Rob Wilder is the co-founder and CEO of THINKfoodGROUP, LLC the management company responsible for the daily operations of Washington’s landmark restaurants Café Atlantico, minibar by josé andrés, Zaytinya, Oyamel and the three Jaleo locations. The company, which launched in August of 2006, also handles José Andrés’ additional creative endeavors encompassing cookbooks, television programming, concept consulting, and new restaurant projects.  

An honors graduate from both Yale University and The New York Restaurant School, Wilder began his career in the restaurant industry over 20 years ago when he co-founded Amy’s Ice Creams, Inc., a chain of retail ice cream stores based in Austin, Texas.  He then went on to create the original Austin Grill restaurant in 1988, and has expanded the company to include seven restaurant locations around the Washington/Baltimore area. In 1997, he won the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s Award for “Restaurateur of the Year” and in 2002, the RAMW named Austin Grill as Washington’s “Best Casual Restaurant.” In October 2006, Wilder led the successful sale of his $16 million restaurant company, Austin Grill, to Thompson Hospitality.   

In 1993, Wilder joined forces with Washington-based restaurateur Roberto Alvarez and Chef José Andrés to launch and operate the first Jaleo, Washington’s fun-spirited Spanish tapas restaurant located downtown in Penn Quarter. Next came the opening of the second Jaleo in Bethesda, Maryland, and then the Mediterranean-inspired, Zaytinya, at 701 9th Street NW, which opened in October 2002.  Zaytinya captured the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s New Restaurant of the Year in 2003 and was nominated for Best New Restaurant in the US in 2003 by the James Beard Foundation. Conde Nast Traveler included Zaytinya on its 2003 list of “Hottest” restaurants in the world, and the July 2003 Washingtonian named Zaytinya the “Best New Restaurant” in Washington.

Wilder and his partners next opened a third Jaleo and a small plates Mexican concept restaurant, Oyamel, in Crystal City in 2004. Then came the six-seat restaurant within a restaurant, minibar by josé andrés at Café Atlantico, Jaleo’s popular sister Nuevo Latino restaurant in Penn Quarter. As of 2006, the award-winning restaurant group, now under the umbrella of THINKfoodGroup, has steadily grown to seven restaurants presently producing annual sales of over $25 million and employing over 500 people.

Additionally, Rob Wilder is a member of Young President’s Organization and serves as Education Chair of the US Capital Chapter.  He is also a member of the Board of the Downtown DC Business Improvement District and the Board of the Penn Quarter Neighborhood Association.  He is also a Trustee for Beauvoir, the National Cathedral Elementary School and Tougaloo College in Jackson, Tennessee and previously acted as Chairman of the Board of DC Central Kitchen.