mouthing the business (especially after they are fired), large amounts of paperwork and taxes related to being an employer, and more, destroy business or eat into profits. So, when I decided to reinvent the fast-food restaurant business, this was my number one consideration other then making it totally vegetarian (and later vegan after I became a vegan).

Here is how I eliminated employees:

First, I redesigned the work area. I made it very logical and designed it around a circle with me in the middle. Even though my first building was not a dome, I still tried to make the work area as close to a circle as possible. In this way everything was within reach. It just takes imagination and some thought. What you use the most needs to be located the closest to where you mainly work.

The dome building needs to be only about 300 sq ft at a minimum.  My suggested circular layout is highly efficient.  Shelves and areas beneath the counter provide extra storage.  The entrance door combines the door with an effective drive-up window. Space is utilized to the maximum.  Even the restroom is extremely small with only a toilet in it and is used only by the owner.  The sink is extremely small. Since the bathroom is used only by the owner, paper towels are not needed but only a cloth towel is needed. This bathroom setup saves natural resources and utilizes the space more effectively. 

A dome building is very inexpensive to build and can be moved. If the business ceases to operate, the building can be moved to the owner's home and used as a storage shed, a workshop, a children's playhouse, or for another purpose. The land requirement is so small that the building can be erected in a space that is unusable for any other kind of business. This means that the land can be purchased at a bargain price. Land can also be rented from a shopping center.

The restaurant has only a drive-through window. There are several reasons for having no tables or sitting areas. Most States require there to be two restrooms if seating is provided. This takes up space and entails a lot of extra clean-up. Restrooms at a restaurant must be kept clean at all times. Not all customers will leave the restroom clean after they use it, so that means an extra person must be hired to take care of it and other clean-up. If there are public restrooms they must be handicapped-accessible. This takes even more space and necessitates more heating/cooling and more cleaning.

In addition, there is the clean-up of the seating area, which would also need to be done by a second person.

The restaurant could be placed in a food court in a mall since the renter would not be required to clean up the seating area or to provide rest rooms.

The second thing I did to eliminate employees was to forget the idea of serving a huge variety of dishes. My aim was to serve a few items and do them well. Avoid serving food that entails a lot of work to serve it other then prep work. Think of a school cafeteria where you would simply scoop out what you are serving.

Third, and this is the only thing that I really dislike but I could not think of an alternative that did not necessitate employees. I used Styrofoam containers. They retain heat, or cold, and they eliminate much of the clean up. Thus the only clean up is from the prep work, along with the serving pans and utensils.

Fourth, since there are no employees, theft, employee taxes, wages, employees not showing up, poor service, bad employee PR, and more are eliminated.

The only major mistake when I ran my test vegetarian fast-food restaurant was in my choice of food. I am not talking about the fact that it was a vegetarian restaurant. Remember that I was a vegetarian back then. The mistake was in what I served. I served burgers, giant bagel pizzas, soft drinks, milk shakes, and a few more items. Everything worked well until I had a rush, and then I had a problem. I got behind and I could have used a second or third person. Since that is not what I wanted to do, I started developing different menus. I created a great sloppy joe but I had to make a few changes to make it vegan.

So here is the answer: choose recipes for dishes that will not go bad or change their taste if they are kept hot for several hours. Another possibility is to prepare dishes that can be kept in the refrigerator overnight and still taste right. Many Indian and Chinese recipes will work. If you work within the parameters that I mentioned above and use foods that can be served cafeteria-style where you dish out the portions, you will have a winning combination. All you will need to do is to scoop the serving into a Styrofoam container and give it to the customer at the drive-up window.

If you are not sure how much food to prepare, just cook more than you think you will need and place the surplus in the freezer.  Half an hour before you want to serve it, place the entire tray in the oven and it should be ready to go into the steam table in a short time.  I have experimented with this and well chosen dishes will remain fresh tasting for several days.  Please note that you are not destroying the nutritional value of the food, or the taste, if it is only kept the food in the freezer for a few days. By using this method of not throwing away any of the food, you eliminate waste.  I never wasted anything during the ten and a half months that I tested my concept. Of course, if I dropped anything on the floor I would not have saved it. I was very careful never to drop anything.

I received the highest grade (10) in my monthly inspections plus a few surprise inspections from the health department for all ten and a half months of my test. That is something that no-one else in Odessa at that time had ever achieved. The health inspector was very impressed with my restaurant.

When one person runs a restaurant, sanitary conditions become even more important than for most other establishments that serve food since the same person who handles money must also work with food. I have walked out of restaurants when I saw staff handling both money and food without washing their hands in between. Money is one of the dirtiest things in our society. That is why I do not eat the vegan food at "Subway". I have seen several there handle money and food without washing their hands inbetween. The solution is simple: never touch food while taking money. Serving utensils should be used and no food that requires direct handling should be served. Of course prep work is different since the restaurant is not open while that is taking place. Even then, hands should be cleaned thoroughly and never just rinsed. Twenty seconds of vigorous scrubbing with hot water and soap is the bare minimum. Gloves are even better and required by most states. A simple rule is to put yourself in the place of your customer and make sure you would feel that sanitary conditions are in place. Always aim for the highest score from the health department. In many cities that will give you some free publicity. Free publicity is much more valuable then advertising. The only thing better is word of mouth.

If you are going to build a building from scratch then consider a well-insulated dome building. The circle makes it much easier to work in the center. Heat and cool it with a heat pump. This allows fresh air as a pleasant side-effect. In addition, combine the entrance door with a drive-up window. This helps conserve energy. Keep the drive-up window closed, and use a speaker and microphone system instead of opening and closing the window. The window should only be used for handing out the food and accepting money. By only having a drive-up window, and no walk-up window or walk-ins, you eliminate cleaning up other people's messes. This saves on labor and eliminates the need for carrying trash to the dumpster. Do not forget that you will not need two rest rooms.

There are so many other things that I could tell you but I am writing a pamphlet and not a book. If you follow my plan then you can succeed with a vegan fast food restaurant without investing a lot of money and without spending a lot in its operation. Remember that this concept has been test-marketed in one of the least likely to succeed areas of the USA. Odessa is in the middle of cattle and oil country where they love their thick steaks. Even with this going against succeeding, it worked.

One last point which is very important. Advertise your restaurant as a healthy vegan restaurant and put the emphasis on health and not vegan.  Non-vegans think about corn, peas, potatoes, cantaloupes, bananas, oranges, apples, and other fruits and vegetables but they do not think of them as vegan. They almost certainly will have no problem with those but then tell them that your restaurant is vegan and they might think differently. Many times I would serve someone a "healthy burger" and when I asked them what they thought of it, they would say that it was the best burger they had ever tasted. When I told them that it was all vegetarian and made out of soy beans, they would throw it away and cuss me out. So emphasize the fact that the food is low in calories, low in fat, cholesterol-free, and low in price. This will increase your sales and help you to become successful.

My concept makes failure almost non-existent unless the food is really bad or you do not follow this plan. Remember, at first it will be slow but it will build up. So, a person must be ready to have a rough time at first but by sticking with it you will do very well in the long run.

If you have any questions about this article, feel free to contact Dr. Weseloh:

Copyright 2002, 2003 and 2014 by David A. Weseloh, Ph.D.

Insert date: 2009-05-16 Last update: 2018-02-24

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