Driving through your average American suburb, ravenous for a hasty yet healthy bite, your choices may look something like a Cantina Bowl from Taco Bell or a McWrap from McDonald's. Fast food restaurant chains from Burger King to Wendy’s have altered their menus in an attempt to cater to the growing number of health-conscious consumers.
However, many of these quasi-nutritious meals still pack in a significant amount of sodium and fat. A crispy Ranch Snack Wrap from McDonalds is loaded with just as many grams of fat and almost as much sodium as a McDouble — a veggie Cantina Burrito from Taco Bell still more. Not to mention the shoddy quality of the ingredients that go into many fast food meals.
Introducing Lyfe Kitchen, an au courant and newly established restaurant chain devoted to utilizing locally grown ingredients and humanely raised animals — all the while refusing to use additives, GMOs, trans fat, high-fructose corn syrup, and even butter. Lyfe Kitchen, Lyfe being an acronym for Love Your Food Everyday, sells no meal with more than 600 calories or more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium. Further, its meals are very limited in terms of saturated fat, compared to meals found at major fast food joints. And with a price range of $8-$15, it’s still less expensive than your average Olive Garden or Applebee’s.
Under the direction of Mike Roberts, former president of McDonald's, and Stephen Sidwell, founder of Devante Capital, the company seems to be in good hands. To develop Lyfe Kitchen’s menu, the two seasoned businessmen employed the help of Art Smith and Tal Ronnen, well-versed and canny chefs who carry an interest in sustainable, health-conscious cookery.
But is this enough, as Roberts believes, to revamp the fast food marketplace? As it turns out, Lyfe Kitchen just may alter our perception of fast food, becoming the healthy alternative to McDonald's in the process.
Fast-food restaurants centered on unwilted, low-calorie, and low-sodium foods will not only be timely but will also fulfill a growing demand. Mike Roberts has noted that mealtime decisions are primarily made by mothers, who more than ever are looking for wholesome foods. Just look at fast-food restaurant advertising. In the past few years, fast food has refocused itself, exhibiting its ostensibly nutritious meals with added fervor, well aware of the fact that more and more people are health-conscious — a positive sign for Lyfe Kitchen.
Moreover, the food at Lyfe Kitchen tastes good. Viscerally, one would think that foods limited in fat, calories, and sodium would taste somewhat bland and insipid. However, this is evidently not the case. The chain’s Palo Alto, Calif. restaurant racked up all five stars on “Urbanspoon” and “Menu Pages Los Angeles.”
To be sure, meals at Lyfe Kitchen are more expensive than at your average Hardees or Five Guys. However, those who are health-conscious are willing to pay more for something that is nutritious and palatable. When Mike Roberts was questioned how he would induce people to buy pricier food, he responded by saying, "When you taste the food, I think you’ll have a different view. You’ll love this food, and you’ll find that it is reasonably affordable, given all the other offers that are in the market…”
But there is another side to Lyfe Kitchen. In addition to its restaurants, the company sells frozen grocery items. Its packaged foods are already being sold at around 1,600 retail stores today and will be sold at about 5,000 by the end of the year. Lyfe Kitchen is also soon expected to begin selling meals in Costco, something that will surely augment people’s awareness of the restaurant.
Furthermore, the restaurant is more efficient than most fast-food establishments. Through technology and inventiveness, Lyfe Kitchen has been able to streamline its processes. By using electronics, it has been able to cut the amount of time workers spend walking from station to station and has minimized the chances of order error. The techniques employed by Lyfe Kitchen have significantly expanded sales capacity.
Nevertheless, some logistical problems do present themselves. Operating 20 or so restaurants on locally grown ingredients is no problem. But doing that with 250, the amount Roberts wants to open within five years, will be a Herculean task. More importantly, acquiring the same organically grown ingredients in spring, summer, fall, and winter is complicated to say the least. But then again, when McDonald's was in its infancy, many were unsure whether or not U.S. farmers would be able to match the company’s expected scale. Needless to say, they managed.
If Lyfe Kitchen is to revamp the market and be the health-food answer to McDonald's, it must grow with eagerness. It must be able to carry the logistical burden that will surely arise and must convince people that healthier yet pricier is still better. Its management surely believes it is possible and, if people continue to embrace nutritious and sustainable cuisine, the average, suburban mother will bring her kids not to McDonald's or Taco Bell, but to Lyfe Kitchen.