In the fast food world, McDonald’s dominates, which is justified given they were the pioneers of fast food. If you want to know more about that, I recommend watching The Founder with Michael Keaton; it’s riveting stuff. What began as a humble, small-scale establishment tucked away in a parking lot has since burgeoned into one of the world’s largest fast-food chains, instantly recognisable by its iconic golden arches. Regardless of where you are in the world, those arches transcend language barriers and provide us with familial comfort. We can’t help but associate with the red and yellow colour palette we craved in our childhoods.
But what happens when someone flips that McHappy smile upside down? You get a vegan McDonalds. Mr. Charlie’s, often dubbed the “Vegan McDonald’s,” has taken TikTok by storm after Lizzo posted a video garnering almost four million views. It’s safe to say Mr. Charlie’s went viral. Post-video, people flocked to the La Brea location to see what all the fuss was about. Since then, Mr. Charlie’s has opened another Los Angeles location in Venice and one in San Francisco. And just a few days ago, they announced they’re coming to Sydney, opening a restaurant in Redfern in a few weeks. However, the exact date is still to be announced.
What Is Mr. Charlie’s?
Mr. Charlie’s, located in Los Angeles, California, opened its doors in early 2022 with a mission to provide a fast-food experience that’s entirely plant-based and sustainable. The brainchild of Charlie Kim, a young entrepreneur and passionate vegan, Mr. Charlie’s aimed to challenge the conventional fast-food industry by offering healthier, cruelty-free alternatives without compromising on taste.
According to an interview with the LA Times, Kim grew up on a lot of fast food and considered himself a “big dude.” “Since I got married and I have a kid, I’m trying to be healthier. My previous restaurant was more of a Korean concept, but I wanted something plant-based with healthy options.”
While providing something more sustainable and cruelty-free, a big part of Mr. Charlie’s ethos is to support the community.
In an interview with the LA Times, Kim said he partnered with Dream Cente to fill staff and managerial positions.
The Sydney location will be no exception to this. Mr. Charlie’s announced they will be teaming up with local charities and brand partners who are creating opportunities for First Nations individuals.
The TikTok Frenzy
The true catalyst for Mr. Charlie’s meteoric rise was TikTok. In the age of viral trends and instant gratification, the platform became the perfect stage for Mr. Charlie’s to showcase its unique offerings.
After Lizzo’s viral video, Mr. Charlie’s was inundated with customers.
Andrew Powell, an assistant manager at Mr.Charlie’s, told the LA Times at the time: “We haven’t even had a grand opening yet. It’s just so much traffic and people that come in and positive feedback and the energy that we see. And it’s just crazy to see firsthand something from the beginning grow and be all over social media. It can be overwhelming. But it’s beautiful. I love it.”
What makes Mr. Charlie’s stand out on TikTok is not just the mouthwatering visuals of their food but the novelty of finding a vegan alternative to a beloved fast-food classic like the Big Mac. This created a buzz around the restaurant, drawing curious food enthusiasts and plant-based eaters alike. We’re sure it will do the same in Sydney, especially Redfern, known for its vegan community.
The menu is a play on McDonald’s most iconic meals, including a vegan version of the happy meal, ironically labelled ‘The Frowny.’ Diners will get a choice of a “not a Hamburger, Not a Cheeseburger, Double Not, Not a Chicken Sandwich or a Big Chuck, with four nuggets, fries and a drink. Although the nuggets are not what you’d expect, they’re plant-based.
The packaging is instantly recognisable, with the same red and yellow colour palette as McDconald’s, but where you would usually see golden arches is replaced with a golden frown.
As Mr. Charlie’s continues to grow, it’s clear that the future of fast food is becoming increasingly plant-based
Stay tuned for more updates on the Sydney opening.