According to a 2016 Harris Poll for The Vegetarian Resource Group, 37 percent of Americans regularly order vegetarian meals when dining out, even if they’re not strictly vegetarian. “That’s a huge market,” exclaims Kim Anderson, co-founder and creator of vegan food hall Plant City.
Perhaps that’s why such a seemingly risky proposition produced immediate success. Other food hall projects have stalled out in Providence. Other restaurants have failed in the historic Mile and a Quarter building on South Water Street. And none of them were exclusively pushing vegan food. From a chef who’s 3,000 miles away.
“There was no way to know it would be successful,” Anderson explains, “but having Chef Matthew Kenney’s terrific restaurant concepts certainly helped.” It did – to the tune of 240,000 guests over Plant City’s first six months, the majority of whom, Anderson says, were not vegan or vegetarian.
Kenney is a California-based, plant-forward restaurateur who operates in 18 cities on four continents. Anderson is a serial entrepreneur who gravitates toward businesses with social conscience. She co-founded Ava Anderson Non-Toxic, an eco-friendly cosmetics company. She’s on the board of Social Enterprise Greenhouse. She’s also a co-founder of EverHope Capital, a venture capital fund investing in plant-based food companies.
For her next trick, she partnered with Kenney to create the food hall Providence didn’t know it was ready for, boasting four restaurants, a coffee shop, a market, and a community event space.
“Our sole mission is to serve creative, beautiful, delicious food in a fun and interesting experiential environment, sharing what a healthy, sustainable food system for the world can look like,” Anderson says.
Not content to simply prove what’s possible with plant-based food in Providence, she’s already looking ahead. “We are so pleased that community awareness and conversation around this issue is growing rapidly, adding to the numbers of plant-forward eaters in our state,” Anderson says. “It would be wonderful to build other Plant Cities to exponentially scale the impact.”