Chef Matthew Kenney opens Rhode Island’s first vegan drive-thru
Plant City X, a plant-based restaurant, recently opened in Middletown, RI, as the Northeast’s first vegan drive-thru restaurant. Plant City X is the latest concept launched by Chef Matthew Kenney and Rhode Island-based entrepreneur Kim Anderson, the owners of the all-vegan food hall in Plant City in Providence. In creating the menu for Plant City X, Anderson consulted with Plant City Chef Luis Jaramillo and developed a stripped-down menu with the Food Hall’s best-selling items, as well as some new offerings that would work in a fast-paced environment. “We can actually drive 65 cars an hour through our driveway, so we needed items that could be made very quickly,” Anderson told VegNews.
The Plant City X menu includes a variety of burgers (made from beans, vegetables, and grains), chik sandwiches and nuggets (crispy fried tofu), salad bowls, various types of mac and cheese (all gluten-free), and with sweet potato and regular fries Covering. The “X-treme Fries”, for example, are loaded with pickled Fresno peppers, “X” sauce, cashew cheddar, shiitake bacon, caramelized onions and coriander mayonnaise. Plant City X also serves breakfast rolls, desserts like frozen yogurt parfaits (made from frozen coconut yogurt and a variety of toppings), cookies and brownies, and shakes. “It’s all supposed to be fun and accessible … longing food that people want to eat,” Kenney told VegNews.
Plant a new brand
Just outside Newport is the new vegan drive-thru in a 300-square-foot building with juxtaposed oversized arched windows and a front terrace with elegant black metal picnic tables with black and white checkered umbrellas. Plant City X is a former Papa Gino who has been retrofitted with a drive-through window. It can seat 20 people outdoors and approximately 40 seats indoors with COVID-19 restrictions, but can accommodate more than 70 customers once the restrictions are lifted. The restaurant also has its own app that customers can use to place orders at the drive-through window or have their groceries delivered within a 10-mile radius.
Plant City X was a natural next step after Plant City, which opened in June 2019 to receive rave reviews. “In just over 20 months we built a brand with a large building in Providence,” said Anderson. “We kept hearing from our customers: ‘They have to open a factory near us. ‘We have a lot of Newport area customers who say,’ Please come to Newport ‘When we saw this great building in Middletown that had been empty for over a year and a half, we felt good about it. “
Anderson and Kenney both commend the community for the acceptance of Plant City X and say they are excited to give back in every possible way. Not only does the restaurant use local vendors for everything from burger buns to mushrooms, but it also makes sure the staff are well paid. This also includes an open pool tip system in which everyone, from dishwashers to cashiers, shares in the tips collected. “Our people are amazing,” said Anderson. “We get compliments all the time. We want people to feel like they were just having the best fast food drive-through experience they’ve ever had. “
Expansion of the herbal brand
The duo plan to expand the vegan drive-thru concept in southern New England. “We’re looking at five different locations right now. They’re all highly concentrated business parks and these businesses already exist,” said Anderson, noting that Plant City X in Middletown is between Taco Bell on one side and a Burger King on the other Side is jammed.
Kenney, who opened seven new restaurants during the pandemic – including the vegan Italian restaurant BAIA in San Francisco – said the drive-thru concept works well at a time when social distancing is the norm. “I think Plant City X is a great model to scale and can be used anywhere that there is traffic. I think there will be a lot of demand for it, ”said Kenney. “The first one works great and we really want to streamline operations with the next two or three and make it as good as possible. From there I see unlimited growth. “
Kenney, a celebrity chef, author, and wellness entrepreneur has published or is about to open 12 cookbooks and opened more than 40 restaurants around the world. Given the rise in veganism in recent years, Kenney believes Plant City X will be part of the future he always envisioned. “When I went plant-based 18 years ago, I really saw it as the future,” Kenney said. “I didn’t know how long it was going to take, but I believed that herbal products would permeate any arena where food is served, be it in a school, hospital, plane, or transit. For me is Eat plant-based; that’s the way it is supposed to be, and I’m excited to see how quickly things have quickened lately. “
Photo credit: Cassidy Bissitt