Industry News | December 23, 2011 | QSR Exclusive Brief

A Wonderful LYFE: Concept Beating Projections 2 Months In

LYFE Kitchen executives and others cut the ribbon on the company's first unit.
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Two months after LYFE Kitchen opened the doors to its first unit in Palo Alto, California, an executive at the fast-casual concept says it is “exceeding our projections by a significant amount.”

Mike Donahue, chief communications officer for LYFE Kitchen, says the healthy-eating concept has “resonated” with customers since its November opening.

“This is one of the biggest unmet needs in America today: great-tasting, good-for-you food,” Donahue says. “We realized we have to do a good deal of education [with customers] on some of the items. But I think what really surprised us was how receptive and ready they were.”

LYFE Kitchen (LYFE stands for Love Your Food Everyday) made a splash earlier this year when Donahue and Mike Roberts, two former McDonald’s executives, and celebrity chefs Art Smith and Tal Ronnen offered to team up with founder Stephen Sidwell on the concept.

The company announced that it would take healthier fare to the masses, with items like grilled salmon and eggplant parmesan.

Early reports stated that the company aimed to open 250 units across the country, though Donahue won’t confirm or deny that number. For now, LYFE Kitchen is focusing its growth on Northern California, including potentially San Francisco.

Donahue says the lease on the second unit should be signed by the end of January, and executives are actively searching for real estate for units No. 3 and 4. He says four or five units should be open by the end of 2012.

“You want to pace your growth appropriately,” Donahue says. “We want to make sure that we’re very strategic about our growth. Many chains have tried to grow too quickly, and didn’t work out some of the efficiencies, so we’re going to make sure that we do it very strategically, very methodically, and then we’ll be poised for fast growth after that.”

Donahue says the instant success of LYFE Kitchen proves that healthy eating is here to stay in the quick-service industry.

“We believe the consumer is ready,” he says. “We believe the industry has responded, but it’s been more fragmented. We believe we’re going to ride the wave, we’re going to lead the wave, and in many ways we’ll help innovate and create a new wave. We think where we’re positioned is perfect to grow.”

By Sam Oches