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The work life of Punch Bowl Social CEO Robert Thompson

2019 CEO of the Year Finalist: It's been a wild ride since Robert Thompson opened the first location in 2012


Robert Thompson | CEO

Punch Bowl Social, Denver

2019 CEO of the Year Finalist

It's been a wild ride for Punch Bowl Social since Robert Thompson opened the first location in Denver's Baker neighborhood in 2012.

The 20th location will be up and running in Austin by the end of 2019, as the total employee count has surpassed 3,000. And that's just the appetizer.

"We will open eight more next year in 2020," says Thompson, 48. "We will only grow from there."

Thompson is also looking to extend Punch Bowl Social into boutique hotels and combination social/fitness clubs, and has already started scouting for locations outside of the U.S.; London and Toronto are possibilities. "We're not just going to grow as a restaurant brand, we're going to grow as a lifestyle brand," Thompson says.

Taking over the old flight control tower at the former Stapleton airport in Denver for a restaurant and corporate headquarters in 2017 is part of a broader story of adaptive reuse. Punch Bowl Socials have opened in a 1920s boxing venue in San Diego and a former meatpacking plant at Fulton Market in Chicago. "We look for those kind of quirks," Thompson says.

A steady approach has helped him manage the company as it expands nationally. "I've had some ups and downs in my career," he says. "Understanding how to navigate towards the horizon as opposed to the chops beneath your feet. It helps you contextualize the highs and lows."

So do endorphins. "I do three things in my life: I work, I spend time with my kids, and I exercise," the avid runner says. "If I don't get that third one in, I'm not as good at the other two."

This article is part of ColoradoBiz Magazine's annual CEO of the Year feature. Read more about this year's winner John Hayes and the other finalists: 


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Eric Peterson

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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