September 4, 2012
A business to watch: Palo Alto's Lyfe Kitchen (650-325-LYFE).
While the acronym is cheesy—Love Your Food Everyday—the ambitions are anything but. And its mission speaks to some of the most crucial food issues of the day.
"There shall be no butter, no cream, no white sugar, no white flour, no high-fructose corn syrup, no GMOs, no trans fats, no additives," Frederick Kaufman writes in Wired, "and no need for alarm: There will still be plenty of burgers, not to mention manifold kegs of organic beer and carafes of biodynamic wine. None of this would seem surprising if we were talking about one or 10 or even 20 outposts nationwide. But Lyfe's ambition is to open hundreds of restaurants around the country, in the span of just five years."
The context that makes both the absence of GMOs and the surplus of outposts so striking: Lyfe's leaders are reformed McDonald's top dogs. The cofounder and chief exec, Mike Roberts, is former president and CEO of Micky D's.
Instead of McMuffins, Big Macs and Oreo shakes, they're dishing farmers market egg white frittatas, quinoa crunch wraps and ginger peach hibiscus drinks. The first store has been open on Hamilton Avenue in Palo Alto for about 10 months. Another is on the way in Culver City in January.
"He and some of his erstwhile McDonald's colleagues have bet a few million bucks that an eco-embracing mega-natural startup will blaze the trail to their rightful share of the billions and billions served by Burger King, KFC, Subway, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Domino's and Wendy's."
The key: fast-food efficiencies applied to wholesome, locavore-leaning ingredients. Some of the examples Wired cites in the Loch Duart salmon (which travels a ways but is used for its sustainable practices, like they do at Carmel's Rio Grill) are red and green onion cut fresh at the start of the shift, faro cooked and cooled before lunch and dinner rushes, dried cranberries that keep well—as does the maple-chipotle sauce—and baby kale from our own Earthbound Farm, as it's far easier to prep quickly than more mature kale.
In other words, "Lovin' It, Naturally/You Want Brussels Sprouts With That?: A team of former McDonald's honchos is transforming what fast food can be—responsible, healthy, sustainable and delicious" is worth reading. And Lyfe is worth keeping an eye on in the months and years ahead.