New restaurant Fit + seeks healthier lifestyle for its patrons

Ashley Sexton makes a smoothie for a customer at Fit+ cafe on Perimeter Drive on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

I saw a need for healthier eating.

Andy Peters says Chattanooga, while it likes to bill itself as a center for outdoor activities, also ranks high on the list of America's unhealthiest cities.

"I've got an opportunity to make it better," said Peters, whose new restaurant, Fit +, opened earlier this year.

Peters said downtown has juice bars and "hipster cafés," but the area around Lee Highway and Highway 153 is lacking.

"It offers this area something different," said the 35-year-old restaurateur about his venture next door to Planet Fitness at 6231 Perimeter Dr.

photo Owner Andy Peters is photographed at Fit+ cafe on Perimeter Drive on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Unhealthy distinction?

The website WalletHub earlier this year ranked each of the 150 largest cities in the U.S. based on health care, food, fitness, and green space. Chattanooga ranked 132nd, behind Nashville and Knoxville in Tennessee, although well ahead of Memphis.

The new restaurant offers a variety of wraps, smoothies, coffees and other items.

Peters said he has seen one of his patrons lose about 66 pounds since opening this past winter as he often eats breakfast and lunch at the eatery.

"I saw a need for healthier eating," said the Central High School graduate.

Peters, who has put a little more than $200,000 into the business, also tries to make his restaurant a "relaxed environment."

"Everything is rush, rush, rush," he said. "We've lost a sense of sitting down and breathing."

The space in Fit + has a large section for working and taking one's time. Peters said he caters to entrepreneurs who are often on their own time. They might come in for lunch and stay for hours, Peters said.

"If they go to Panera, they felt like they were rushed," he said. "Here, we're so low key. We want to be a hub to do business or homework."

Peters' father, John, said his son thinks of the restaurant as "a non-alcoholic Cheers," citing the bar in the former longtime popular TV show.

Plans are to open another Fit + in Johnson City, Tenn., where a friend of Peters' is taking the lead, he said.

"It presented the opportunity for us to get a jump on that clientele," Peters said, adding that he'll have part ownership in that site.

He's not afraid of hard work. Peters said he started working at Unum when he was 17. His father recalled he had to give his son special permission so he could get out of school to work for the Chattanooga-based disability insurer.

But Peters said he spent 15 years at Unum, got married and had three children and was worried about missing their youth while he was "strapped to a desk." He had always had some "side businesses" working and finally decided to start the café.

"I was afraid he'd burn out," his father said.

Eventually, the restaurant owner said, he'd like to open another Fit + location in the Chattanooga area.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.