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Ex-McDonald's Exec Building Mini Health-Food Empire

He spent 30 years learning how the world's biggest burger chain works. Now the former McDonald's COO wants to build out a healthy fast-food chain.
Mike Roberts participates in his company's ribbon cutting ceremony in Palo Alto, Calif. in 2011

Mike Roberts knows how to run a restaurant. Actually, he knows how to run more than 31,000 restaurants--he spent 30 years at McDonald's, most recently as its global president and COO.   

So he would seem to have the necessary chops to build his own mini fast-food empire. But this chain will grow from a single restaurant he launched in 2011 in Palo Alto, Calif.--and the menu isn't laden with burgers and fries.

After his exit from McDonald's in 2006, Roberts raised around $15 million from over 120 investors for the healthy fast-food restaurant, LYFE Kitchen, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. Roberts started LYFE (an acronym for Love Your Food Everyday) along with investment banker Stephen Sidwell and former McDonald’s Chief Communications Officer Mike Donahue under the premise that good-for-you food can taste good, cost less, and be produced quickly.

“I had a great experience at McDonald’s,” Roberts recently told Businessweek in an interview. “I respect the company. Now I want to bring farmers, growers, and restaurateurs together. That’s what I am about.” 

With a year under their belts at the first LYFE Kitchen location, now the businessmen have set their sights on expansion: They're hoping to be in multiple metropolitan areas, including Chicago and New York, within the next year. All LYFE Kitchens will offer different menus depending on local produce.

“Our plan is to grow it as fast as we can,” Sidwell said to the San Francisco Business Times in March.

NBA star Derek Fisher and Oprah Winfrey’s former personal chef have both invested in LYFE kitchen.

And for the record: LYFE does offer a burger--but it's grassfed on a multigrain bun.

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