(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
There’s a vegan sensation going on right now and of all places it’s in Atlanta, Georgia.
That’s where businesswoman Pinky Cole has just opened her first brick and mortar vegan eatery called “Slutty Vegan”. The restaurant, which began as a food truck and delivery service, saw more than 1,200 people lined up outside its doors on its very first day this week.
So how did a vegan restaurant in a place known more for its barbecue become such a hit? When you learn more about the story, and the owner’s marketing, the reason becomes very clear.
For starters, the restaurant is offering a hot product. The popularity of vegan food is exploding worldwide. In the US, sales of plant-based foods rose 20% in 2018 as compared to the year before, which is a figure ten times the growth in food sales as a whole, according to a Nielsen study.
Atlanta, however, is not a city known for its vegan culture. But that didn’t stop Cole. Why? Because she had a passion … and also a certain genius for marketing.
I mean, let’s face it: a food truck with the name Slutty Vegan is going to catch your eye, right? “Sex sells,” she told AJC.com, “And I think healthier eating can sell as well.” Cole’s sexy approach didn’t stop there. She posted hundreds of tongue-in-cheek photos on her company’s Instagram account which soon attracted more than 82,000 followers.
For example, if you’re hungry for something different then why not try a Ménage à Trois – a plant-based patty loaded with vegan bacon and shrimp, topped with lettuce tomato, and special sauce? Or perhaps you’re more interested in a One Night Stand, which is a plant-based patty, vegan bacon, vegan cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and special sauce on a Hawaiian bun? Or maybe a Fussy Hussy, which consists of a plant-based patty with vegan cheese, shredded lettuce, onion, pickle, and vegan mayo on a Hawaiian bun.
Cole has also successfully deployed a powerful tactic that has worked to launch other popular brands: influencer marketing, particularly endorsements from a few well-known people. Black Enterprise reports that celebrities like Tyler Perry, Will Packer, Tiffany Haddish, Iyanla Vanzant, Keisha Lance-Bottoms, Porsha Williams, and Jermaine Dupri have stopped by for food and even Snoop Dogg got slutty a while back.
Finally, the young entrepreneur has combined her business with her passion. “Never in my 31 years of life would I have imagined that so many people would come and support something that started in a two-bedroom apartment,” Cole told a local television station. “For years, Veganism hasn’t been something that’s welcomed in our community because we probably didn’t have the resources or information, so to see so many people come together in the name of food is such a beautiful feeling.”
In the end though, it’s all about the food and from what I can tell from Slutty Vegan’s customers, it’s great stuff. So will Slutty Vegan invade my hometown Philly anytime soon? It’s possible. Cole plans a nationwide “slutty tour” for her food truck in the months to come which aims to educate the public on the benefits of plant-based food – and (I bet) scout out a few places to expand.