McDonald’s Vets Bring LYFE to Fast-Food Business


Not many other restaurant startups have benefited from the kind of advance hype that is attending the launch of LYFE, a healthier-eating quick-serve restaurant that is slated to open soon in Palo Alto, Calif.

But then, not every fast-food startup promises to eschew fryers and white flour completely … is led by former McDonald’s executives … and boasts a tie to the Midas touch of Oprah Winfrey.[more]

When LYFE Kitchen – Love Your Food Everyday – finally starts doing business, it will be one of the most interesting tests yet of the notion that Americans want their quick-serve food to be as healthy as it is tasty.

Menus will include made-from-scratch fare including egg-white frittatas, cream-free corn chowder, shrimp and grits, and vegan desserts.

“Think about a restaurant that has the same positive image with the consumer as Whole Foods does,” Mike Donahue, LYFE’s chief communications officer, told QSR Magazine. “We hope to create a new category. We’re calling ourselves an LSR … a lifestyle restaurant.”

With menu prices ranging up to $15 for some fare, it will be a stretch for LYFE to pass itself off to typical quick-serve consumers. But besides the idea that a better-for-you menu will attract more people to the QSR genre, LYFE has a number of leaders who know exactly how to get people to eat what they want them to eat, including ex-McDonald’s executives Donahue and Mike Roberts, who will serve as the chain’s CEO.

Chicago-based celebrity chef Art Smith, known for his days as a personal chef to Winfrey, also helped create LYFE’s menu.

So far, LYFE is targeting northern California, but Donahue doesn’t dismiss speculation that the chain could spread across the US if the concept takes off.

LYFE’s founders believe they can hook American consumers to try more fast food that is actually better for them. But they aren’t forgetting what criterion remains No. 1.

“The consumer will come in and check you out the first time,” Donahue said. “But they will not return if you don’t have great taste.”