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Robert Thompson Maintains His Ethos While Evolving His Denver Concept

Punch Bowl Social CEO earns annual honor as finalist in executive of 2019


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When people ask Punch Bowl Social founder and CEO Robert Thompson to talk about his competition, he has to explain that, well, there isn’t any. Nobody’s currently doing what Thompson does — at least, not at such high volume.

Punch Bowl Social’s flagship location opened in 2012. By December, there [were] 23 sites nationwide. “It’s not that there aren’t other great brands,” Thompson says. It’s that he’s the only restaurateur putting together a social gaming environment with a strong emphasis on scratch cooking, craft cocktails and interior design. Thompson calls gaming the “sticky factor,” explaining, “It’s not the protein on the plate.”

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From an entrepreneurial perspective, the protein might be Thompson’s unconventional approach to business. It’s a long story, but he summarizes: “Early on, I had a couple of pirate investors.” Following an “old-fashioned street fight,” Thompson abandoned the typical growth company sequence. “I was buying up my company’s stock when I should have been spending,” he says.

It worked. Thompson’s “alternative glide path” (his words) allowed the CEO to maintain his ethos while evolving from a Denver-based concept to an award-winning lifestyle brand.

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Jamie Siebrase

Jamie Siebrase is a freelance writer based in Colorado.

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