Jose Andres transitioned from high-end chef to business-minded restaurateur with ThinkFoodGroup. Granted, he's still a cook, but he often trades in his chef whites for vests as he talks about the direction of TFG—and the outside help he’s brought in to grow beyond the upscale restaurants he first started with in 1993. Just over two years ago, he tapped former Ruby Tuesday president Kimberly Grant to take the CEO chair from co-founder Rob Wilder. Under her watch, TFG launched its first fast casual, Beefsteak, a veggie-forward concept that’s been growing in urban East Coast locations and on college campuses.
When the group looks to expand, it’s not just relying on its internal know-how. "Every time we [put] together a new concept, we travel," says Andres, citing a trip to Peru as the inspiration for China Chilcano. "I am a storyteller. With every new concept, we tell stories—and it is this deep exploration that allows us to do so."
Up next, along with more Beefsteak units, TFG is expanding to New York City and is opening a second location of Zaytinya in Dallas.
It’s not just openings putting TFG in the news. Andres said in July that Donald Trump’s statements on immigration made it impossible for him to follow through with a planned restaurant in a Trump hotel in D.C. Despite legal action, Andres has stuck to his guns and continues to be outspoken on the topic.
“We are constantly growing, learning and looking for new opportunities.”
Andres' take on innovation
How do you push ThinkFoodGroup to innovate?
"I am always pushing my team to explore, to experiment with new things. I have an amazing team dedicated to research and development, chefs working every day in our test kitchen on new dishes, new ideas, new flavors."
What’s your philosophy for launching new concepts and expanding?
"Always make quick decisions, and be prepared to evolve—the restaurant industry is like nature, like Darwin’s world where the strongest survive, and you need to evolve and be fit if you want to survive."
How do you make sure that TFG remains relevant?
"I am not very interested in trends. My team and I, we are always pushing ahead, while still continuing to do what we are doing well. ... It is this balance of keeping people interested in our classics, and pushing forward and making new, exciting, fun dishes."
Concepts: America Eats Tavern, Bazaar Meat, Beefsteak, China Chilcano, China Poblano, E, Fish, Hyde Beach, J, Jaleo, Mi Casa, Minibar, Oyamel, Pepe, The Bazaar, Tres, Zaytinya