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Next Level Burger will raise funding round on way to IPO

A plant-based hamburger from restaurant chain Next Level Burger.

Photo: Courtesy of Next Level Burger

Next Level Burger wants to be America's first plant-based restaurant IPO, CEO Matt de Gruyter tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: The startup, which claims to be the first vegan burger joint in the U.S., is part of a new generation of restaurant startups hoping to make a positive ecological impact.

Details: The next step for the Bend, Ore.-based chain to get to a public offering is to open at least 18 locations by the end of 2025, de Gruyter says.

  • It will fill in existing markets and enter new ones.
  • Next Level Burger also plans to raise an eight-figure round of financing from like-minded organizations that want to make an impact on the climate sometime between now and before the IPO, he says.
  • The public offering will happen in the next three to five years, depending on market conditions, de Gruyter says.

Reality check: While environmentalists continue to push for meat alternatives, the once white-hot fake meat market has diminished over the last year, with several major players executing layoffs amid declining sales.

Catch up fast: The company has raised about $20 million to date with Whole Foods as its largest investor and it currently has 10 locations, de Gruyter says.

Flashback: In 2013, Matt de Gruyter and his wife, Cierra, co-founded the company and seeded it, taking a lion's share of the equity, with two of Matt de Gruyter's former private equity colleagues contributing a small minority stake.

What they're saying: The idea was inspired by the science behind eating a plant-based diet, given the past health struggles of the co-founders' families, de Gruyter says.

  • "What we have achieved in the last nine years is conserving almost two billion gallons of water and stopped almost 55 million pounds of carbon emissions from going into the atmosphere," he says.

The bottom line: "It's about offering a choice that is healthier, that is more sustainable, we believe more compassionate — and, from a standpoint of paying living wages, we believe the right thing to do," de Gruyter says.

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