It will also rely on robots to make most of its food.
The Chipotle founder plans to make the restaurant into a chain, opening 15 in New York City and eventually expanding to other cities.
Mr Ells told The Wall Street Journal the restaurant will serve meat alternatives that replicate the taste of beef or chicken, and its menu will heavily feature vegetables and legumes.
“It’s not trying to be beef. It’s not trying to be pork,” he said of Kernel’s veggie burger.
He added that he has hired Andrew Black, a former chef at vegan restaurant Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan, to create plant-based sandwiches and sides.
The Chipotle founder said while robots will be used to make the food, the restaurants will also have a skeleton-staff that will be responsible for packaging food and washing dishes.
According to draft investor materials, the restaurant could operate with as few as three employees, The New York Post reported.
He has claimed that removing humans from the preparation process will enhance safety.
Mr Ells said he was inspired to start Kernel after reading Bill Gates’ book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, which outlines ways people can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions such as eating less meat.
The businessman said he is starting the restaurant chain with $10m of his own money and $36m from investors, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“We think we are onto something,” he told the newspaper.
The official opening date for the first restaurant has not yet been announced.
Mr Ells founded Chipotle with a single Denver store in 1993 and built the chain into a powerhouse over the next two decades, with more than 2,600 restaurants under his watch.
He was ousted from his role as CEO at the Mexican fast-food chain in 2017 by activist investor Bill Ackman following several outbreaks of food-borne illnesses.
He reportedly began pitching Kernel to investors last year as a startup that “fundamentally rethinks labor, technology, real estate and menu” and uses “automation with a human touch,” The New York Post reported.
“We proved a 3-person labor model can work,” the company said.
The startup sees Shake Shack, Sweetgreen, Dig, Cava and Ells’ former company Chipotle as its competitors, according to investor materials.