Atlanta restaurant Yeah Burger re-introduces meat to its menu

Organic meat products have returned to the Yeah Burger menu. For the last six months, Yeah Burger has been entirely plant-based. / AJC file photo

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Organic meat products have returned to the Yeah Burger menu. For the last six months, Yeah Burger has been entirely plant-based. / AJC file photo

Vegan menu still in the mix

During Yeah Burger’s lengthy closure due to the pandemic, owners Erik Maier and Kelly Wallace determined that a reopening would include the switch to an entirely plant-based menu. Yeah Burger’s menu has been vegan since its doors at 1168 Howell Mill Road in west Midtown were unlocked in November, but over the weekend, animal products were quietly reintroduced to the burger lineup.

Maier told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the decision was in response to customers who sought out the restaurant for meaty burgers they had come to expect during Yeah Burger’s 10 years in business.

“We underestimated the loyalty to the old menu,” said Maier. He also said that switching to an entirely plant-based menu proved to be unprofitable. “We’re a business. We have employees, investors. The plant-based menu didn’t take off the way we thought it would. That was a disappointment to me because I spent so much time and effort on it. I think it’s still viable, but our challenge was people know Yeah Burger for one thing: our existing menu. They didn’t know it for being a vegan restaurant.”

Customers will now encounter two menus – one that is plant-based and another featuring USDA-certified organic grass-fed, grass-finished beef and bison, pastured turkey and, coming soon, free-range chicken. These are the same carnivorous ingredients that Yeah Burger used for its original menu, except that beef was previously not certified organic. Vegan dishes will continue to be prepared on dedicated equipment to avoid cross-contamination.

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Maier stated that the re-introduction of meat does not mean a change in the company’s ethos of sustainability that he emphasized last August when discussing the plans to pivot to a plant-only menu.

“Initially, my idea for Yeah Burger was sustainable food,” Maier said in that interview. “When I came up with the idea, sustainable meant grass-fed beef. But, the impetus was to launch an environmentally friendly restaurant. The biggest trend right now in food — from a consumer and investment standpoint — is plant-based. Plant-based food, from a production standpoint, is the healthiest for the planet and our customers.”

Maier addressed the topic of sustainability in the company’s announcement of the change, made public Tuesday on social media. “Like our former menu, we’ll continue to champion the health, environmental and ethical issues that drive YEAH! BURGER’s ethos with our new omnivorous menu. Regardless of plant or animal ingredients, YEAH! BURGER’s commitment to organic and non-GMO sourcing will remain as a proud alternative to conventional, factory-farmed food,” Maier wrote.

Reactions on social media have been mixed. Several criticized the company for not announcing the change sooner.

Maier stated that the launch to reintroduce beef, bison and turkey burgers over the weekend was unannounced because “we didn’t want to overwhelm the staff on the weekend. The plan was always to make the announcement this week. The weekends have been our busiest time, so I didn’t want to say, ‘Hey, everybody, come this weekend.’ I think it would have been very long ticket times and subpar experiences.”

Both menus are now listed on the Yeah Burger website. The vegan menu is available on Uber Eats and the meat menu will be added soon. In addition, both menus will be offered soon via DoorDash and for online ordering through the restaurant’s website.

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