A variety of colorful food dishes such as pizza, salmon, edamame, salads, and burgers while multiple hands reach in to grab food.
True Food Kitchen

The better-for-you eatery focuses on an anti-inflammatory menu with seasonal, scratch-made dishes and handcrafted drinks.

Meet True Food Kitchen's New CEO

John Williams will take the helm of the 43-unit healthy eatery concept.

What do Disneyland Resort, General Mills, and True Food Kitchen all have in common? Answer: All three companies have, at some point, hired John Williams—the latter being the most recent. With more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality, entertainment, and consumer packaged goods industries, Williams is bringing his learnings to True Food Kitchen as the wellness-driven concept's new chief executive officer. Williams succeeds Christine Barone, who joined Dutch Bros Coffee in November 2022 as its new president.

From reeling in a $100 million investment last year to growing its footprint to 43 locations across the country, True Food Kitchen has come a long since its inception 15 years ago. Founded by Dr. Andrew Weil, a celebrity doctor known for his integrative approach to medicine, the better-for-you eatery focuses on an anti-inflammatory menu with seasonal, scratch-made dishes and handcrafted drinks. Signature starters, for example, include Edamame Dumplings with dashi, herbs, and white truffle oil, and Herb Hummus featuring cucumber, cherry tomato, onion, olive, feta, and lemon oregano vinaigrette served with house-made pita.

The $100 million funding round was led by private-equity firm Centerbridge Partners, which once owned P.F. Chang's, as well as Manna Tree and HumanCo—which brought in some notable star power from investors and celebrity husband-and-wife duo, actor Priyanka Chopra and musician Nick Jonas. The investment was the largest in the chain's history.

Williams most recently served as chief marketing officer at Lazy Dog Restaurants, where he played a crucial role in the brand's expansion to more than 20 locations throughout California, Colorado, Nevada, and Texas, while overseeing marketing and growth strategies. In his new role as CEO of True Food Kitchen, Williams aims to draw from his expertise to help the brand expand its footprint and evolve into the future. FSR recently caught up with Williams for a Q&A to get to know the new leader.

FSR: How are your first few days going so far?

John Williams: I could not be more excited about spending time with the True Food Kitchen team. I have had a chance to connect with a few team members already and, as expected, everyone has been warm, welcoming, and enthusiastic throughout the process. I am really looking forward to officially diving in and meeting more of the team behind this incredible brand.

FSR: What first attracted you to True Food Kitchen and to this opportunity?

JW: I am a longtime admirer of Dr. Weil and the brand, and have great passion for promoting wellness through food. The brand’s mission to create an approachable dining experience that allows and inspires guests to eat better, feel better, and live better has resonated with me since my first time experiencing the restaurant. In addition, True Food Kitchen’s warm, welcoming style of service was something that I’ve always been impressed with.

True Food Kitchen

John Williams, new CEO of True Food Kitchen, says he's "excited to have joined ahead of one of the brand’s biggest seasons of growth."

FSR: Can you share how your past experiences at Lazy Dog, Disneyland Resort, General Mills, and Nestle will inform your approach as CEO of True Food Kitchen? What learnings are you bringing with you into your new role?

JW: We all bring our unique collection of experiences to each role, and I feel fortunate to have built my career at a number of great companies with leaders that have really invested in my development; something I strive to continue to pay forward. Having a background in hospitality, entertainment, and consumer packaged goods has given me a unique perspective on how to approach the constantly shifting business landscape in order to drive meaningful long term brand acceleration.

General Mills was an incredible space to learn every aspect of a business and which levers to pull to unlock growth. That experience taught me the importance of deeply understanding the role your brand plays in consumers’ lives. At The Walt Disney Company, I learned their world class approach to hospitality firsthand. It really comes down to ensuring the best possible experience for every team member so that they in turn will deliver the genuine, happy and fun moments that guests line up every day for. I plan to bring that same creative, authentic and growth-oriented thinking to support True Food Kitchen in bringing the brand to even more guests across the country.

FSR: What will your key priorities be for True Food Kitchen? What are your goals for the brand?

JW: As CEO, I will prioritize supporting True Food Kitchen’s mission of inspiring more people to eat better, feel better and live better while driving growth and expansion for the business throughout the country. I’m excited to contribute meaningfully to the brand’s evolution, connecting with both our team and the loyal fan base they’ve built. I’m looking forward to finding new ways to bring True Food to as many people in as many ways as possible across the country.

FSR: How will you unlock new, unique ways in which people can experience True Food Kitchen?

JW: Working alongside True Food Kitchen’s talented leadership team and collaborating with teams in our restaurants throughout the country is paramount to identifying key opportunities for growth within the company. I will also spend time with our guests to understand where there is natural opportunity for the brand to show up in more ways in their lives. I’m incredibly optimistic about the future for True Food Kitchen.

FSR: Why is the True Food Kitchen concept and model optimized for growth?

JW: At 43 locations across the country, True Food Kitchen guests have a staggering 87 percent intent-to-return. True Food Kitchen is exceeding goals thanks to excellent execution by our outstanding team members. At a high, internal level, we understand how the business works and each team member plays their role extraordinarily well, ensuring strong results across the board.

FSR: You mentioned several exciting changes are in the hopper for this spring, including elevated updates across the menu, restaurant design and brand identity. Can you give any more details on what to expect? 

JW: We’re always working to evolve our brand to meet guests and communities where they are and will have some exciting updates to share in the coming weeks.

FSR: Is there anything else FSR readers should know about you, or what direction True Food Kitchen is heading?

JW: I’m incredibly honored to be part of the True Food Kitchen team and excited to have joined ahead of one of the brand’s biggest seasons of growth.