Bob Puccini, founder of the Puccini Group, passed away on Oct. 9.
A pioneer in the hospitality and design industries, Puccini was also an entrepreneur, mentor, husband, father, and a friend to all those that knew him. Since founding Puccini Group over 20 years ago, his passion for restaurants, design, and operations helped the firm become a market leader for hospitality projects around the world. Puccini was a trusted advisor to hospitality groups across the globe. During his career, he was responsible for the concepting, design and renovation of more than 1,000 restaurants worldwide. An industry veteran and an internationally sought-after speaker, he graced hotel investment conferences from Berlin, Macau, Mumbai and Dubai to Istanbul, Beijing and beyond. He touched the lives of countless peers.
As Niki Leondakis, his wife and fellow hospitality visionary, described, “Bob approached restaurants with a deep understanding of how people want to feel. While food, design, and service were all critical, he would absorb, in a way that no one else could, the desires of a population and translate them into dining experiences that would fulfill people’s dreams of being comforted, loved, important, and awed.”
A lifelong learner and teacher, Puccini shared his 50 years-plus experience with his colleagues, equipping a talented and passionate team to advance Puccini Group’s reputation as leading hospitality experts for global hotel food and beverage outlets across concepts, design, branding, marketing, and operations. Over the past few years, Puccini has been handing over the reins to his partners, who will carry on his legacy, continuing projects in development as well as pursuing new opportunities in the U.S. and abroad. Puccini Group is now led by Shelia Turner, partner COO; Rob Polacek, partner and chief creative officer; and Simeon Meyer, partner and CFO.
In a joint statement, the partners said, “We have been blessed to have worked with Bob for many years. We share his vision for the business, and plan to do him justice by running things as he would have done. Bob was well-loved and is fondly remembered by our team as well as by our clients. It is due to his entrepreneurial spirit, unconventional approach, deep generosity, and love of mentoring others that Puccini Group is where it is today—a global leader in the hospitality industry. We will miss him dearly and are honored to build on his legacy.”
Puccini relished his role in the hospitality industry and its community. He served on the board of directors of the California Restaurant Association and the board of advisors at University of San Francisco’s Hospitality Management program and was a member of the International Society of Hospitality Consultants, the Foodservice Consultants Society International, as well as the World Travel and Tourism Council. An accomplished business leader and respected industry voice, Puccini’s accolades include being named the Anti-Defamation League’s Food and Wine Industry Person of the Year, and he was awarded the prestigious Platinum Circle designation from Hospitality Design magazine in 2009. Bob graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in Political Science and Economics and served in the Peace Corps in Brazil.
The firm will retain its Puccini Group name and will move forward with its current team to continue his love of delivering world-class hospitality experiences.