True Food Kitchen gets a new investor: Oprah Winfrey

She will join the company’s board and will work to help with its business and marketing.
True Food Kitchen

Oprah Winfrey, having conquered television, magazines and movies, is setting her sights on a new industry: restaurants.

True Food Kitchen, the rapidly growing health-oriented casual-dining brand, on Wednesday said it had received an equity investment from the media mogul.

The company did not disclose terms but said that Winfrey “will extend her strategic insight to support the brand’s national expansion.” She will join True Food’s board and will consult with executives to “advance the company’s business and marketing objectives.”

“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 wanted to be part of the company’s future.”

True Food was founded in 2008 in a partnership between Dr. Andrew Weil, an alternative medicine expert, and Fox Restaurant Concepts. The company is growing quickly: System sales increased 60% last year while unit count grew by a third, according to data from Technomic.

The chain now operates 23 locations, and its average unit volumes last year exceeded $7 million.

The company plans to double its store count over the next three years, with locations in New York, New Jersey and North Carolina, and plans to expand its existing presence in Florida and Maryland.

The investment will give True Food a board member who is one of the country’s most recognizable and admired personalities in Winfrey, who rose up from an impoverished upbringing to become a successful television host and ultimately a multibillionaire media mogul.

She has been an advocate for healthy lifestyles and healthy eating, and owns a stake in Weight Watchers that is now reportedly worth more than $400 million.

True Food serves a menu that aims to be both healthful and tasty enough to keep customers coming back. The menu features cocktails such as the Citrus Skinny Margarita along with signature dishes such as Edamame Dumplings and an ancient-grains bowl with miso-glazed sweet potatoes.

Winfrey's presence on the board and as an investor will lend the brand additional credibility and exposure and could help with the chain’s continued growth. The company could hope for success similar to that of the fast-casual pizza chain Blaze Pizza, which basketball star LeBron James invested in back in 2012 and which is now one of the country's fastest growing concepts.

Christine Barone, True Food’s CEO, said that she was impressed by Winfrey’s “genuine passion for the intention behind True Food.”

“My hope is that her passion and investment will continue to develop our growing brand to allow even more guests to experience a better way of eating,” Barone said in a statement.

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