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José Andrés Eyes Rapid Expansion Thanks to New Partnership

The chef sets his sights on stadiums, schools, and Silicon Valley

Related/Jason Varney

Everything’s coming up José Andrés. The proud immigrant and politically-motivated DC-based chef recently announced that his company, ThinkFoodGroup, established a partnership with Compass Group USA, a massive foodservice management operation that runs school, stadium, museum, and corporate dining facilities across the country.

This three-year partnership could spur major growth for ThinkFoodGroup, with José Andrés concepts popping up in cities across the country faster than they have in years past. “Right now, for Beefsteak [the company’s fast-casual chain], we could grow ourselves at a reasonable pace in the next few years, maybe up to 10, 20 new locations,” ThinkFoodGroup CEO Kimberly Grant says. “With Compass, we can reach far more people in more cities in that same amount of time.”

Andrés’s ThinkFoodGroup currently operates 27 restaurants — from fine-dining counters like DC’s Minibar to casual outlets to fast-casual concepts like Beefsteak — in the U.S., Mexico, and Puerto Rico. In recent years Andrés has announced plans to open restaurants in New York City and Dallas.

“With this partnership we have the opportunity to tell stories and connect with people through food on an entirely new level,” Andrés said in a release. “Whether it is a soccer game or a corporate or university café, we are excited to extend our reach, bringing new dining experiences and the highest quality to the many.”

The partnership will work in two ways. It will give ThinkFoodGroup the option to insert its existing concepts — mainly the casual and fast-casual restaurants — into current and ongoing Compass Group developments, but it will also provide ThinkFoodGroup’s research and development team an opportunity to develop new concepts for specific venues.

For example, one of the first projects the two companies are working on together is Audi Field, the new stadium for the MLS team D.C. United. It’s likely that a Beefsteak location will be among the vendors at the new soccer field, but Andrés and his team are also at work on a new roster of “street food-style carts and kiosks” specifically for the venue. In addition to ThinkFoodGroup’s own concepts, “we may also invite friends of José or up-and-coming chefs to join us [at the stadium],” Grant says, noting that Andrés is curating the entire foodservice component at the stadium. Audi Field and its dining venues are slated to open in the summer of 2018.

Aside from the stadium, Andrés will advise Compass on museum and related dining facilities. “Our Beefsteak concept works great in museums,” Grant says. Because nothing on Beefsteak’s menu is fried, the only vents its kitchen needs are for steam; there’s very little odor and there’s no grease. “It’s perfect for performing arts facilities, or places where there’s limited kitchen capabilities,” according to Grant. ThinkFoodGroup also operates America Eats Tavern, which has a fast-casual spin off: America Eats Cafe. “This concept, because it offers portable American fare like lobster rolls and cobb salads,” Grant explains, “could also work in museum or dining hall venues.” When asked if Andrés’s higher-end concepts would make it into museums as part of this partnership Grant said no, “the focus is on casual.”

At first, Grant says, the partnership will encourage growth in the cities in which ThinkFoodGroup already operates, like D.C., Philadelphia, and Las Vegas. Looking ahead, ThinkFoodGroup would like to open in San Francisco — “Compass has a massive presence in Silicon Valley, and we’d love to have our concepts represented there through this partnership,” Grant says. Could Beefsteak one day grace some of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech campuses? For Andrés, anything seems possible.

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