Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Launching Lyfe: A Healthy Fast Food Venture

It’s hard to believe that someone intimately connected with the world’s leading fast food chain would pioneer a healthy fast food initiative, but Mike Roberts is proving the incredulous wrong. A former president and COO of McDonalds, Roberts has teamed up with a slew of celebrity chefs, vegan experts, and eco-conscious investors to bring Lyfe Kitchen to fruition.

Lyfe (which stands for Love Your Food Everyday) technically falls into the “fast casual” niche alongside popular chains like Chipotle, Panera, and Cosi. Unlike these restaurants however, Lyfe Kitchen is a no-butter, no-high-fructose-corn-syrup, and fried-food-free institution aiming to make healthy food an accessible option for fast foodies.

But “health food” is a tough sell across most of the United States. Despite soaring obesity rates and the nationwide health care crisis, most Americans prefer burgers to salads and consistently choose fat, sodium, and sugar-rich meals over leafy greens and whole grains. To encourage healthier eating, all of Lyfe's menu items contain less than 600 calories. Dishes range from the Niman ranch beef burger with agave ketchup and pickles, to non-dairy, vegan, desserts. The target demographic for the new chain is women aged 18-49 whom executives hope will increase exposure to the brand by introducing husbands, boyfriends, and children to the chain.

Although Lyfe Kitchen could represent a step in the right direction, several critics have voiced their distaste for Robert’s approach. One verbal opponent called the all-out ban on butter, high fructose corn syrup, and fried foods, “the sort of ham-fisted approach to health food that makes the dining public think anyone who wants to eat well is a militant hippie vegan”. The chain has yet to open, so it remains to be seen if Americans will embrace this fast casual healthy dining establishment, or turn up their noses in favor of greasier fare.

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