Gina Puente has made innovation and non-traditional locations a critical part of her formula for business success. Back in 2010, she told us how her family business, Puente Enterprises, had created La Bodega Winery, a winery in an airport, in the mid-1990s. She also had a half-dozen other concepts going in the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. We caught up with her recently and she's been at it again.
In 2013, Puente created and launched Sky Canyon by Stephan Pyles, a unique restaurant that serves contemporary Texas cuisine along with a dose of Southern hospitality and charm. It too, of course, is located in an airport--one at DFW and another at Dallas Love Field. She likes to say her company's "unique-ability" is to create and adapt new, innovative concepts into non-traditional environments.
Since we last spoke with her, Puente has also added four more Travelex locations: one more at DFW for a total of six there, and three at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport. In May 2013 she opened Sky Canyon by Stephan Pyles at Love Field, and in December she opened a second at DFW. She currently operates 10 different brands in 19 locations.
In early September, she was the successful bidder on a lease for a quick-service barbecue space at DFW. "Chef Pyles and I are again collaborating and we are bringing Stampede 66 Express to DFW," says Puente. "I am thrilled to have the opportunity of turning up a notch what people perceive as quick-service barbecue. I am not a typical barbecue lover, but when I first tasted Chef Pyles' brisket and sandwiches, I knew a whole concept could be carved out to answer this bid."
With all she has going on, Puente keeps a close eye on the markets where she operates--and beyond. "Watching global shifts of retail and food trends, the impact of Millennials and Baby Boomers, and the changing needs of the traveler are all the groundwork for why I have added new concepts," she says. "My company has been completely out in front of the curve on opening airport locations that offer wine, healthy offerings, unique concepts that pique interest, and, more recently, the need for higher-quality food and drinks."
She says her company's continued emphasis on chef-driven concepts, quality farm-to-table offerings, and craft cocktails is not accidental. "When such global leaders as McDonald's are having issues with their brand, and with the rise of fast casual, these are the indicators I research to determine what concept we will open next," she says.
Business is always front and center for Puente, but it's been a tumultuous time for personally over the past few years. She divorced her husband, who had been chief operations officer, and earlier this year her father, Victor Puente, Sr., died. "He was without a doubt, in addition to being an incredible father, my mentor in business," says Puente.
Name: Gina Puente
Company: Puente Enterprises, Inc.
No. of units: 1 Main Street News, 2 Wall Street News, 9 Travelex, 1 UFood Grill, 1 Urban Taco, 2 Blimpie/Cereality Cereal Bar/Nrgize Lifestyle Cafe (tri-branded locations), 2 Sky Canyon by Stephan Pyles, 1 La Buena Vida Vineyards
Family: Single but with 170 extended family members who are a part of the PEI team.
Years in franchising: 19
Years in current position: 21
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