What: The first fully plant-based Honest Burgers restaurant, which has replaced the group’s existing bricks-and-mortar restaurant on Garrick Street in Covent Garden. V Honest promises to combine ‘the key tenets of classic Honest Burgers’ with ‘an innovative, completely new menu of plant-based burgers, sauces and sides’.
Who: Philip Eeles and Tom Barton, who launched their first Honest Burgers restaurant in Brixton back in 2011. The group now operates an estate of around 45 restaurants.
The food: The V Honest menu features the brand’s most extensive vegan offering to date. Options include vegan takes on Honest’s classic burgers, including the Honest and Tribute burger that have both been on the menu since the brand launched. New additions exclusive to the V Honest menu include the Teriyaki burger with pulled shiitake mushrooms, teriyaki sauce, grilled peppers and spring onions (£14.75); and the Buffalo burger with a vegan fried ‘chicken’ patty and buffalo sauce (£13). As with all other Honest restaurants, all burgers are served with rosemary salted fries, while sides include onion rings (£4); and a shitake mushroom fritters (£6.50).
The vibe: With the exception of the name and a neon ‘honest plant-based burgers’ sign in the window, V Honest is identical in appearance to all other Honest Burgers restaurants. The design features a mix of bare brick and plywood, with the site holding around 50 covers in total.
And another thing: One of the most noticeable differences is that the tables in V Honest don’t have the familiar glass Heinz ketchup and squeezy Hellmann’s mayonnaise bottles that are found in a traditional Honest Burgers. Instead the ketchup at V Honest is provided by zero-waste pioneers Rubies in the Rubble. Other collaborators that Honest has partnered with include for the launch foraging experts Fable Food Co, and plant-based protein producer THIS.
V Honest is a logical next step for the Honest brand
The launch of V Honest reflects an ever-growing appetite for plant-based foods and is a logical next step for the Honest brand, writes James McAllister.
Was there really any need for Honest Burgers to launch its own dedicated vegan restaurant? It’s a question that has lingered in my mind since the group announced plans to open V Honest last month. Plant-based burgers are by no means a new addition to the Honest brand: the group first began adding vegan options to its menu back in 2018 and all Honest restaurants now serve at least one plant-based burger. The company presumably doesn’t think that’s enough to satisfy its vegan customers.
Co-founder Tom Barton told BigHospitality last year that one of the biggest shifts in the market since Honest Burgers first launched in 2011 has been the rise of plant-based substitutes. “I remember being told years ago that I needed to start thinking about vegan dishes and I thought it would never be a real part of our offer,” he said. “But we’ve worked hard to develop it, and our plant sales are massive now. It’s an integral part of our business, and something we’re going to continue focusing and building on going forwards.”
V Honest is the next move for the brand as it continues to focus on developing that arm of the business. It’s noticeable that the classic Plant burger served across the Honest estate doesn’t feature at V Honest, with the new brand instead serving a range of new burger options as well as vegan takes on the Honest classics. In that regard, V Honest is a perfect testbed for new ideas. But beyond that, taking over a high-footfall location that’s equidistance between Covent Garden and Leicester Square gives the group a chance to see how big an appetite for a dedicated plant-based Honest brand there really is.
It’s interesting that V Honest is launching at a time when we are seeing an increasing proliferation of vegan fast-food brands, particularly in the capital. The Lewis Hamilton-backed Neat Burger is set to launch 30 new sites across London this year, including 14 restaurants and 16 delivery kitchens; while in the emerging plant-based QSR space; fledgling concept Ready Burger (see this month’s Business Profile) is set to open two new restaurants in the coming months, having launched its first two locations last year.
Meanwhile, Deliveroo recently reported another huge increase in demand for vegan food in the past twelve months, with orders of plant-based dishes up 117% on the previous year. Coming during this year's Veganuary campaign, Deliveroo reports that more restaurants than ever before have introduced plant-based menus and dishes to their regular offering and there are now more than 15,000 plant-based and vegan friendly restaurants available on its UK platform.
Honest Burgers hasn’t commented on whether it has plans to expand V Honest if it proves successful, although one can’t help but assume that is the case. But even if it isn’t, the restaurant’s launch still feels like a logical next step for the brand as it continues to focus on evolving its vegan offering in the years to come.
17 Garrick St, London WC2E 9AX