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Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton to open plant-based burger chain, joining other celebs in fake meat craze

Matthew McNulty

Count Formula 1 racecar driver Lewis Hamilton among those who are getting into the meatless, plant-based burger business following the growing popularity of Burger King’s Impossible Whopper, which has captured consumer’s attention and taken the fast food market by storm.

Hamilton, 34, along with Italian night club promoter and entrepreneur Tommaso Chiabra and investor Ryan Bishti, are opening up Neat Burger just off of London’s Regent Street on Monday, with several more locations in Britain to follow.

They are currently seeking £15 million to fund expansions into locations at Covent Garden and Kings Cross.

“We are not aiming for vegans or a plant-based niche, we are aiming to convert meat eaters,” Bishti said in a statement. “We are part of a movement happening when you look at the world today in the Amazon with deforestation for crops and agri-farming. This is a perfect way to make a change.”

The plant-based burger craze went viral when Burger King introduced its “Impossible Whopper” on Aug. 8, with upwards of 45 of the meat-free burgers being sold at Burger King locations a day, according to analyst Andrew Charles.

Seeking to capitalize on the concept’s growing popularity amongst consumers, Hamilton and company are also planning a U.S. location to launch sometime next year, with the intention of opening 14 more Neat Burger locations around Europe throughout the next two years.

Hamilton, a native of the U.K. and the richest sportsman in the entire country with a net worth of £187 million, became a vegetarian back in 2017. The five-time Formula 1 World Champion now holds a sizeable stake in the company.

The vegan and vegetarian food market has exploded over the years, with the amount of vegans in the U.K. climbing from 150,000 in 2014 to over 600,000 in 2018, the Vegan Society reports.

Hamilton is hardly the only sports figure or celebrity to get into the plant-based burger game, as Jay-Z, Trevor Noah, Serena Williams and Katy Perry are investing in Impossible Foods while the market for meatless burgers continues to grow worldwide.

Burger King has led the recent market expansion of plant-based burgers, and the payoff has been hard to ignore for competitors, with the Impossible Whopper predicted to contribute 6% to same-store sales growth at U.S. Burger Kings this quarter, according to the market research and investment firm Cowen.

“Our 6% same-store sales estimate for 3Q implies instances of one-time consumer trial for Impossible Whopper is sustained, and arguably offset, by awareness that continues to grow with Burger King using TV advertising to promote the innovation,” Charles said in a statement released last Thursday.


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