True Food Kitchen has three key objectives in the coming years, according to CEO Christine Barone—expand the footprint, launch smaller formats, and spread its better-for-you offerings to a greater customer base. All of those goals, and more, are expected to come true thanks to a recent $100 million-plus funding round, the largest investment in the chain’s 14-year history.
“This investment enables us to truly broaden our mission to help well-being through more accessible, real food,” Barone said in a statement.
The concept, which has 42 locations in 17 states from California to New Jersey, was founded in 2008 by Dr. Andrew Weil, who created the anti-inflammatory pyramid. Signature dishes include the Ancient Grains Bowl, Grass-fed Burger, and Edamame Dumplings. True Food Kitchen is one of the best example’s of what FSR calls NextGen Casual, a category of full-service chains that put more emphasis on chef-inspired menus, convenience, culture, and décor. Since Barone came onboard in 2016, the brand has opened 30 restaurants. The most recent one came in Miami, the brand’s sixth location in Florida. The 11,291-square-foot dining room holds 385 seats.
“Food is absolutely functional,” Barone told FSR last year. “But it’s so much more than that. And I think what True Food Kitchen and this next generation captures is when you come in, food is also part of who you are. I dine at True Food and I’m part of True Food and I love True Food.”
The fundraising was spearheaded by existing partner Centerbridge Partners, a private-equity firm managing approximately $34 billion in capital and one that previously owned P.F. Chang’s for six-and-a-half years, and newcomers HumanCo and Manna Tree.
HumanCo—linked to celebrity investors like Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra—looks to build brands focused on healthier living and sustainability.
“True Food Kitchen is in a category of its own, with a mission perfectly aligned with HumanCo to help people live a healthier life through epic food experiences,” HumanCo founder and CEO Jason H. Karp said in a statement. “It’s an amazing, uniquely mission-driven brand that’s authentic, accessible and unwavering at a time when a lot of health and wellness is not. While many companies are engineering man-made and synthetic products, True Food Kitchen looks to nature and farms for all of its food—and we believe this is how we can all build a better, more sustainable food system. Most of all, we love that it’s not just healthy food, but also delicious, craveable food with fresh and intriguing options using only the best real food ingredients.”
Similar to HumanCo, Manna Tree is an investment firm dedicated to improving health. It’s actively involved with growth-stage companies.
“Manna Tree is committed to improving human health through nutrition and found True Food Kitchen as a partner dedicated to that same mission,” Manna Tree cofounder and president Brent Drever said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to working closely with their management team and leveraging our expertise to help True Food Kitchen bring its revolutionary ‘better food for better living’ concept to a much wider audience.”
Other key investors of True Food Kitchen include Weil, Oprah Winfrey, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, and Lion Capital. Bank of America Securities advised True Food Kitchen on the fundraising round.