Mike Roberts, former president and CEO of McDonald’s, understands how fast food works. He just doesn’t think you should eat it. That’s why Roberts co-founded Lyfe Kitchen, a restaurant that aims to do healthy food on a fast-food scale.
Lyfe Kitchen’s name is cheesy: Lyfe stands for Love Your Food Everyday [Editor's note: “Every day”! It should be “every day”! UGH PEOPLE]. But it does not have cheesy cuisine; the food is made with “no butter, no cream, no white sugar, no white flour, no high-fructose corn syrup, no GMOs, no trans fats, no additives,” Wired reports. And Roberts wants to open 500 to 1,000 outposts of the restaurant across the country in the next several years.
Imagine tens of millions of local, sustainable gourmet meals, served with the efficiency and economy that one expects from a national fast-food chain. Such a feat of feeding has never before been attempted.
The food actually does sound good. The chicken’s free-range. The burgers are from grass-fed, humanely raised cattle. There’s roasted kabocha squash. There are salads, and not the wimpy things drowning in cheddar that pass for salad at McDonald’s — this is beet and rice salad, Napa cabbage salad, tomato-corn panzanella. There are Shamrock Shakes made out of actual shamrocks. (Okay, we made that part up.)
If a fast-food operation like this could successfully deliver healthy, organic food to the masses, it would be a huge deal. Consider what happened when Roberts worked on adding those apple dipper snacks to the McDonald’s menu:
Before that first Apple Dipper could pass the lips of the first Apple Dipper consumer, Roberts supervised months of quality assurance and menu development, months of meetings with chefs and operations people, months of investigation into all possible Apple Dipper sources … Not long after Apple Dippers appeared on the menu, McDonald’s became the nation’s largest seller of apples.
According to Wired, “What Roberts did for the apple at McDonald’s he now intends to do for the brussels sprout at Lyfe.”
If he succeeds, it would mean real market pressure for organic business to expand. It also could mean that healthy, safe food would be cheap enough for more people to afford. In addition to offering vegetables and prioritizing organic, Lyfe is working on safer, more energy-efficient food preparation techniques — flash-freezing and high-pressure pasteurization means using fewer preservatives; chilled air in a chicken production line means no chlorine water baths.
Right now, the price point for Lyfe’s food is way above McD’s: a burger is $8.49, and the fries come separate, at $2.99. (They are baked sweet potato fries, though!) But scale means that prices come down: If Roberts succeeds, good food could be priced the same as assembly-line, widely available food. And your road trips and hangovers could look a lot more wholesome.