Andrew Infantino, director of marketing and brand management at Copper Branch, is no stranger to selling an innovative concept. With sustainability and meat-free diets on the rise, the vegan-friendly fast-casual franchise is satiating eco-friendly consumers worldwide.
INTERVIEW BY KIERAN MCLOONE
KM: How does Copper Branch differentiate itself in the competitive fast-casual space?
AI: We’re a chain of 100 per cent plant-based restaurants; our menu and our concept are heath-focused. But at the core of what we do? It’s really to promote wholesome, plant-based food, in a fast-casual, quick-serve environment. We found that there was a need for, or a lack thereof, quality food in the fast-food segment. We felt there was an opportunity to offer an upper-scale dining experience, but in the quick-service space.
It’s always been about growth through franchising, and expanding the brand by opening new locations in high traffic, affluent areas.
KM: Why do you think plant-based diets are on the rise?
AI: Being in this space for around five or six years, we’ve definitely seen a huge increase in the awareness of plant-based foods, and what the power of eating more consciously can do. I think in general, consumers understand the health implications of the food that they eat, and how eating a less processed, less meat-focused diet can be beneficial for their health.
It’s a combination of that, plus all of these incredible products that are coming out and making plant-based eating so much more attractive to a mainstream audience. So you might say “I don’t want vegan food”, but the flavors and presentation don’t need to mention that it’s vegan. It’s just quality, delicious food.
KM: Does Copper Branch see companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat as direct competition, or is widespread meat-free awareness beneficial for everybody?
AI: I think it’s a form of competition, in the sense that a lot of the other chains are jumping on the Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat bandwagons. Naturally, that’s going to affect our performance.
At the end of the day, though, it’s helping to build awareness. There are definitely pros and cons.
KM: What kind of franchisees are you seeking, and what does the future of Copper Branch look like?
AI: In general, someone with a business appetite who is passionate about this movement and our food. We prefer owner-operators, as we want franchisees to be present in their stores and control their operations.
In Europe, we’re looking at the U.K. in particular. That could be our next opportunity, but for now, the focus is on Quebec, Ontario, and the rest of Canada. I think France will continue to develop, and hopefully, a few more flagship locations will open in the U.S.
In the short-term, we want to pass the 100 location mark in the next year or two. Hopefully, we can then grow exponentially.