Entrepreneurs ditch McDonald’s past to launch healthy restaurant in Park Meadows
WORDS: BETH MOSENTHAL, ASSOCIATE AIA AND LEED AP BD+C
IMAGES: TREVOR BROWN JR.
Not every business has a tree-rescuer on payroll—i.e., a person who salvages trees from construction sites and transforms them into beautiful table tops for LYFE Kitchen restaurants. According to Mike Donahue, Brand Manager and Co-Founder, that’s not the only example of innovative thinking that differentiates the first Delos WELL Building Certified restaurant from other fast casual restaurants in today’s market.
Armed with the mantra, “Eat Good. Feel Good. Do Good,” LYFE Kitchen’s aim is to provide healthy, delicious food in an environment that straddles the line between fast-casual and fine dining. From a signature herb wall to locally-sourced food, art, and finish materials, LYFE Kitchen aims to create a sense of place and community while serving healthy food that is enjoyable to eat. As Jennifer Berthelot-Jelovic, a designer for LYFE Kitchen describes, “LYFE Kitchen demonstrates how you can be modern and chic and still be sustainable—in the same way that your food may be good for you, but it can also taste great.”
Founded by two veteran employees of McDonald’s, Mike Donahue and Mike Roberts, both shared a vision for creating a restaurant chain based on values that transcended profit margins in favor of social responsibility in decisions both big and small. “When given the choice between a cheese-melting machine that ran all day or a machine that only expended energy when you put weight on it—we went with the latter,” said Donahue.
Designed in partnership with the design firm Gensler, LYFE Kitchen is not only LEED certified, but also the first restaurant to become Delos WELL Certified—the first rating system of its kind to focus on wellness within the building. Berthelot-Jelovic describes Delos as “symbiotic to LEED; while LEED aims to understand the science of the building, Delos focuses on the well-being of the occupants inside. While LEED looks at how much water is being consumed, Delos asks the question, ‘What is the quality of the water coming into the building—the water that people are drinking?’”
From Delos to details, the Park Meadows LYFE Kitchen—owned by former McDonald’s franchisees DJ and Rachel Mitchell—aims to draw on Colorado’s local materiality, character, and healthy lifestyle. Tomas Salgado, a Gensler architect, noted the team’s collaboration with LYFE to create an exterior aesthetic resonant of the “farm fresh” food served at the restaurant coming from farms in Boulder and surrounding areas. Local materials such as beetle kill pine demonstrate the brand’s desire to root locally sourced material and thinking into each location—including the soon-to-open spot in Boulder. In the end, the modern-but-warm kitchen finishes and furniture directly correlate with the clean, healthful food being served. Quinoa crunch bowl, anyone?