The creators of Plant City, the popular vegan food hall in Providence, are bringing their innovative plant-based food to Aquidneck Island with a new restaurant concept called Plant City X.  The eatery – a smaller version of the Providence location – is slated to open in December and will focus on re-imagining fast food in ways that are healthier and more sustainable for people and the planet.

Plant City co-founder Kim Anderson, a Rhode Island native who lived in Newport for two summers, said she and her team signed the lease today for Plant City X’s location at 619 West Main Road in Middletown, a former Papa Gino’s that’s been vacant for more than a year. Anderson said the new fast-food style restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 7 am-11 pm.

While Plant City X’s planned opening comes during a year that’s been unequivocally tough for the restaurant industry,  Anderson and her co-founder – the world-renowned vegan chef Matthew Kenney – are betting that Plant City’s loyal customer base will keep up the enthusiasm for their plant-based creations that began when Plant City opened its doors in Providence just a year and a half ago. 

“Our mission has always been to show people that we can serve beautiful, delicious, plant-based food that is sustainable and compassionate to the planet, humans, animals, and social justice,” Anderson said. “We are so excited to bring Plant City to the island.”

We had a chance to chat with Anderson to find out all the details about the opening and plans for Plant City X. Read on for our full interview.

Will Plant City X have seating as well as take-out?

In addition to a drive-through, Plant City X will have indoor and outdoor seating. The building has seating for 75-80 guests, but during COVID-19 protocols, it will be more like 40-45. We’ll also have an app for curbside pick-up and we will probably have delivery. We’ll have tables with umbrellas on the front outdoor patio, and we plan to keep that going on nice days in the colder weather months. Bring your own blanket!

What will the menu be like? Will there be multiple menus like Providence location?

Plant City X will have a single, scaled-down menu that’s true to Plant City’s core concept: Delicious, beautiful, plant-based food made from scratch. All of the items planned for the menu will be versions of current best sellers in Providence, but at price points more in line with fast food. We want to be competitive as a fast-food option on the island. We want to provide a fast-food experience but in a re-imagined, plant-based environment.

Will you be sourcing food locally?

We currently work with a number of local farmers, including RI Mushroom Co. whose mushrooms we use to make our burgers. We’re also very excited to work with the team at Nitro Bar Newport to serve their nitro coffee at Plant City X.

What made you pick Middletown for the location of Plant City X? 

We needed a spot that had high traffic. A lot of our customer base was saying ‘please come to Newport, come to East Bay!’ and about two or three months ago I started thinking: What are we going to do in the fall?  We’ve been happy with the amount of business we’ve had over the summer, even with COVID. Our delivery and curbside pick-up right now is almost 50 percent of our business. I wanted to scale but wondered how we could do it in a way that made the most sense at this time. Entrepreneurs always have to find ways to pivot as well as scale. We wanted a location that wasn’t too close to Providence that could give our customers who were 40 minutes away a chance to eat our food more often. So, the high traffic, loyal customer base, and the location’s ability to accommodate a drive-through made it the perfect spot.

When will you hire restaurant staff?

We’ll look to begin hiring three to four weeks ahead of opening in December. We’ll be looking to hire about 25-30 employees total, from cooks to counter people to a General Manager. We’ll also have a job fair.

Do you have plans to expand elsewhere?

Yes, Plant City X will serve as a template to make sure it’s a model that can be replicated and scaled in other places. We plan to open elsewhere in the state and beyond.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and how Plant City got started?

My family invests against the climate crisis. Although we did and still do a lot with solar panels and other forms of renewable energy, my son pointed out that we could make a much bigger impact to move people away from animal products to plant-based foods. 

My partner and Plant City co-founder is chef Matthew Kenney – he’s the top plant-based chef in the world. He has 25-30 restaurants on five continents. We were big fans of him and felt that we really wanted to bring his restaurants to Rhode Island. Plant City has been tremendously successful. It’s been an incredible year and a half, even with COVID, and we are very grateful. 

What else should people on Aquidneck Island know about Plant City X?

Plant City X will be 100% compostable. All of our packaging will be compostable and food scraps will be composted.  Plant City in Providence in its first year diverted 130 tons of scraps away from landfills – we’re incredibly happy and proud of that.

We’re so excited to be coming down to the island. Everyone has been so welcoming that it makes it feel really right.  We are excited to make fun, delicious beautiful food at this new location. Follow us on Instagram @plantcityx for updates and if you’re already a fan, tag your friends and tell them about us.