Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton is backing a new vegan fast food and burger restaurant called Neat Burger. The restaurant, designed as a roll-out and based on Beyond Meat’s bleeding burgers based on plants, will take the site formerly occupied by Japanese restaurant Chisou, on Woodstock Street in Mayfair, according to Racefans.
It has high aspirations, promising to be the “first international, plant-based burger chain” in the world, with the backing of tech meat unicorn Beyond Meat. Three burgers — “the neat”; “the cheese”; and “the chick’n” — will anchor the menu, alongside fries; sweet potato fries if the shortage relents; tater tots; and a vegan hot dog. Hamilton said:
I’m very passionate about being kinder to our world and also really respect Neat Burger’s commitment to more ethical practices and supporting small businesses, so this is something I’m also really proud to support.
No small businesses are named in Neat Burger’s roster, only Beyond Meat: the tech meat giant whose pea protein and beetroot juice burgers have been largely overshadowed by the Impossible Burger in America. That burger is not yet legal in the U.K. — heme, the soy-derived protein that adds umami and creates the “bleed” has not been approved as an ingredient — so Beyond Meat using celebrity-backed shop windows seems like a smart move for the company, even if the impact of economies of scale on these unicorn companies is rarely properly addressed. Both companies position themselves as not just burger makers, but environmental stewards — claiming their burger is the way to save the climate. It’s not, and never will be, that simple.
Hamilton’s collaborators, hospitality company The Cream Group, and Beyond Meat investor Tommaso Chiabra, are keen to hammer home the restaurant’s environmental credentials; less so the evident moneymaking potential of a celebrity roll-out:
The meat industry is the biggest contributor to greenhouse emissions and its environmental impact is no longer sustainable together with the growth of the population. Neat Burger aims to disrupt the non-sustainable food industry and become a force for good.
The announcement comes at a febrile time for discourse around fast food: the Popeyes chicken sandwich and its resultant discourse has asked questions of how popularity and scale necessarily intersect with the conditions of production that permit them: a celebrity with the profile that Lewis Hamilton has backing Beyond Meat means its profile will surely grow; as it does, interrogation of its practices and impact on the world will become more necessary. It’s never as simple as just rolling out a vegan burger restaurant.
Neat Burger, 22-23 Woodstock Street, London W1C 2AR
Opens 2 September.