Mike Roberts and Mike Donahue at the July opening of a LYFE Kitchen restaurant in Dallas.
LYFE Kitchen, the 10-unit fast-casual concept created by former McDonald’s executives, has revealed a “large” minority investment by the Carlisle Corp.
Memphis, Tenn.-based Carlisle, which operates 77 franchised Wendy’s units in the Southeast, made the investment in May. This week, the companies said LYFE would consolidate its management in Memphis. Details on the size of the investment were not disclosed.
The companies also said Chance Carlisle, president of Carlisle’s Wendy’s division, Wendelta Inc., was named LYFE’s new chief executive, succeeding Mike Roberts, a LYFE founder and president, who remains as board member. Gene Carlisle, founder and chairman of the Carlisle Corp., was named LYFE chairman in June.
LYFE, which stands for Love Your Food Everyday, first opened in 2011, and has bases in Palo Alto and Irvine, Calif., as well as Chicago and New York. The brand has three restaurants each in California and Texas, two in Illinois, and one each in Colorado and Nevada.
“LYFE Kitchen represents a new phase in dining,” Chance Carlisle said. “It’s a lifestyle restaurant concept. It doesn’t fit into any box. That’s part of the appeal. We liked the uniqueness of the concept.”
LYFE chief brand and communications officer Mike Donahue said, “It’s a very exciting time for LYFE restaurants.
“There’s a synchronicity of values,” he added, “and there’s the fact that Carlisle Corp. has been dedicated to hospitality, which is important for the lifestyle brand we’ve created. They are also committed to social responsibility. And they have access to capital.”
Donahue said Roberts and Chance Carlisle have been working over the past two months on LYFE Kitchen’s plans for growth.
“The Carlisles have the financial and business connections and acumen to step in and help with that,” said Donahue. “We were raising money through friends and family, and we’re going to need a lot more as we go forward. They’ve got experience with $100 million developments.”
LYFE also plans to consolidate its operations in Memphis.
“When we started,” Donahue said, “we didn’t want to have a headquarters per se.”
LYFE divided operations between Chicago and California. Donahue said the Carlisle Corp., “has beautiful offices in Memphis,” where it has administrative functions for its Wendy’s restaurants.
Donahue said Carlisle had heard about LYFE Kitchen and visited.
“Chance said it was an immediate connection,” Donahue said. “They saw the vision. They started talking about being franchisees. Then they talked about their expertise in development, to help us scale as fast as we wanted to.”
LYFE opened three units in the Dallas-Fort Worth market in June and July.
When the parties began talking about financing, Donahue recalled, “they said that rather going to the markets and using all the time and energy raising money, they could help support that.”
LYFE Kitchen was named earlier this summer as one of Nation’s Restaurant News’ Hot Concepts for 2014.
“LYFE represents the opportunity for something for everyone that’s high quality,” Chance Carlisle said. “There’s a no-veto policy. It’s a place everyone and anyone can come to get a high-quality meal quickly and at an affordable price in a high-energy environment.
“It’s a lifestyle experience for Millennials to baby boomers,” he added. “And it’s authentic to everyone because it doesn’t preach to anyone.”
Carlisle Corp. is also involved in real estate development.
Contact Ron Ruggless at Ronald.Ruggless@Penton.com
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless