Vegan eatery Odd Burger, brainchild of Western graduates and headquartered in London, Ont., now has another connection with the university. On Jan. 22, its first-ever outlet at a post-secondary institution opened at the University Community Centre (UCC) Food Hub on campus.
Odd Burger is Western’s first 100 per cent plant-based eatery. It will offer an extensive menu including vegan burgers, breakfast sandwiches, wraps, loaded fries, salads and dairy-free milkshakes at prices comparable to other fast-food chains.
“This is a dream come true. I am so incredibly proud to be a Western graduate, and grateful that we could partner with Western to open the outlet on campus. We can’t wait to serve delicious food which is good for the planet,” said James McInnes, BSc’02, co-founder and CEO of Odd Burger.
“It is an incredible feeling to return to campus and be a part of the food revolution. Odd Burger is a milestone for not just vegan members of the campus community, but for everyone,” he said.
James has credited his education at Western for his business success. Five years after graduating in genetics, he returned to receive a minor in computer science, in 2007. His studies, he said, allowed him to understand the scientific process of what goes into food manufacturing and all the systems required to run a business. These include everything from Odd Burger’s point-of-sale, website and food technology to their manufacturing systems.
The UCC Food Hub is Western’s busiest food court, with approximately 8,000 students, faculty, staff and visitors dining there daily during the school year. Odd Burger’s presence at the Food Hub underlines Western’s commitment to supporting sustainable food on campus.
“We are very excited to bring Odd Burger to Western and give our students a truly unique food experience,” said Colin Porter, director of Hospitality Services at Western. “We see this partnership as an important step in making Western’s food offerings more sustainable, while also proving that plant-based food can be enjoyed by everyone.”
Western’s promotion of sustainable food is part of its continuing commitment to sustainable systems and practices on campus. This included its target of having a 40 per cent plant-based menu at its residence dining halls by the beginning of this year, a goal which was achieved before the end of 2023.
Odd Burger Corporation is a vegan fast-food restaurant chain and food technology company. It makes its own line of plant-based protein and dairy alternatives, which are sold through its restaurants, as well as grocery stores through a line of packaged goods.
The company was founded as Globally Local by James in 2014. In the same year, he met Vasiliki McInnes, MScN’15, now his wife. They developed and launched vegan meal kits in 2015.
“In a sense, with the opening of the outlet here, it feels like we have come full circle, from being students at Western, through Odd Burger’s initial years and later expansion. As Western graduates, it is an indescribable feeling,” said Vasiliki.
In 2017, the company opened Canada’s first-ever vegan fast-food restaurant and the first 24-hour vegan drive-thru, in London, Ont. By 2018, they opened a manufacturing centre to produce their own food.
The company rebranded in 2021 to Odd Burger Corp. and became the world’s first publicly traded vegan fast-food chain.
In addition to London, there are now Odd Burger restaurant locations in Ontario cities including Toronto, Windsor, Waterloo, Hamilton and Whitby, as well as Alberta and Saskatchewan.