Puccini Group mourns founder's passing

Photo credit: Puccini Group

Bob Puccini, founder of the San Francisco-based design firm Puccini Group, died last week at 71 after a sudden heart attack. 

A pioneer in the hospitality and design industries, Puccini founded his company 22 years ago and developed, designed and renovated more than 1,000 restaurants during his 50-year career. “Bob approached restaurants with a deep understanding of how people want to feel,” his wife and fellow hospitality leader Niki Leondakis said in a statement. “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.” Leondakis is CEO of the global Equinox lifestyle brand, and has overseen Thompson Hotels and Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants in the past. 

Puccini earned his Bachelor of Arts in political science and economics from San Diego State University and spent 1969 in Brazil with the Peace Corps. Before founding Puccini Group in 1996, he was a partner and SVP for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants for 10 years during its expansion from four to 35 restaurants throughout the country. Today, Kimpton remains one of Puccini Group’s closest clients. Puccini also worked on projects for companies such as Fairmont, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and Jumeirah.

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Over the past few years, Puccini had been handing over the control of his company to his partners, who will continue the projects in development as well as pursue new opportunities in the U.S. and abroad. Puccini Group is now led by Shelia Turner, partner and COO; Rob Polacek, partner and chief creative officer; and Simeon Meyer, partner and CFO.

Bob Puccini. Photo credit: Puccini Group

“We have been blessed to have worked with Bob for many years,” the partners said in a joint statement. “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.”

As a business leader and industry voice, Puccini was named the Anti-Defamation League’s Food and Wine Industry Person of the Year, and also spoke at investment conferences around the world. He served on the board of directors of the California Restaurant Association and the board of advisors at the 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.

The firm will retain its Puccini Group name and will move forward with its current team.

Puccini is survived by his wife; daughter, Annaliese; brother, Ralph; nieces, Arianna, Elaina, Melanie, nephews Alexander, Geoffrey and Marshall. Services will be held Oct. 20 at the San Francisco Columbarium & Funeral Home.