True Food Kitchen, a full-service health-focused restaurant inspired by the anti-inflammatory food pyramid created by Dr. Andrew Weil, announced Wednesday that it has received a “significant” investment from Oprah Winfrey.
True Food Kitchen is privately held; details of the investment were not released.
Founded in 2008 in Phoenix, the chain currently has 23 locations in 10 states, including California, Florida and Texas.
Dr. Weil is the Harvard-educated director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. He is a founder and co-owner of True Food Kitchen, an author, and a television personality, who has appeared on PBS and on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” when it was on the air.
Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid, which can be found on his website, includes herbs and spices like turmeric and cinnamon, cooked Asian mushrooms, whole-soy foods, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables.
Dishes on the spring True Food Kitchen menu include a smoked tempeh sandwich with vegan mayonnaise and avocado; a gluten-free cashew pad thai bowl; sustainable sea bass with roasted mushrooms; and spaghetti squash casserole.
Over the next three years, the company plans to double the number of restaurants it operates, with two new locations in Nashville, Tenn. and Jacksonville, Fl. coming in 2018. New East Coast markets, including New York and New Jersey are key areas, according to the company.
Winfrey’s investment will help fuel the expansion, according to Christine Barone, chief executive of True Food Kitchen.
Barone describes the True Food Kitchen environment as “fun and calming” with an approach that caters to different allergies and lifestyles. Everything is made from scratch, she says, which can pose a problem for suppliers when moving to a new market.
“They will often have to carry ingredients they normally don’t carry for other restaurants,” she said.
Barone said that while Winfrey will sit on the board, she will not be a spokesperson for the brand.
Even without an appearance in a True Food Kitchen ad, Winfrey’s name and association is powerful. Her investment in Weight Watchers International Inc.
pushed up the company’s shares. Winfrey sold about a quarter of her stake earlier this year, but the stock continues on an upward trajectory, rallying 51.3% for the last three months, and up a whopping 112.3% for the year so far.
“With over 40% of the U.S. obese, we believe that Weight Watchers’ scientific and community-based approach differentiates it from strictly a ‘diet’ plan,” wrote KeyBanc Capital Markets in a note published Monday. “Weight Watchers has an extensive scientific advisory board, and we think its lengthy operating history differentiates it from many of its peers. We believe that wellness is one of the most important secular trends in our coverage and that social media has further heightened interest in the category.”
KeyBanc initiated Weight Watchers at overweight with a $115 price target.