10 Questions: Vegan Foodie with Rio Infantino of Copper Branch
Rio Infantino is the CEO of Montreal-based fast-casual Copper Branch, the world’s largest 100% plant-based restaurant chain that is opening its 50th location this year by Earth Day (April 22) in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan. With locations throughout Canada as well as in France, the NYC location will be their second U.S. after their recent Ft. Lauderdale, FL launch. Working with the Rainforest Trust, Copper Branch is committed to building a more sustainable planet, having already saved more than 1,000 acres of rainforest land through their partnership. Rio’s goal is to have 200 Copper Branch locations opened by 2020, focusing on the U.S. and Western Europe, where everyone can enjoy their organic power bowls, burgers and sandwiches that are all 100% plant-based. (Just skim the plant-forward menu and try not to drool.) I am happy to feature Rio Infantino as this week’s Vegan Foodie.
1. How did you start down this path of creating delicious food? Was a love for food nurtured into you? Did you have any special relatives or mentors who helped to instill this passion?
Copper Branch was founded on the idea that food should empower our bodies and our lives. For many years, I had a very strong idea of how food should be sourced and served and saw that the destruction to our planet through factory farming and environmental degradation needed to be stopped…and what better way than through food.
I have over 30 years combined experience in the restaurant industry. My true franchise experience began with Subway restaurants in which I was a multi-unit franchise owner for over 20 years, owning as many as 15 locations at one time. Throughout my career, my health and lifestyle were severely negatively impacted. Weighing up to over 350 pounds and in physical despair, my health was a major concern. After several years of feeling stressed, overweight and out of shape, I finally decided my life needed to change. From that moment on, I made a commitment to bettering my health and was fed up of serving food that I was not proud of and that had no true nutritional value. Today, I feel incredible and in-shape and I am of course a strong advocate for a plant-based, whole foods diet.