A vegan fast-casual chain you've never heard of is expanding nationwide - and that should scare legacy brands

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Melia Robinson/Business Insider

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Steve Heeley, CEO of the healthy fast-casual chain Veggie Grill, is betting he can make vegan food not just palatable, but "craveable."

Founded in 2007, Veggie Grill serves burgers, sandwiches, and salads that have fewer calories than traditional fast-food - and happen to be vegan. The chain takes familiar foods, like buffalo wings and Caesar salad, and swaps out ingredients with plant-based substitutes.

"There are certain perceptions around the word 'vegan.' It means you have to deny yourself or eat brown foods," Heeley, a vegan, tells Business Insider. Not so at Veggie Burger.

The company has 28 locations in California, Washington, and Oregon. Thanks to a new $22 million round of funding last fall, Heeley expects the company to double in size by 2020.

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We stopped by a Veggie Grill location in San Jose, California, to see if it meets the hype.