Oprah Winfrey is getting into the restaurant biz.
The media mogul on Wednesday announced that she had made an undisclosed equity investment in True Food Kitchen, a health-driven restaurant chain based in Phoenix. The restaurant, which was named the 2018 top emerging restaurant brand by data firm Fishbowl, offers sustainable, local and organic meals, including vegan and vegetarian options.
True Food Kitchen declined to disclose how much Winfrey invested in the company, but said she would join the brand’s board of directors and act as a consultant. Private equity firm Centerbridge will remain the restaurant’s controlling shareholder.
Winfrey sought out True Food Kitchen’s CEO Christine Barone after dining at the chain with friend and health expert Bob Greene. Winfrey and Barone discussed a possible collaboration and the restaurant’s future over lunch at Winfrey’s house several months ago.
“I love bringing people together over a good meal,” Winfrey said in a statement. “When I first dined at True Food Kitchen, I was so impressed with the team’s passion for healthy eating and, of course, the delicious food, that I knew I wanted to be part of the company’s future.”
Winfrey’s investment is on par with the mogul’s health-conscious personal brand. She previously bought more than 6 million shares, or about a 10 percent stake, of weight loss franchise Weight Watchers for $43 million. Shares of the company have risen 1,132 percent since her investment was announced in October 2015. (Winfrey now owns about 8 percent of the company.)
Barone said True Food Kitchen ended 2017 with double-digit same-store sales growth, but she declined to be more specific.
Winfrey’s investment will help the company double its business over the next three years, Barone told CNBC. The company is looking to expand mostly in urban and “urban edge” locations, areas near densely populated cities, but is considering a few suburban areas as well.
True Food Kitchen only had 12 locations when Barone joined the company in 2016. It has since grown to 23 locations in 10 states.
True Food Kitchen was founded in 2008 by Dr. Andrew Weil and Phoenix restaurateur Sam Fox. The concept was to design a menu around Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid. Chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and rheumatoid arthritis, among other health complications. The dishes are influenced by Mediterranean, Asian and Californian cuisines and include items like soups, salads, pasta, noodle dishes and burgers.
Barone, a former Starbucks executive, arrived at the company to help prepare it for its spin-off from Fox Restaurant Concepts.
“There’s really not a competitor in the full service dining space for True Food Kitchen,” Barone said. “And I think that’s because many believed that you couldn’t have a singularly focused healthy restaurant compete in this market.”
SOURCE: CNBC – Sarah Whitten