Fast-food chains continue to launch “healthy” menu items to appease growing concerns about obesity and diet-related illnesses plaguing our nation. Former McDonald’s global president is aiming to change that with the expansion of his fast-casual restaurant chain, Lyfe Kitchen.
Let’s not call it futility, but the remixing of highly processed fast-food menu item ingredients into seemingly healthier fare is a mostly transparent intersection where marketing genius and food science meet. And it drove Mike Roberts into creating the Palo Alto, California chain with an authentically healthy menu (Lyfe stands for “Love Your Food Everyday). “I had a great experience at McDonald’s. I respect the company. Now I want to bring farmers, growers, and restaurateurs together,” he said in a recent Bloomberg Businessweek interview.
Roberts shared plans for his new venture, which includes a Chipotle-esque focus on local and sustainable foods (and wine). The chain is planning on expanding to ten more locations next year, in addition to the forthcoming opening of a Lyfe Kitchen in Los Angeles’ Culver City. “We are bringing this food to as many people as we can. When people realize they can have food that tastes this good, is good for them, they will respect it. It will have an important impact on their lives.”
Similar to Chipotle, Roberts—and his A-list chef team (Oprah and Ellen’s personal chefs Art Smith and Tal Ronnen)—are debunking the myths that healthy food tastes bad and can’t be affordable (or fast). “When you think about healthy food, you think it won’t taste good, it won’t look good, I’ll be hungry in a few hours, it’ll be expensive,” Roberst said, adding, “We’ve tried to create an overall experience—the restaurant even has an herb wall—so people can enjoy something with friends and family.”
And if Chipotle’s success (they have more than 1,300 U.S. locations) is any indication of what lies ahead for Lyfe, this could be the start of a fast, yet casual, food (r)evolution.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger