Operators of the healthful fast-casual LYFE Kitchen chain unveiled plans for accelerated growth as they broke ground on their third unit Wednesday.

The Chicago-based chain kicked off construction for its next unit in Tarzana, Calif., which is scheduled to open in mid October. The newest restaurant will be the first of several planned for Southern California this year and next, and company officials have set the goal of reaching 250 locations nationally over the next five years.

Michael Donahue, chief brand officer and a partner in LYFE Kitchen, said the current pipeline includes a unit planned for West Hollywood before the end of 2013; one in the Playa Vista area of Los Angeles next year; and another in Irvine, Calif. All of the planned Southern California locations are company owned.


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The first franchise location for the brand is scheduled to open in Chicago in October, said Donahue, with more planned for Northern California, Colorado and Texas.

Donahue said metro markets of Las Vegas, New York and Washington, D.C., are also on the list.

LYFE Kitchen first debuted in Palo Alto, Calif., almost two years ago. A second location opened in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Culver City in March.

Created by a group of former McDonald’s executives, the premium-fast-casual concept has a menu that focuses on sustainable dishes with fewer than 600 calories and less than 1,000 milligrams of sodium. LYFE is an acronym that stands for “love your food everyday.”

The concept was developed by Mike Roberts, a former president and chief operating officer of McDonald’s Corp., and investment banker Stephen Sidwell. Consulting chefs include Art Smith, who has worked for Oprah Winfrey, and Tal Ronnen, a proponent of vegan dining who also operates the restaurant Crossroads in Los Angeles.

Donahue said the company has been very pleased with sales at LYFE Kitchen’s Palo Alto and Culver City locations, though he declined to reveal details.

Early on, the company projected sales that would be in the ballpark of McDonald’s, which at the time had average unit volumes of about $2.4 million.

Going forward, Donahue said LYFE Kitchen locations will generally be about 3,500–4,000 square feet and will offer catering, online ordering and delivery.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout