There’s a shift taking place in San Francisco’s fast-food business. Town’s Fisherman’s Wharf, a world-famous vacationer vacation spot, lately bid farewell to its solely McDonald’s outpost. The golden arches formally shuttered on the finish of final yr, marking the primary time the worldwide chain has closed a San Francisco location since 2018.
Regardless of the closure, locals and vacationers alike can nonetheless take pleasure in basic fast-food fare made with out the necessity to slaughter animals. Enter: Mr. Charlie’s—the TikTok sensation dubbed “the vegan McDonald’s” that first opened in Los Angeles final winter to a lot fanfare.
The brand new Mr. Charlie’s outpost will open in San Francisco’s Union Sq. neighborhood, roughly two miles from Fisherman’s Wharf and throughout the road from an working McDonald’s.
To mark its enlargement into the town, the TikTok-famous restaurant is launching—and making a gift of—Mini Frowny Meals throughout its grand opening this Saturday. Every meal will embrace two Not Rooster Nuggets, an order of fries, and selection of Not a Hamburger or Not a Cheeseburger made with Unimaginable patties.
“We’ve been in Los Angeles for a minute, and it’s been unimaginable—simply past the dream,” Taylor McKinnon, Mr. Charlie’s co-founder, tells VegNews. “We’ve actually seen an influence of what a enterprise like this may do for the plant-based world.”
Whereas Mr. Charlie’s just isn’t the primary vegan fast-food idea, McKinnon sees it as an integral a part of the shift the fast-food business is present process as a complete.
“We really feel like we’re spokes on the wheel of transformation,” he says. “I say ‘spoke’ as a result of we’re not making an attempt to reinvent the wheel right here. Many individuals did that earlier than us, and I believe we’re simply part of it. I like to consider [Mr. Charlie’s] as a bit crimson and yellow spoke on that wheel.”
Mr. Charlie’s brings vegan Frowny Meals to San Francisco
Mr. Charlie’s San Francisco outpost has been extremely anticipated by followers of the vegan fast-food restaurant. After teasing the brand new location on Instagram final fall, Mr. Charlie’s quietly opened to on-line orders by way of meals supply platform DoorDash.
Since then, the restaurant has been bombarded with numerous on-line messages from hungry followers inquiring in regards to the San Francisco outpost’s official grand opening. These seeking to get their palms on a free Mini Frowny Meal can cease by Mr. Charlie’s between 11:11 AM and 1:11 PM on Saturday. The restaurant’s flagship Los Angeles location can also be celebrating the brand new San Francisco location with its personal free Mini Frowny Meal, obtainable throughout the identical time interval.
“If you happen to’ve considered going plant-based, now you don’t have an excuse,” McKinnon says in regards to the giveaway. “We’ll pay in your meals.”
With its grand opening simply in the future away, McKinnon is able to wow patrons in additional methods than one. Mr. Charlie’s San Francisco can even home a petting zoo in collaboration with Mercy for Animals (MFA). The petting zoo will characteristic artificial cow replicas to highlight the plight of farmed animals—a show that stands to make a large influence given the outpost’s location in a vacationer hub.
Moreover, the restaurant will promote branded t-shirts, all proceeds from which shall be donated to help MFA’s work.
Mr. Charlie’s potential to attract shoppers with distinctive eating experiences whereas creatively advocating for animals, individuals, and the planet has additionally garnered help from main vegan firms. The restaurant’s Frowny Meal giveaway is a collaboration with Unimaginable Meals, one other firm dedicated to eradicating animals from the meals system.
“This intelligent and cheeky tackle meals has attracted a cult following of younger individuals making value-based buying choices, like defending the planet or serving to their communities,” Erin Reynolds, Vice President of Nationwide Meals Service Gross sales at Unimaginable Meals, tells VegNews. “Few meals experiences are in a position to tick all of those bins whereas nonetheless tasting scrumptious—till now. We love how the restaurant has constructed Unimaginable merchandise into their menu to seize such a strong and energized viewers.”
Mr. Charlie’s supplies jobs
Mr. Charlie’s has been extensively admired for its strategy to vegan fast-food, however the restaurant’s hiring practices are additionally trigger for celebration.
To employees its Los Angeles restaurant, Mr. Charlie’s partnered with the Dream Heart, a nationwide group that helps unhoused and previously incarcerated individuals get again on their ft by offering them with housing, coaching, and extra assets.
13 of Mr. Charlie’s Los Angeles staff are Dream Heart contributors, together with supervisor Susanna Sanchez. Sanchez, a single mother who moved to Los Angeles from Phoenix “after hitting useless finish after useless finish,” discovered herself on the Dream Heart.
“After months of being on the Dream Heart, going from job to job, the Lord opened up a chance at Mr. Charlie’s, and I have to say I’m so excited to be part of this motion,” Sanchez, who was additionally part of the Dream Heart’s Phoenix chapter, tells VegNews.
“It has not solely modified my perspective, it has given me a chance to develop, to get out of my consolation zone, to problem myself, [and] to open doorways for me and my kids’s future that I couldn’t see earlier than.”
Sanchez has since moved out of the Dream Heart’s Household Ground and into her personal condo. She has been a significant a part of guaranteeing Mr. Charlie’s San Francisco meets expectations, helping with coaching and high quality management.
The restaurant will comply with this identical hiring mannequin in San Francisco, this time partnering with numerous organizations dedicated to serving to the unhoused, together with GLIDE and City Alchemy.
Actual residing wages
However Mr. Charlie’s does greater than rent unhoused and previously incarcerated individuals. The restaurant supplies management-level staff with a $300 bank card allowance monthly to assist them construct credit score and set up wholesome spending habits.
For McKinnon, who discovered himself residing on the streets after shifting to Los Angeles from Australia, uplifting unhoused people and partnering with the Dream Heart is of utmost significance, coming earlier than earnings and burgers.
Whereas different fast-food chains are nonetheless experiencing excessive worker turnover through the “Nice Resignation,” Mr. Charlie’s is creating an actual path for individuals whose alternatives are in any other case very restricted, inspiring a brand new technology of employees to rejoin the labor power whereas paying honest wages.
“If you happen to’re [unhoused] and also you don’t have any ID, it’s inconceivable to get a job,” McKinnon says. “Our partnership with the Dream Heart is [Mr. Charlie’s way] of stepping up as a company and saying, ‘We don’t care about what you’ve executed in your life. We now have no judgment. We consider that if you wish to begin once more … we’re a secure haven to welcome you again to society. And we’re not going to scold you for it—we’re not going to pay you low wages.’”
Vegan McDonald’s? I don’t know her
Whereas Angelenos and social media at giant—and shortly San Franciscans—have embraced Mr. Charlie’s and celebrated its work in serving to probably the most marginalized communities, it’s not with out criticism of its pricing, which many have identified runs larger than McDonald’s.
When requested to answer such critics, McKinnon says, “McWho? We do not know who they’re. We will’t evaluate ourselves to an organization we don’t know.”
Mr. Charlie’s, not like McDonald’s, pays its staff above minimal wage and doesn’t profit from authorities subsidies of animal merchandise for the reason that vegan fast-food restaurant doesn’t promote animal meat or dairy merchandise. Regardless of critics, patrons proceed lining up day after day, showcasing prospects are prepared to pay extra to help livable wages and hiring fashions that profit—not exploit—probably the most marginalized.
By means of Mr. Charlie’s, McKinnon and co-founders Charlie Kim and Aaron Haxton intention to create a welcoming, joyful surroundings that seeks to, fairly actually, flip frowns the other way up, and their vivid crimson burger bins emblazoned with golden frowns are a daring reminder of their mission.
However how did the trio first come collectively? A pizza oven.
McKinnon and Haxton, who ran a inventive company collectively, heard a pizza oven was being offered at a close-by restaurant house. A buddy of the pair was out there for one, so the duo made their method over to inquire in regards to the piece of kitchen tools.
After they confirmed up, Kim—who had simply rented the house—was there. The three linked immediately and have become rapid companions.
Haxton and McKinnon, specialists at creating distinctive ideas, discovered the right companion in Kim, who left his company job to assist his dad and mom’ struggling enterprise, San Francisco-based Korean street-food restaurant Aria.
And whereas they didn’t intend to open a vegan restaurant, in reality toying with a rooster idea first, the trio finally selected a plant-based restaurant after McKinnon referred to as Kim in a panic one evening stating, “I can’t kill that many chickens.”
Now, Kim, Haxton, and McKinnon—who all eat a principally plant-based eating regimen themselves—aren’t simply saving hundreds of thousands of animals’ lives, they’re serving to the surroundings and uplifting unhoused communities.
Subsequent up for Mr. Charlie’s? A location in Sydney, Australia, the rising chain’s first worldwide enlargement, which is ready to open this spring. As with Mr. Charlie’s San Francisco enlargement, the fast-food restaurant will faucet into its current workforce and prepare staff to handle future outposts.
Consistent with its general mission, Mr. Charlie’s Sydney will donate meals and funds to the Redfern Neighborhood Heart—which serves native Indigenous communities and organizes culturally related occasions—regularly, which in flip will assist the middle stay open after years of struggling to maintain its doorways open. The fast-food restaurant can even deliver jobs and create youth applications to make sure the Redfern Neighborhood Heart prospers.
McDonald’s might have outlined fast-food of the previous, however Mr. Charlie’s is setting the precedent for the way forward for fast-food.