Oprah invests in Centerbridge-backed True Food Kitchen

  • In 2015, Winfrey bought 10 percent of Weight Watchers
  • Andrew Weil, known for his anti-inflammatory pyramid, founded True Food in 2008
  • Centerbridge will retain a majority of True Food

Oprah Winfrey has invested in True Food Kitchen, a health-driven restaurant chain backed by Centerbridge Partners.

Terms weren’t disclosed. Centerbridge will remain controlling shareholder of True Food.

Unlike her partnership with Weight Watchers International, Winfrey will not serve as a True Food spokeswoman. Instead, the media mogul is joining True Food’s board and will consult with company leadership on strategy.

Andrew Weil, known for his anti-inflammatory pyramid, founded True Food in 2008. The restaurant offers seasonal dishes like asparagus toast, organic tuscan kale salad and summer tacos.

True Food regularly rotates its menu to enable guests to “experience our vibrant dishes and drinks, crafted from seasonally abundant ingredients at the peak of their freshness.”

Even its cocktails — Citrus Skinny Margarita and Farmers Market Sangria — are healthy.

The restaurant chain expects to generate about $170 million in revenue this year, Bloomberg reported.

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

True Kitchen, employing about 3,000, operates 23 restaurants in 10 states. It plans to double the number of restaurants in the next three years and expand onto the East Coast into states such as New York, New Jersey and North Carolina.

A Winfrey investment could be a boon for the chain. In 2015, Winfrey invested $43 million for a 10 percent stake in Weight Watchers. The deal helped boost Weight Watchers stock, which has  doubled in 2018.

Winfrey offloaded a quarter of her stake in March, selling shares in the range of about 8 to 9 times the price she paid for them, USA Today said.

Centerbridge invests across various disciplines, including private equity, credit and real estate. In PE, Centerbridge has about $14 billion in capital commitments in three closed-end funds. Centerbridge has invested in Culligan Water, Bank United and Extended Stay America.

The New York firm has put one of its other restaurant companies on the block. Earlier this month, Centerbridge said it had hired B of A Merrill Lynch and Barclays to explore a potential sale of P.F. Chang’s Bistro.

Centerbridge acquired P.F. Chang’s in 2012 for $1.1 billion. The firm recently split P.F. Chang’s Bistro and Pei Wei Asian Diner into two independently operated businesses.

A Winfrey spokeswoman declined to elaborate. Centerbridge could not be reached for comment.

Action Item: Contact True Food CEO Christine Barone at +1 480-212-0175