Vegan fast-food chain Lord of the Fries is raising capital to fund its store expansion, including opening its first outlets in Christchurch and Dunedin.
Lord of the Fries, which opened its first restaurant in New Zealand three years ago, currently operates four local stores - two in Auckland, one in Wellington and one in Queenstown.
The Australian fast-food operator will on Monday launch an equity crowdfunding campaign on PledgeMe, hoping to raise $2 million. Up to 2 million shares will be on offer at $1 per share, with a minimum investment of $250.
Director Bruce Craig, whose holding company Chip Lord New Zealand Limited holds the master franchise for Lord of the Fries in New Zealand, said crowdfunded capital would be used to fuel its expansion throughout the country.
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"We want to open four more stores, we want to move a little bit faster in the market, and expand our footprint and do more national marketing," Craig told the Herald.
Lord of the Fries plans to open a second store in Wellington next year, then one each in Christchurch and Dunedin, and another in Auckland.
"Being in fast food is all about volume. Our business is a purpose-driven business, we want to have impact in the plant-based world, we want to change people's eating habits from meat-based protein to plant-based protein," Craig said.
"From a business perspective, the more stores we have the greater the volume and the better we can increase our profitability by lowering costs."
A bigger store footprint would also enable the company to move production of its core ingredients such as its burger patties and nuggets to New Zealand, Craig said. It is currently in talks with a local iwi company to use its hemp-infused patties.
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"At the moment our proprietary key ingredients like the patties and fish patties, they are all made in Australia and shipped over - we'd like to make those here, but we need to get to a certain volume before that is economically viable."
Lord of the Fries has been valued at $6m. The company forecasts turnover of $3.42m in the current financial year.
Demand for plant-based food is booming worldwide, with "vegan meat" increasingly becoming mainstream. In May, plant-based burger firm Beyond Meat listed on the Nasdaq - its shares more than doubled in its debut year.
Other fast-food operators in the market such as Burger King, Burger Fuel, Domino's and Hell Pizza have in recent months introduced plant-based options to their menus following growing consumer interest in plant-based foods for their presumed health and environmental benefits.
Lord of the Fries claims it was first to sell the Beyond Burger in New Zealand.
More than 1.5 million New Zealanders are eating less meat annually, according to a Colmar Brunton report, with one in three Kiwis reducing their meat consumption.
Lord of the Fries was founded in Melbourne in 2004. The chain operates 30 stores across Australasia and is eyeing a potential launch into India.