From Netflix Documentary to Vegan Chain: The Inspiring Story of PLANTA's Founder
With a brand new location opening at West End area in Washingron DC we look at how Steven Salm's journey to plant-based eating sparked a sustainable restaurant revolution
Have you ever watched a documentary that completely changed your life? For Steven Salm, an alumnus of George Washington University's School of Business, that's exactly what happened when he watched "Cowspiracy" in 2016. The documentary highlighted the devastating effects of animal agriculture and factory farming on the environment, and it inspired Salm to make some serious changes.
Salm made the switch to a plant-based diet and changed the menus of his four restaurants to include at least 25% plant-based options. He noticed a significant improvement in his health and energy levels and was so inspired that he decided to commit fully to a plant-based life. He sold his four restaurants and founded PLANTA, an animal-free restaurant chain with a mission to make plant-based eating accessible and delicious.
PLANTA currently has 11 locations, and the newest one is set to open soon in the West End area of Washington D.C., just minutes away from Salm's alma mater. The restaurant will offer an Asian-inspired menu under the "PLANTA Queen" concept, which includes a variety of Asian noodle dishes, dumplings, and sushi. Salm is excited to bring the chain to D.C., a city he loves and where he enjoyed a great campus experience. He hopes to share PLANTA's mission with the D.C. community and touch into campus life.
Salm's decision to go plant-based wasn't just a personal choice; it was also a business decision. He saw an opportunity to create a new kind of restaurant that would appeal to a wide range of people, not just vegans. "We don't build our restaurants for vegans, we build them for everybody," he said. "If we only had to rely on the vegan population we would probably be out of business." PLANTA's menu is mostly consistent across locations, with some variations based on local produce and in-season items. The restaurant avoids using artificial fake meat or imitation dairy products and instead focuses on whole foods, such as burgers made from vegetables and cheese made from nuts.
Salm's "PLANTA model" includes three restaurant concepts under one brand, with PLANTA Queen featuring Asian-inspired menus, PLANTA Cocina featuring Pan-Latin-inspired menus, and the original PLANTA concept consisting of a more all-encompassing vegan menu. Salm believes that the "PLANTA model" can succeed anywhere, especially as plant-based diets grow in popularity. "The strategy is to identify the markets where we feel PLANTA will most succeed in and just continue to expand in those markets," he said.
PLANTA has already garnered national attention, with features in Forbes, The Washington Post, and Chicago Magazine. The restaurant's success is a testament to the growing demand for plant-based options and the impact that individuals and businesses can make on the environment and the community. Salm's story is an inspiring example of how one documentary can change a person's life and lead to a significant positive impact on the world around us.
Salm's passion for food started at a young age. "I was always insanely passionate about food and cooking and entertaining," he said. "It just became part of our lifestyle when we had an apartment on campus." Salm worked in various restaurants as a server and bartender during his time at GW and has been cooking since he was a child on Long Island, New York. He brings this passion to PLANTA, creating menus that are not only healthy but also delicious.
Salm's dedication to the plant-based movement is not just about personal health or business success; it's also about the environment. Animal agriculture is a leading cause of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and water pollution. By offering plant-based options, PLANTA is contributing to a more sustainable future. "We really focus on making menus delicious, the service really attentive. That allows us to build a restaurant that people want to be in, period." says Steven Salm, the founder of PLANTA. "We really focus on making menus delicious, the service really attentive," Salm said. "That allows us to build a restaurant that people want to be in, period."
Salm's passion for plant-based eating is also driven by a desire to make a positive impact on people's health. Plant-based diets have been linked to lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses. Salm believes that by making plant-based eating more accessible and appealing, he can help people make better choices for their health.
PLANTA's success is not just about the food, though. Salm and his team are committed to creating an experience that goes beyond just a meal. "We want to create a vibe and a culture around PLANTA," he said. "We want people to come in and feel like they're part of something."
Part of that culture includes educating people about the benefits of plant-based eating. PLANTA's website features resources on the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet, as well as tips for making the transition to plant-based eating. Salm sees PLANTA as not just a restaurant but also a resource for people who are interested in learning more about plant-based eating.
The PLANTA team is also committed to giving back to the community. The restaurant partners with local organizations to support causes such as food insecurity and environmental conservation. Salm believes that businesses have a responsibility to be good corporate citizens and contribute to the communities they serve.
PLANTA's expansion is a testament to the growing popularity of plant-based diets and the potential for businesses to succeed in this industry. Salm sees the restaurant's growth as part of a larger movement towards more sustainable and ethical ways of living. "I think we're at a tipping point," he said. "People are realizing that the way we've been eating and living is not sustainable, and they're looking for alternatives."
Salm's story is an inspiring example of how one person's passion and dedication can lead to significant positive change. His decision to switch to a plant-based diet and start PLANTA has not only improved his own health but also contributed to a more sustainable and compassionate world. As Salm and his team continue to expand PLANTA, they hope to inspire more people to make the switch to plant-based eating and create a better future for us all.