Operations

How José Andrés Group is building a multidimensional strategy to change the world

The chef's name has become a brand that ties together restaurants across all segments, as well as a growing media division, all around the same story: the power of food.
San Laurel restaurant Los Angeles
The new concept San Laurel opened last year at the Conrad Hotel in Los Angeles, where José Andrés Group handles F&B. A Bazaar Meat is scheduled to open in the residential tower next door./Photo courtesy of Hilton.

A José Andrés restaurant may be coming soon to a mall near you.

But that’s not all. One of the chef and restaurateur’s 20 or so brands could also be the reason you dine out at a luxury hotel soon, or at an international resort. You may also see him on TV or via your favorite streaming platform. You’ll hear his podcast in your earbuds. And, of course, he’s all over social media.

If it seems like Andrés is everywhere, it’s because he is. And that’s the strategy.

But through all those channels the story is the same: Changing the world with the power of food.

"Changing the world" means empowering people and communities. It’s a message—and mission—that has become synonymous with Andrés, who in 2021 changed the public name of his Washington, D.C.-based restaurant group to José Andres Group, or JAG, even though the legal entity is still ThinkFoodGroup, as it was previously known.

The group has 36 restaurants and a bunch more coming over the next 24 months. But, rather than just opening restaurants, JAG is building a brand and content operation with various distribution channels, which might include a very-high-end restaurant in a luxury residence, for example, or a streaming series, book or podcast, as well as an airport lounge bar or a food truck, said JAG President Sam Bakhshandehpour.

“The restaurant business can be one dimensional,” he said. “We’re trying to make it multidimensional.”

Sam Bakhshandehpour

Sam Bakhshandehpour/Photo courtesy of José Andrés Group.

Here are some examples of growth planned for this year:

Malls. JAG last month announced a collaboration with mall operator Simon to bring Andrés’ brands to malls, starting with three properties: The Zaytinya concept will open at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas later this year or next year, and two more JAG brands (not yet disclosed) will also come to The Shops at Crystals (also in Las Vegas) and the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, Calif.

JAG had a small presence in malls before the pandemic but the company did a reset, and now the only Andrés restaurant in a retail setting is Mercado Little Spain next to Hudson Yards in New York City. Bakhshandehpour said JAG decided to go with Simon as the “blue-chip” mall operator, one that is looking to drive traffic by creating local dining destinations.

Hotels. Once a longtime presence in SLS Hotels, Andrés is now moving forward with both Hilton and Marriott on a number of projects.

Coming in the second quarter will be a new flagship outlet of Bazaar at The Ritz-Carlton New York, NoMad in New York City. Zaytinya has already opened at the hotel, which debuted last year, and JAG is also serving at the Lobby Bar and another roof bar called Nubeluz, which Bakhshandehpour said has been a “smashing success.”

Earlier this year, JAG opened a Bazaar in the Waldorf Astoria that took over the Trump Hotel in the historic Old Post Office building in Washington, D.C. And a more meat-focused variation, dubbed Bazaar Meat, is scheduled to open in downtown Los Angeles in the third quarter in The Grand LA, a complex that includes a residential tower and Conrad Hotel.

In the Conrad, JAG also opened the new concepts Agua Viva and San Laurel last year, though the complex is still under construction. Also coming to the plaza between the hotel and residential tower is a new concept called Center Bar.

And coming late this year or next is a new not-yet-revealed rooftop concept in LA’s Trust Building downtown, Bakhshandehpour added. “We hope to start construction in the second half of 2023.”

Meanwhile, a Bazaar location in Miami at an SLS Hotel is scheduled to close in June, though Bakhshandehpour said South Florida remains a market the group plans to develop in the future.

International. The JAG concept Jaleo—which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year— opened in Dubai in February and more is coming to that region, Bakhshandehpour said. The group has a concept called Fish in an Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, but he sees international expansion as an untapped opportunity.

Media. Bakhshandehpour sees Andrés’ restaurant concepts as content—all part of the prolific chef’s storytelling.

Andrés has long appeared on big and little screens, and recent shows have included a Discovery+ series in which the chef and his daughters eat their way across Spain; and a Ron Howard film about Andrés was nominated for two Emmys.

Andrés has a podcast (“Longer Tables”), a Substack newsletter of the same name, and the media division also hosts a podcast (“Pressure Cooker”) by two working mothers about feeding their families in this “age of anxiety.”

In the works is a cooking show “with a story side,” Bakhshandehpour said, though he can’t reveal details just yet. A number of books are also in production, he added, and the division is planning a YouTube series.

“This will be a regular channel of storytelling,” said Bakhshandehpour. “You’ll see a lot more coming out of José Andrés Media.”

In fact, the only Andrés-associated project that is not part of the restaurant group is World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit that has grown into a global resource, serving meals wherever people are impacted by crisis or natural disasters.

“They’re feeding the masses,” he said of World Central Kitchen. “We’re feeding the few.”

With all the group has cooking, Bakhshandehpour said Andrés and his mission remains the north star.

“That’s what we’ve all signed up for, from our restaurant workers, to those in the home office: to change the world with the power of food,” said Bakhshandehpour. “We live that mantra every day.”

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