How This Milwaukee Couple Kept Their Plant-Based Restaurant Thriving Through The Pandemic

How This Milwaukee Couple Kept Their Plant-Based Restaurant Thriving Through The Pandemic

In 2019, Arielle and Brandon Hawthorne started a food truck, Twisted Plants, offering a plant-based menu on the weekends and saw their business explod.

“I finally decided to go vegan in January 2018, then we opened the food truck,” Arielle recounts. “We noticed that there was kind of a shortage of vegan options in our area, and that kind of sparked the idea for Twisted Plants.”

In Spring 2020, the couple secured their first brick-and-mortar restaurant in Cudahy, Wisconsin. This month, they announced their second location, projected to open in April on the east side of Milwaukee.

“Wisconsin is associated with dairy and beer. Bringing in a 100% plant-based, vegan, black-owned restaurant, we were a little nervous at first. Then once we saw everyone’s love and support, it definitely encouraged us to try harder,” said Brandon.

The Hawthorne’s’ menu includes an abundance of vegan burger options served with fries, including the chance for patrons have to build their own burgers. Also included on the menu are salads, creative appetizers like cauliflower bites and plant-based hot dogs.

“Every day to this point had been a learning experience, for the most part,” said Brandon Hawthorne. “Of course, it has its challenges. This was our first time diving into a brick-and-mortar. We come in every day and continue trying to better ourselves at our craft.”

Just as they were overcoming the learning curve of running a restaurant, the world went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Surprisingly, the couple did not succumb to the economic challenges that could have adversely affected them. Instead, their staff, family, and friends helped them remain open by assist as they shifted to a curbside-only model.

“The community came out and showed a lot of love,” Brandon told The Grio. “We saw people come every week; that’s how I know customers by name. They supported us throughout the whole pandemic.”

The Hawthornes continue to spread the positive message of a plant-based diet. Twisted Plants partnered with Teens Grow Greens, a nonprofit that guides teenagers in developing life and leadership skills.

“If I had somebody else telling me, ‘No, that’s not the way you have to eat,’ I probably would have switched [to a plant-based diet] a long time ago,” Brandon says.