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Lyfe Kitchen, Chicago-Based Healthy Fast Food Chain, Prepares For Launch With Former McDonald's Execs

Salad From My Garden

First Posted: 02/07/11 01:48 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:30 PM ET

Two veteran executives from McDonald's are starting a restaurant chain to revolutionize the fast-food industry -- by serving food that isn't harmful to your health.

Lyfe Kitchen, a Chicago-based company whose name is short for "Love Your Food Everyday," will be spearheaded by former Golden Arches President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Roberts, and former communications boss Mike Donahue, as the Chicago Tribune reports.

The business will aim for the increasingly popular "fast casual" segment of the restaurant market, serving up made-to-order cuisine in the vein of Panera or Chipotle. That segment grew 4 percent last year, while "quick-service" restaurants shrunk a small amount, according to Ad Age, which first broke news of the new company last summer. Dinner entrees are aimed at the $8-$12 range.

The Tribune describes some of the healthy options that will be available at Lyfe restaurants:

In the Lyfe kitchen, butter, cream and high-fructose corn syrup are banned, and none of the food is fried. Sweet potato fries, for instance, are oven-baked. All of Lyfe's menu items contain less than 600 calories, including signature dishes that include a Niman ranch beef burger with agave ketchup and pickles. The desserts are expected to be dairy-free.

And BrandChannel writes that the company is exploring options like rooftop herb gardens, biodegradable cutlery and grass parking lots to help expand its green profile.

It's targeted primarily at women, who are more likely to eschew traditional fast-food joints for a more healthful alternative, but the McD's execs are also using their burger-pushing expertise to make sure that the male demographic doesn't get turned off.

The first restaurant is slated to open in Palo Alto this summer, the Trib writes, with up to 250 planned nationally within five years.

While the Tribune story casts the chain in a quite positive light, Chicagoist won't let it off so easy. Lyfe "has some issues from the get-go," the blog comments: "their horrible name, their definition of healthy food and their strange gender politics."

The gender politics Chicagoist is referring to is Lyfe's plan to target women between the ages of 18 and 49. "While she's enjoying a grain salad, there's a beefy burger for her husband," writes Tribune reporter Emily Bryson York. It's not clear if that example comes from Lyfe or York, however.

Chicagoist particularly hates the all-out ban on certain ingredients, calling the decision "the sort of ham-fisted approach to health food that makes the dining public think anyone who wants to eat well is a militant hippie vegan."

Tell us where you stand on the restaurant concept:

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Win: healthy food made more affordable and widely available

Fail: an ill-conceived attempt to exploit the healthy food movement

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Filed by Will Guzzardi  |