The LYFE Kitchen Chicago expansion is officially a reality. Franchisee Carey Cooper, a Chicago native, has taken hold of a space at 419 N. Clark in River North, the first floor of the under-construction Amli apartment building, and is shooting for a fall opening. He signed the lease two weeks ago after nearly nine months of scouting.
The California LYFE Kitchens have received much fanfare, from the New York Times to the Tribune, for their healthy, organic, and seasonal cuisine. The large menu (breakfast, lunch and dinner) is constructed like a full-service restaurant—and is served and plated like a full-service restaurant after ordering at the counter and given a microchip—yet every item is under 600 calories and is served within 8-10 minutes.
Much has been made about how Chicagoans might accept the healthy concept, but Cooper, who lost 30 pounds three years ago due to a change in diet, isn't worried. "We're not shoving health food down people's throats," he says. "You can have burgers and pastas and gluten-free dishes."
They might offer special menu items for the local market; they'll definitely offer a selection of microbrews and wines.
This location, which they hope is just the first in Chicago, holds 124 seats inside and 34 on an outdoor patio. They believe River North, with it's mix of urban consumers, professionals, tourists and families, is the perfect spot to start. Despite the booming restaurant and nightlife River North scene, they think there's a fast-casual market hole they can fill.
LYFE Kitchen has big goals in mind and a big team in place. Oprah Winfrey's former chefs, Art Smith (Table Fifty-Two) and Tal Ronnen, mastermind the culinary aspects. Bill Daley (White House Chief of Staff) is on the board of directors. Former McDonald's execs Mike Donahue and Mike Roberts lead the operations.
Only light marketing and advertising is planned to introduce themselves to the local market, planning more on word of mouth and the product itself to create business. "People will discover us and fall in love with us," Cooper says. "We want to do what we do better than anyone else."
They're considering more locations in Streeterville, Evanston and Lincoln Park. Construction gets underway in River North in July.
· Two LYFE Kitchens Coming by Summer [~ECHI~]
· LYFE Kitchen [Official Site]