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|Founded||August 6, 2011|
Palo Alto, California, U.S.
|Headquarters||Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.|
Number of locations
|Chance Carlisle (CEO)|
LYFE was founded in 2011 by Mike Roberts, the former global president of McDonald's, Stephen Sidwell, and Mike Donahue, McDonald's former chief of corporate communications in Palo Alto, California. The company plans to open up to 20 locations during 2015.
In 2013, the "Lyfe Kitchen Retail" division was launched to sell a number of transfat-free frozen entrees through Target, Publix, Safeway, Amazon, and other outlets. The division was renamed "Luvo" after being bought by its current CEO, former Lululemon CEO Christine M. Day. The company is reportedly planning an IPO.
While acting as president of McDonald's, Mike Roberts tried to push the fast-food restaurant toward serving more nutritionally-oriented fare, most notably by leading the development of the Apple Dippers now served in McDonald's Happy Meals. After his resignation as president and the expiration of his noncompete agreement, Roberts' business partner, Stephen Sidwell approached Roberts and Mike Donahue (also a former McDonald's executive) with a business idea for a healthier brand of fast-food. By March 2010, they had created a sample menu with the help of Oprah’s celebrity chefs, Art Smith and Tal Ronnen.
In August 2011, LYFE Kitchen opened it first location in Palo Alto, California. Then CEO Mike Roberts told the Palo Alto Patch, "We chose Palo Alto because of the people, because of the innovative spirit here. Because a lot of early adopters to movements that move across the country start here in California. We can get our produce here fresh, local, organic, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, all within a hundred miles of Palo Alto". The restaurant was met with positive reviews from critics and locals, and the company soon expanded to other locations throughout California. By 2013, LYFE Kitchen opened its first franchise location in Chicago.
In 2013, the "Lyfe Kitchen Retail" division was launched to sell a number of transfat-free frozen entrees through Target, Publix, Safeway, Amazon, and other outlets. The division was renamed "Luvo Inc." after being bought by its current CEO, former Lululemon CEO Christine Day.
In May 2014, restaurant developer Carlisle Corp. made a large, undisclosed investment in LYFE Kitchen and prompted the relocation of its company's headquarters from Chicago to Memphis. It was also announced that Chance Carlisle was to succeed Mike Roberts as LYFE's chief executive officer. Roberts still holds a place as a member of LYFE's board.
On December 1, 2014, LYFE Kitchen opened its fourteenth store unit in New York City, New York.
On August 6, 2015, a location was opened in the company's headquarters city of Memphis, Tennessee.
All their locations except three remaining ones in Chicago are closed.
LYFE Kitchen sells a variety of sandwiches, salads, soups, meat and fish entrees, specialty drinks, breakfast items, and desserts. All items are under 600 calories and 1000 mg of sodium. In addition, the food follows the LYFE Kitchen standards, which includes "microwave-free kitchens; monosodium glutamate- and bioengineered organism-free ingredients; and no butter, cream or high fructose corn syrup". The dishes rely on many different spices and acidity to account for the lack of creams and salts in their flavors. In addition, LYFE offers fully vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free menus as well as selections of alcoholic beverages from local vineyards and breweries.
To facilitate easier local sourcing, LYFE alternates menu items seasonally, such as their Brussels sprouts being substituted with asparagus in the spring and summer months. Menu items also vary regionally: Colorado menus feature bison burgers and tacos, Texas has a larger variety of Tex-Mex fare, and New York introduced more predominately Asian-influenced dishes. According to corporate executive chef Jeremy Bringardner, the process of developing a new LYFE menu item involves approval by founding chefs, Art Smith and Tal Ronnen, as well as review by a panel of nutrition specialists and careful examination of the local supply chain to determine the recipes viability.
Food Sourcing and Preparation
Since its conception, LYFE Kitchen has made local sourcing and sustainability a major focus of its business. Its overall mission statement states, "Great food can do amazing things. It can make you feel better. It can support local farms. Promote sustainability. Reward environmentally sound businesses. Give back to the community". LYFE uses all grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, and sustainable raised seafood and claims to source its ingredients locally whenever possible. The chain also uses Gardein foods, which contain meat-free proteins, on some of their salads and pizzas.
All of LYFE Kitchen's items are prepared in-store and LYFE utilizes computerized ordering, cooking, and delivery systems to increase efficiency without using pre-prepared ingredients. Customer orders are entered into a software program which divides the meal into separate elements that are sent to different stations according to their relative cooking times. A plater assembles the finished product from their stations and serves it to the customer who has a GPS-tracking coaster. The activity is all tracked in real time.
LYFE Kitchen reflects its sustainable "lyfestyle" branding through its store design. According to co-founder Mike Roberts, "In addition to offering great-tasting, good-for-you food, we believe that LYFE Kitchen will also serve as a place where guests feel good about the sustainability measures taken to ensure an environmental stewardship". Design consultant Margee Drews incorporated many "green" elements into interior store design, including sofas made from recycled milk containers, bamboo floors, countertops made from recycled glass, and energy-efficient fixtures. In addition, all the stores feature an interior herb wall designed and planted by Plant Manager Maureen Roberts, the wife of co-founder Mike Roberts.
LYFE Kitchen staff members are outfitted with uniforms made of eco-friendly canvas and cotton. In place of disposable cups, plates, and utensils, the restaurant serves food on china. LYFE Kitchen operations maintain efficiency standards in their restaurants for electricity, water, food waste, air quality, and recycling. For their efforts, they have been certified by the United States Green Building Council, the International WELL Building Institute, and LEED.
Besides its local sourcing methods, LYFE Kitchen is involved in many community and environmental outreach programs. One of its larger initiatives is working with and maintaining the standards of the Global Animal Partnership, a nonprofit organization that connects restaurants, retailers, famers, and scientists to promote the welfare of animals in agriculture. In addition, each LYFE Kitchen restaurant is involved in local charities in their area and do works such as building local parks or donating meals to food programs in the area.
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