Imagine a restaurant like McDonald’s, where you can get a hot meal in just a few minutes. But imagine that the meal is almost totally organic, sourced from local ingredients, and free of preservatives. Instead of fries, you have brussels sprouts. Instead of milkshakes, you have smoothies with chia seed and soy yogurt. Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not. Lyfe Kitchen, the new chain of restaurants brought to you by former McDonald’s CEO Mike Roberts, aims to change the face of fast food in America.
Mike Roberts, now the CEO of Lyfe Kitchen (Lyfe stands for Love Your Food Everyday), says:
We’re in the middle of the first stage of the food revolution.I’m dreaming of a place where science, medicine, producers, farmers, and restaurateurs meet to say we are on a journey together.
The restaurant will offer vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. All entrees will be less than 600 calories, and none will feature butter, cream, white sugar or refined flour. Meat will be humanely raised, packaging will be minimal and biodegradable, and you’ll even be able to take Lyfe Kitchen’s food home—some products will be available in Costco stores.
But the difference between Lyfe Kitchen and your standard fast-food restaurant stops with the food (and the price—an “unfried” chicken meal at Lyfe Kitchen costs $12.49, significantly more than a regular fast-food meal). Roberts explains that his business model is very similar to the one used for fast food:
The strategy of the rollout, the people and their skill sets, the systems of training and hiring and finance and accounting and supply chain, the development of the property and real estate system—they are all very similar.
There are some problems on the horizon for Lyfe Kitchen though; namely, sourcing the amount of local and organic ingredients needed to keep a huge chain restaurant in business. Right now, there’s only one location, in Palo Alto. But Roberts hopes to expand rapidly, rolling out hundreds of restaurants over the course of his five-year plan.
Tentatively, I’ll say Lyfe Kitchen sounds alright to me. Better food? Awesome. More sustainable ingredients and practices? Terrific. If Lyfe Kitchen can bring healthier “fast food” to Americans, I’m all for it. Their mission sounds wonderful, their practices seem great. But I’m still a little skeptical that Lyfe Kitchen can really overhaul our fast-food system serving grilled salmon, risotto, and roasted mushroom flatbreads, especially because the the entrees cost more than the ones at a comparable casual dining place like Panera or Pei Wei. Mike Roberts is right about one thing, though:
There are 80 million people who have become much more aware of the food they eat. And that’s going to continue as far out as we can see.
Photo: Lyfe Kitchen Website