A decade ago, Burger Patch founder Phil Horn and his wife, Danea, began exploring a plant-based diet. They wanted to be kinder to themselves and their ecosystem but discovered the quick-service industry lacked options. 

“When we made the switch to the plant-based lifestyle, we were still missing the nostalgic taste of typical American fast-food meals,” Horn says. “At that time, [the concept] didn’t exist at all where we lived.” 

At the turn of 2016, Horn put together a business plan and hired a chef. The included American staples such as burgers, chicken sandwiches, wraps, and shakes from scratch. At the time, plant-based meat was not readily available in Horn’s region, and they “went through all kinds of crazy things to try and source that product.” 

The first, one-day Burger Patch pop-up event in Sacramento was held in early 2017. Over 1,000 people showed, waiting in three-to-four-hour lines. “It was mind-blowing,” he recalls. 

Founder: Phil Horn and Danea Horn

Headquarters: Sacramento

Year Started: 2019

Annual Sales: NA

Total Units: 1

Franchised Units: 0 

From there, Horn continued to work on what he calls “modern ingredients but a nostalgic taste.” The first brick-and-mortar location reached Sacramento’s block in 2019 and has since served over 500,000 customers, ranging from loyal plant-based followers to “veg-curious” meat-eaters. 

The development of Horn’s KIND Lab (Kitchen of Innovation & Discovery), based in Sacramento’s Land Park neighborhood, proved to be a major asset in Burger Patch’s menu development. It has been in use for over a year and serves as a preparation hub for ingredients and a brainstorming location for new ones. 

At the onset of COVID, Burger Patch’s business traffic increased by upward of 40 percent, which prompted the building of two additional locations in the Sacramento area. However, this became overpowering, and Horn made the decision to consolidate to the original location. 

Also, supply chain constraints on a niche product were difficult. Horn and his team often needed to create their own backups by tweaking recipes and driving hours to find suppliers. Downscaling ended up the most beneficial plan for the brand’s long-term future. 

“Once we consolidated, that location continues to soar, and sales have increased by over 30 percent. We had to take a step back and put our ego aside and learn from what the last year or two has taught us,” Horn explains. “The next phase of what we’ll do is regrow the Burger Patch brand throughout the region.” 

For Horn, regrowing the brand means building awareness about its mission. He labels it, “convenient consciousness,” or fast food, but in a kinder way. He wants to spread the idea of “feeding kindness” whether through delivering a guilt-free product, saving animals, or giving back to the community. 

In May, the Midtown, Sacramento, location celebrated its fourth birthday, hosting a week-long series of events, deals, donations, and giveaways. Through the annual Big Day of Giving, Burger Patch donated proceeds from its Blackberry Patch Shakes to local nonprofit Blackberry Creek Farm Animal Sanctuary. 

“Each year our birthday week takes on a different vibe,” Horn says. “It gives people an opportunity to try one of our products that they haven’t before.” 

Horn unveiled a sister concept this year to Burger Patch, hailing from the KIND Lab: Burrito Patch, a fast casual serving 100 percent vegan Mexican dishes. A sneak peek of the menu features burritos, chimichangas, and quesadillas, also known as “patchadillas.” 

Burrito Patch is still in the works, but Horn is hopeful it will be brought to market in coming monthI. Items sold out during the birthday week.

“We’ve always envisioned Burger Patch as the gateway to other vegan innovations [like Burrito Patch],” Horn explains. “We’ve always thought that it would never be just Burger Patch.” 

Other examples include seasonal chili and pulled pork alternatives. Horn points to the familiarity of a burger as being the draw for customers who are on the fence about a purely plant-based diet. 

“We have to get people to take that leap of faith,” Horn says. “We must present people with something savory and delicious. That nostalgic taste gives people the comfort to know that they are doing a good thing by taking the first leap [into plant-based].” 

With Burger Patch, Horn experienced the rises and falls of plant-based trends. He watched the segment evolve as a young space to what he believes will be “the second wave.”

“We have this incredible core group of customers who are really into what we do, but they cannot eat a burger every day. So, what else can we do for them?” Horn says. “We want to present something that is still comfortable and familiar but in a different format. That is where we are at as a brand right now.” 

In the future, Horn foresees more Burger Patch locations, but farther apart. He is also awaiting the introduction of a sister concept like Burrito Patch and hopes to group the two under the same umbrella. Horn says he’ll need technological innovations to do so, such as ordering the two under the same app and sharing loyalty rewards points. 

His three-to-five-year plan is to “share our core values with our staff and customers and create a culture that spreads a message of goodness and kindness. We want to continue to feed kindness to the world and be guided by these values.” 

“I left a very good career to jump into my entrepreneurial spirit and pursue this because I really felt like we could make a lasting impact on the world, animals, and our communities,” Horn says. “I still believe that to this day.” 

Emerging Concepts, Fast Casual, Growth, Story, Burger Patch