Photo: Lyfe Kitchen
Lyfe Kitchen (Lyfe stands for "Love Your Food Everyday") seemingly has a lot going for it. At its helm are two former McDonald's executives, including Mike Roberts, former president and chief operations officer of the fast-food chain. Art Smith, Oprah Winfrey's former personal chef, and chef Tal Ronnen, both known for making healthy food taste good, are in the development kitchen.
"Most quick-serve restaurants deal with manufacturers of food that are prepared to a certain point, which they then finish," Chef Smith told Slashfood. "But most of that manufactured food has a lot of additives. We're creating healthier choices, but how we're going to mass produce it is a challenge."
According to the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago-based Lyfe Kitchen plans to launch the chain with its first location in Palo Alto, Calif., by late summer. Within five years, the ambitious plan is to open 250 more locations nationally.
But industry skeptics say that a healthy-food concept that bans butter, cream, fried foods and high-fructose corn syrup is inherently a hard-sell.
Darren Tristano of Technomic, a Chicago-based food industry consulting company, told the Chicago Tribune that he expects Lyfe will have trouble reaching 100 locations.
"It's a niche market," he was quoted as saying. "Consumers continue to use restaurants as an indulgence. Nobody wants a better-quality burger. No one can sell soy burgers."
Ouch. Shapiro, however, says he believes Roberts and the Lyfe team are reading the times correctly.
"It seems like that's the point we're at societally," Shapiro told Slashfood. "It's important to note, this concept is very vegan friendly, but not exclusively vegan -- they're also setting high standards for meat, eggs and dairy. Hopefully they'll have a positive impact on the rest of the quick-service restaurant (QSR) community as well."
Will the fast-food giants be watching? Shapiro says yes. "It's hard to imagine that anyone in the QSR field will not be watching what the former head of McDonald's will do next."
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