LYFE Kitchen readies second unit

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It is going to launch in Los Angeles

LYFE Kitchen, the health-focused fast-casual concept founded by a former McDonald’s executive, is scheduled to open a second location in Los Angeles.

Michael Donahue, chief communications officer and partner in the brand, told Nation’s Restaurant News this week that the concept is ready to grow after seeing sales on track to exceed expectations at the first location in Palo Alto, Calif., which opened in October 2011. When it first debuted, officials projected the first unit would see annual sales exceed about $2.4 million.

LYFE, an acronym for Love Your Food Everyday, features a menu of entrees that contain fewer than 600 calories each and are reduced in sodium, plus some organic and sustainably raised ingredients.

The concept was developed by Mike Roberts, a former president and chief operating officer of McDonald’s Corp., and investment banker Stephen Sidwell. Consulting chefs include Art Smith, who has worked for Oprah Winfrey, and Tal Ronnen, who is known for promoting vegan dining.

Early on, company officials were unwilling to discuss the brand’s growth strategy, saying they wanted to “let consumers tell us when to grow,” Donahue said. “And that has occurred.”

The Los Angeles location will be located in Culver City and is expected to open by late 2012 or early 2013, Donahue said.

The second restaurant will be 4,000 square feet, larger than the original 3,500-square-foot location. It will include the restaurant plus a catering and training facility.

The Chicago-based brand is also looking at more locations in either Northern or Southern California. Earlier, company officials said they were projecting as many as 250 units within the first five years.

Donahue said the growth strategy will be finalized once the Los Angeles unit opens. As in Palo Alto, the Los Angeles restaurant will be built as sustainably as possible, using recycled materials and renewable or responsibly managed resources.

The concept is also testing a line of branded grocery items, which are available in some Costco stores.

LYFE Kitchen is among a growing number of health-focused concepts that include Seasons 52, owned by Darden Restaurants Inc., and True Food Kitchen, developed by Fox Restaurant Group. The latter is in the process of being acquired by P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc.

The Los Angeles LYFE Kitchen will be located across the street from a True Food Kitchen unit, a casual-dining concept that also focuses on healthful living and lower-calorie menu options.

Donahue said the proximity will not result in a “food fight.”

“We believe the consumer is so anxious and eager for this concept that it’ll help everybody,” he said. “All boats will rise.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout