Robert D. Wilder, 42, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Company, founded the Austin Grill in 1988 and served as the primary executive officer of Austin Grills, Inc. and its predecessor companies from inception until August 2000. In 1997 The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington elected Mr. Wilder "Restaurateur of the Year". In 1993 Mr. Wilder also opened Jaleo, a Spanish tapas restaurant in Washington, DC, that has met with both critical and financial success. From 1984?1987, Mr. Wilder co-founded and operated Amy's Ice Creams, Inc., a chain of retail ice cream stores based in Austin, Texas. Prior to working with Amy's, Mr. Wilder worked from 1982?1984 for National Forge Company, whose principal business was manufacturing high strength steel components. Additionally, Mr. Wilder served on National Forge's board of directors from 1986 to 1995 - when the assets of National Forge were sold to an employee ESOP and the holding Company was renamed The RCR Group, Inc. Mr. Wilder now serves as President and Chairman of The RCR Group. An honors graduate of Yale University (1982) and The New York Restaurant School (1984), Mr. Wilder is the Secretary/Treasurer of Tapas Y Mas, Inc. (Jaleo) and a member of the Boards of Directors of Tapas Y Mas, Inc., The DC Central Kitchen, and Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi.
Chris Patterson, 37, President, and Chief Operating Officer, was the co-founder of GNC Restaurants, a multi-concept restaurant group based in central Iowa, and served as it's President and Director until 1993. In 1993 Mr. Patterson joined Cracker Barrel, Inc. and rose to the level of District Manger. In 1995 Mr. Patterson joined Canyon Café, Inc., a southwestern casual dining restaurant based in Dallas, Texas. From 1995-1999, as a Regional Director, Mr. Patterson was integral in raising the operation and financial levels, which ultimately led to Canyon Café's purchase by AVADO Brands. In 1999 Mr. Patterson became a Market Partner with Leeann Chin, Inc. and developed the Kansas City market, opening 7 units there. Mr. Patterson has personally been responsible for over 20 new restaurant openings throughout his career and has worked as a consultant for several Midwest based restaurant companies. Mr. Patterson received his Bachelor of Science degree from Iowa State University in Hotel, Restaurant, and Industrial Administration.
Kurt A. Miller, 45, Secretary, Treasurer and Director of New Store Development. In addition to locating new sites for future Austin Grills, Mr. Miller oversees maintenance and renovations of existing Austin Grills and also coordinates storewide purchasing. Mr. Miller was the General Manager of the Austin Grill on Wisconsin Ave. from the store's opening in 1988 until being promoted to his current position. Prior to his employment at Austin Grill, Mr. Miller worked for Tricon, a food service hospitality consulting Company, The Washington Four Seasons Hotel, Ridgewell's Catering, and Houlihan's. Mr. Miller graduated first in his class from the Culinary Institute of America and he has a B.S. in Construction Management from Syracuse University. He is also a member of the board of directors of The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.
Art De La Torre, 40, Director of Operations, spent 12 years with Luigi's Italian restaurants based in El Paso, TX. The last 6 years of his employment were spent as the Company's Director of Operations. He led the Company's growth from 1 unit to 12 at which time the concept was sold. In 1995 Mr. De La Torre joined Rio Bravo and spent 2 years as it's Manager of Management Training and Development. In 1997 Mr. De La Torre was lured away by Canyon Café, Inc. and helped to develop the Southeast Region for the Company as an Area Director. After the Sale of Canyon Café to AVADO Brands, Mr. De La Torre joined Morton's of Chicago where he was personally responsible for opening the most profitable unit in the Company's history in Denver, CO. Mr. De La Torre received his formal education at the University of Texas El Paso.
Al Nappo, 33, Corporate Chef, joined the Austin Grill in June of 2002. Prior to this he had spent the last three years as a corporate regional kitchen consultant with the Cheesecake Factory performance development department. In this role he was responsible for overseeing new restaurant openings and implementation of new systems as well as upholding quality standards. From 2000 to 2002 Mr. Nappo served was a General Partner in charge of culinary with Tin Star, a very successful Dallas based Taqueria Concept. Mr. Nappo began his corporate career serving as a regional executive chef for a Dallas based restaurant concept named Canyon Café where he was responsible for all food and kitchen operations for restaurants in his area. He spent his early years in the industry as an apprentice chef under Master Chef David Benjamin Lalli At the Tack Room restaurant in Tucson, Arizona.
Michael Stid, 33, Director of Catering, started as a political campaign operative based in Washington DC and in 1992 joined TCI, a Destination Management Company also based in DC. In 1994, Mr. Stid joined the Chicken Out Rotisserie Restaurant Company, a 3-unit fast casual chain, with the goal to develop a catering concept. As the Director of Catering, Mr. Stid oversaw the division as it grew with the company to 33 units - opening restaurants and developing catering markets in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, Charlotte and Atlanta. In addition to corporate and full-service catering, Mr. Stid created a stadium operations division, which worked with the Washington Redskins in FedEx Field and with the Charlotte Panthers in Ericsson Stadium. Mr. Stid received his Bachelor of Science degree from American University in Political Science.
Paul Fields, 45, Chief Financial Officer, has more than 21 years of experience in finance, real estate and restaurant transactions. During the period of 1982 to 1988, Mr. Fields developed multifamily residential property on his own account and was an institutional mortgage broker with Walker & Dunlop in Washington, DC. From 1988 to 1996, he was a principal in Windgate Properties, Inc. a real estate leasing and mortgage brokerage firm specializing in restaurant leasing and financing. In 1994, he formed Restaurant Development Services, Inc. to pursue strategic planning and business plan preparation for emerging growth restaurant companies. Adding operator experience to his background, Mr. Fields spent the period of 1998 to 2002 as Chief Financial Officer of Sam & Harry's Restaurant Group, a five-unit fine dining development, management and operating company with revenues in excess of $20,000,000. Paul came to Austin Grill in March 2002. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY and a Master of Science in Real Estate and Urban Development from The American University in Washington, DC.
Larry Lavine, the founder and former CEO and President of Chili's, Inc., is a Director and provides operational consulting for Austin Grill's upper management. Currently he is the owner of Turtle Creek Restaurants. In addition to being a resource for all operational issues, Mr. Lavine holds monthly meetings with both Austin Grill's Founder and President to discuss operations, financial performance, and monthly goals and objectives. Mr. Lavine offers a great resource of other industry professionals that have the ability to assist us and add cost saving measures to the Austin Grill concept. These areas have included architects, designers, purchasing agents, financial advisors, and operational experts.
Jonathan Lewis is president of Jonathan Lewis & Associates, a development, and consulting firm that provides services to restaurants and real estate developers, as well as managing projects in other business realms. In 1983, Mr. Lewis was involved in the conceptual planning and opening of Grand Bay Hotel in Coconut Grove, Florida and served as the hotel's Director of Catering and Restaurant Operations. In 1985 Mr. Lewis opened Toby's, which received the highest rating from the Miami Herald and was acclaimed by Esquire as one of the best new restaurants in the country. In 1990 he co?founded Creative Management Group, developers of Cafe Tu Tu Tango in Miami and Atlanta. Mr. Lewis has served on the board of directors of Austin Grills, Inc. since 1996. Mr. Lewis is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Boston University.
James Raines has been actively involved in investments in both private and public companies through his own San Antonio-based investment firm, James M. Raines & Company, since 1988. He is currently a director of Hispanic Broadcasting Corporation (NYSE), Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc. (NYSE) and Turfgrass America, Inc. (Private), and a former director of Republic Industries and 50-Off Stores, Inc. Mr. Raines holds a SJD from Southern Methodist University School of Law and a BA from Lamar University.
Robin Wilder, the wife of Robert Wilder, served as the Company's Director of Management Development from 1994 until 1999. During that time, her duties included running the Company's "Management Obstacle Course," which is used to train and screen in house management candidates, assistance with all management interviewing, hiring, and training programs, career counseling, compensation plan development, and annual evaluations of all corporate management. Mrs. Wilder's background includes eight years in law firm recruitment and administration at Piper & Marbury and Baker & McKenzie.
Austin Grill, Glover Park (AG) - The Company's first restaurant was opened in spring, 1988 in an area north of Georgetown called Glover Park. This site was chosen for several reasons. The building was previously a restaurant and they were able to purchase the leasehold improvements. The location is on Wisconsin Ave., which is a main street in Washington, DC that has high traffic and high visibility. The commercial strip of the neighborhood offers all services including banks, convenience stores, grocery stores, post office, dry cleaner, video store, retail and restaurants, all within a 2 block area. There is a large residential community within walking distance with a .5-mile radius from American University to the north and Georgetown University to the south. The project fit within the Company's budget and it was attracted to the fact that it was a small operation that could be easily managed. Austin Grill felt that there was a strong demand for fun, lively casual dining and believed the city needed authentic Tex Mex food.
South Austin Grill, Old Town (SAG) - After 2 years of success at the original store, the Company set it's sights on bigger goals. Austin Grill's objective was to create a larger store in order to accommodate the demand from the DC area. When the Company started looking for a second location, it was immediately attracted to Old Town; Alexandria located across the Potomac River in Northern Virginia. The Grill had actually been made aware of the site by a friend who tried to open a brewpub in the space but was unable to obtain permitting from the local officials since the area is historically preserved. One year later, that old Greek restaurant opened to the public under a new name, South Austin Grill.
Old Town offers the best of all worlds. It is a uniquely urban area with strong day parts for lunch, happy hour, early dinner, late dining, late night bar and weekend brunch. There are many Association headquarters located in Alexandria and it is a major tourist attraction as well as a very desirable place to live. Parking is a premium but does not seem to affect the business. There are many festivals and parades in historic Old Town and the Company is able to capitalize a great deal on the fact that these events draw from a large metropolitan area. At one point it was believed that the restaurant would struggle since the store is not situated in the hub of activity. Instead, the Company likes to believe that it's restaurant contributed to shifting attention and energy toward the "West End", which is flourishing now more than ever. The question most asked about this location is why the store is named "South Austin Grill". In keeping with the Austin theme, there is an area across the Colorado River called South Austin. The Grill felt it was a natural to call it "South Austin Grill", since it is located across the Potomac.
Austin Grill, West Springfield (WAG) - Austin Grill gained the attention of several real estate developers that wanted to put the Company in their projects. The principals of Federal Realty Investment Trust, a locally based developer, were fans of the food and had some vacancies in a few properties. They convinced the Company to open an Austin Grill in a vacated shoe store in a West Springfield shopping center, which needed an anchor restaurant. The project had attractive co-tenancy with Fresh Fields and Starbucks among other retailers. Since the Grill did not have a restaurant in a strip center, it was a good opportunity to develop one. The Company was able to keep it's development costs down and the store opened with great success. The Company quickly discovered that the suburban residential neighborhood welcomed it with open arms. In Springfield, the Company has had the great fortune of participating in many fund raising events for churches, schools and community organizations.
Austin Grill, Bethesda (BAG) - The opportunity to open in the affluent Washington suburb of Bethesda, Maryland was again presented to Austin Grill by Federal Realty. The developer had a restaurant for sale in a project that was soon to be completely renovated and we wanted to be in on the action. The Company purchased the lease and assets from a failed Italian restaurant and was able to keep the development costs to a tight budget by using much of the existing infrastructure. Since Austin Grill was taking over a space where two restaurants had failed in a three-year period, there were some skeptics. However, Austin Grill did not feel superstitious and were eager to conquer the challenge. The area is now about 75% renovated and the store is the Company's second most profitable. The restaurant is in the midst of offices, hotels, movies, bookstores, condominiums, town homes and two square blocks of upscale retail and restaurants. The project is a prime example of a true suburban town center as opposed to a fabricated town center in a vacant field. This location builds on strong day parts similar to the Old Town store. Recently, the Company introduced live entertainment in the Austin tradition to generate additional energy. The project offers easy access parking, which is a major concern in the area and can be directly responsible for sales. The developer sponsors many street festivals throughout the year ranging from art shows to antique fairs to family carnivals that help attract business to the restaurant.
Austin Grill, Downtown (DAG) - The decision to relocate a professional sports arena in Washington from the suburbs to a downtown location was the motivation for the next Austin Grill. This restaurant is located in the middle of a city block but offered a strong rent deal. The Company saw the opportunity to be located in the entertainment area and found another vacant shoe store just one block away from the entrance to MCI Center, which hosts 250 events per year. This area has undergone a great deal of transformation in the past 5 years and continues to flourish with development. There are dozens of projects either in progress or on the planning board including hotels, retail, office, residential and a new convention center. The restaurant is located in a block-long, historic landmark project, which has retail on the ground floor and 5 floors of luxury residential above it for an entire city block. This location attracts a strong following for lunch, which is it's strongest day part. The restaurant follows the arena schedule closely and entertains the crowds before and after events. The only regret with this particular restaurant is that the Company wishes it had more space!
Austin Grill, Canton (CAN) - After years of toying with the idea to open an Austin Grill in Baltimore, Austin Grill found a site that the Company felt was worth a try. The project is a mixed-use historic renovation in what used to be a can manufacturing plant located in the developing, Canton section of Baltimore. The building dates back to 1895 and has a great deal of character. The project is 35% retail use and 65% office use. The location is only a five-minute drive from the heart of the city and a block away from the largest marina in the city, which is a harbor town. The project is built in an enterprise zone and has a great deal of development incentives associated with it. As with the concepts other stores, Austin Grill has become involved with the surrounding community and a favorite for the folks from Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Many of the customers are from the residential community surrounding the project and the developer has worked hard to promote festivals attracting patrons to the project.
The acceptance of the Austin Grill concept can best be illustrated by the Company's history of awards and recognition. Austin Grill could fill an entire book with comments and awards but here are a few samples: