Fast food has become synonymous with fatty food, but Mike Roberts, a former president and chief operating officer of McDonald’s, aims to redefine the concept. Teaming up with another McDonald’s alumnus and an Oprah Winfrey celebrity chef, among others, Roberts is preparing to launch Lyfe Kitchen, a no-butter, no-high-fructose-corn-syrup and fried-food-free restaurant chain.
The Chicago-based company plans to open its first restaurant in Palo Alto, Calif., this summer, with further plans for as many as 250 outposts nationally over the next five years. The brand’s philosophy will emphasize philanthropy and eco-friendliness, and the healthful menu will include low-cal meals and vegan options alongside Niman ranch beef burgers. (More on Time.com: Calorie Counts on Menus: Apparently, Nobody Cares)
Roberts and his partners acknowledge that a health-food chain is no easy sell. The Chicago Tribune reports:
Their strategy is to target women age 18 to 49, hoping they’ll like the food enough to bring back friends and families. While a woman is enjoying a grain salad, there’s a beefy burger for her husband. While he’s munching away, he might try a bite of her salad and even like it.
Lyfe, which stands for Love Your Food Everyday, hopes to get in on the made-to-order fast-casual market, where chains like Chipotle — another vegetarian-friendly, locally sourced, eco-friendly and socially conscious company — have found success.
“Every decision we make — from using eco-friendly building and packaging materials, to ingredients we source, to providing an engaged service team and partnering with local nonprofits — will engage and inspire our guests, and ultimately, have a tremendous impact,” said investment banker Stephen Sidwell, who helped found the Lyfe, in a press statement. (More on Time.com: Want to Live Longer? Switch to Whole Grains)
Along with Art Smith, Oprah Winfrey’s former personal chef and co-owner of Chicago’s Table Fifty-Two, Roberts asked celebrity chef Tal Ronnen to develop vegan items for the menu. If Lyfe’s offerings are as tasty as promised, it may have a shot at convincing Americans to start eating healthier.
But as the Tribune points out, “health food” is still a turn-off to many Americans: “Although 30% to 40% of consumers claim interest in more healthful dining options, only 10% are interested in health food, says Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president of food-service strategies at WD Partners.”