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New Chicago-Based Chain Offers Healthy Food, Terrible Name

By Anthony Todd in Food on Feb 7, 2011 4:00PM

Vegan Cow Skull.jpg
You won't find that word at LYFE - but you will find cows! Photo by fotomattic.
A new restaurant chain promising "healthy" eating will begin opening restaurants around the country this fall. "LYFE Kitchen," which is based in Chicago and owned by two former McDonalds execs and Oprah Winfrey's personal chef, is betting that now is the moment for healthy food to make a killing in the market. We love healthy food, but this concept has some issues from the get-go: their horrible name, their definition of healthy food and their strange gender politics.

Let's talk about that name: LYFE. The world learned last year that a way to gain instant cache was to add superfluous y's to a brand - witness the explosive success of Syfy. Oh wait, everyone thinks Syfy is silly and no one can figure out how to pronounce it. In this case, the name is an acronym which stands for "Love Your Food Everyday" - an admirable idea. According to the Tribune, the name was invented by the same company that created the "Build-a-Bear Workshop" and only emerged after sifting through 6000 possible names. Maybe they should revisit some of those other names.

Even dieticians can't agree on what "healthy" means, but there are some general areas of agreement - eat lots of fruits and veggies, limit fats, etc. However, even the strictest dietician rarely advocates banning anything completely. LYFE has done just that, defining "healthy" in such a way that all cream, butter, and corn syrup are banned from the kitchen. All of the desserts are going to be dairy free. This is 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. Oh, and that word? Not on the menu. Despite their draconian rules, no dietary buzzwords will appear. Gluten Free, vegan, dairy-free - all absent. They might scare the public.

Did you know that men don't eat healthy food? Apparently LYFE does, since they are targeting women in all of their marketing. They may not have any fat, butter or corn syrup, but they do have a big beefy burger, just to make sure that men don't veto the family's healthy eating outing. "While she's enjoying a grain salad, there's a beefy burger for her husband. While he's munching away, he might try a bite of hers, and even like it." Because all men are meat-devouring and unhealthy, yet strangely open to the seductive powers of a grain salad. Oy.

This future restaurant chain appears well funded, based on their aggressive expansion plans. We can do nothing but wait, watch, and keep visiting our local healthy and vegetarian-friendly restaurants.