Keynote Speaker

Robert Thompson

Founder & CEO
View Sessions

Thompson Growth Group

Session Description

The Trailblazers 


As a 20-something bartender and waiter in the early 1990’s, Robert Thompson bounced from the US to the UK, gaining experience in restaurants and pubs where he sowed the seeds for his future passion. In 1997 at the age of 26, Robert opened his first restaurant, a dual concept called Buffalo Billiards & Havana Lounge in Nashville, launching what would become a lifelong career in hospitality.                                   

Punch Bowl Social was imagined by Robert Thompson after an extensive career of conceptualizing and operating both large-format entertainment brands and independent boutique restaurants. Following the award winning openings of nine different restaurant concepts, Robert began to actualize his vision for Punch Bowl Social early 2010, but it took three years of real estate searches, design iterations and funding discussions before the first location opened in Denver’s historic Baker neighborhood in November 2012. With lines around the block starting on day one, it was clear that Punch Bowl Social had struck a chord with young diners and drinkers seeking something authentic and out-of-the-ordinary. Robert opened 20 locations and elevated 2019 sales to $117m. In 2017 Robert brought in premier PE firm L Catterton, and in 2019 transacted L Catterton out with a new strategic partner, Cracker Barrel (NYSE: CBRL), at a $185m EV.

In 2017, Ernst & Young recognized Robert’s contribution to the hospitality industry by naming him a recipient of the prestigious Entrepreneur of The Year® 2017 award in the Mountain Desert region. Punch Bowl Social has been honored by a number of awards and recognitions including Fast Company Magazine’s Most Innovative Companies in the World 2018, Nations Restaurant News’ 2018 Hot Concept, the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of fasting-growing private companies in America, and Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2017 Next 20 Brands to Watch and as one of their 2015 Breakout Brands.

With Mississippi roots and born on a military base in Germany, Robert loves traveling to explore the roots of international cuisine and design. A lifelong fitness enthusiast, he loves taking long, mind-clearing runs and spending every free moment with his wife, Mia, and their three sons.