I've often mentioned the possibility of some celebrity opening up a fast-food chain with options for vegan and vegetarians, but it looks like it will take a former McDonald's executive to make it a reality.
Founder Stephen Sidwell and CEO Mike Roberts recently announced plans to launch LYFE ("Love Your Food Everyday") Kitchen, a transformational, socially responsible "lyfestyle" brand that will open in Palo Alto, Calif., this summer.
Roberts, who previously oversaw more than 31,000 McDonald's restaurants in 118 countries, resigned as president and chief operating officer of the fast-food empire in 2006. He was approached by Sidwell, an investment banker, and the two agreed that the time was ripe for a healthy fast-food option.
Of course, if the food doesn't taste good, nobody will buy it — no matter how well it's branded. To complete that part of the puzzle, Roberts and Sidwell turned to Chef Art Smith, former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey and a two-time James Beard Foundation Award winner. They also brought on Chef Tal Ronnen, regarded as one of the most groundbreaking vegan and vegetarian chefs.
"With two celebrated, taste-making chefs and a talented team of leaders and advisers, we believe LYFE Kitchen is a response to one of America's most significant, unmet needs: the consumer's demand for delicious, affordable food that is good for you," said Roberts. "We also plan to become a part of the Palo Alto community and begin giving back right away."
According to the release, no item on the menu will contain more than 600 calories, with each featuring responsibly sourced ingredients from local farms and "sustainable whenever possible."
"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," explained Sidwell.
If all goes well, the chain is rumored to have plans to spread nationally with as many as 250 locations in the next five years.
Excited? Personally, this sounds like the first "real" healthy fast-food chain to come along in some time. While having some former McDonald's executives on board (their chief communications officer is also a former 20-year veteran of the company), isn't without some irony, it makes perfect business sense. Why not build a new healthy fast-food empire using the lessons and experienced garnered from the previous?
We'll find out just how successful the new menu is this summer. Till then, vegan and vegetarians hoping for some quick food options while on the road can remain optimistic.