Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain gives the thumbs up as he walks to the podium during the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc of Monaco placed first with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain placing second and Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland placing third. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
INTERNATIONAL - A new plant-based burger chain, backed by vegan Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, opened its doors to the public Monday in London.

Customers devoured meat- and dairy-free burgers, hot dogs and milkshakes at the Neat Burger store in the heart of shopping district off Regent Street. It’s the first location of many, with 14 more outlets being rolled out over the next two years, including in Manhattan, Los Angeles and Dubai.

The burgers are made from Beyond Meat Inc.’s vegetable-based patties, to which Neat Burger adds its own herbs and ingredients to make its offering unique. It’s the latest fast-food chain that Beyond Meat has partnered with, having already teamed up with market leaders KFC and Dunkin’ Donuts. The faux meat-maker has so far focused on burgers, sausage and ground beef, but is also working on developing a vegan alternative for bacon.

Neat’s menu includes burgers named The Neat, The Cheese and The Chick’n and sells Just Water, the water brand launched by actor Jaden Smith last year and Toast Ale, beer made out of spare bread. The restaurant sold 1,500 burgers in the first three hours of opening.

It’s the first ever international, plant-based burger chain to launch, according to the company. For every burger sold, a tree is planted in locations like Nepal, Madagascar and Kenya in partnership with reforestation charity Eden Projects.

Big Food has been rushing into plant-based meat and dairy substitutes as consumers increasingly look to cut down on animal protein in a bid to be healthier and more environmentally conscious. Impossible Foods Inc. and Nestle SA have teamed up with Burger King and McDonald’s Corp. in Germany, respectively. Vegan fast-food options are appearing in London, from Greggs Plc’s vegan sausage rolls to Leon Restaurants’s soy-beetroot Love burgers.

BLOOMBERG