STORE SPACES

Oprah’s newest bet is a restaurant chain with ambitious expansion plans

BY Marianne Wilson

Oprah Winfrey is expanding her food empire with an investment in a restaurant chain that specializes in healthy eating and drinking.

Winfrey has made an equity investment in True Food Kitchen. The terms of the deal were not revealed. Winfrey is joining the restaurant’s board and will “collaborate and consult” with its leadership team and “extend her strategic insight” to support the brand’s national expansion.

True Food Kitchen has a health-driven menu of seasonal dishes and natural beverages. It operates 23 restaurants in 10 states, with plans to double its store count during the next three years. Key focus areas include new markets in New York, New Jersey and North Carolina. It is set to open two new locations in the coming months, in Nashville, Tennessee and Jacksonville, Florida.

The company was founded in by physician Dr. Andrew Weil, director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, with the menu inspired by “anti-inflammatory” diet. The menu offers sustainable, local and organic meals, including vegan and vegetarian options. Private equity firm Centerbridge is True Food Kitchen’s controlling shareholder.

“When Ms. Winfrey and I first sat down to discuss her potential investment, I was impressed by her genuine passion for the intention behind True Food,” said Christine Barone, CEO, True Food Kitchen. “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.”

In 2015, Winfrey bought an approximate 10% stake in Weight Watchers, and received a seat on the board. She also has a partnership with Kraft Heinz Company for a line of prepared foods sold at supermarkets.

In a statement, Winfrey said she sought out Barone after dining at the chain with her friend and health expert, Bob Greene.

“I love bringing people together over a good meal,” Winfrey stated. “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.”

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