Solana Beach entrepreneur’s book details business of Bubba Gump restaurants

Former CEO Scott Barnett has written “Gumption.”
( / Courtesy photo)

The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company chain of restaurants can be found all over the world — from Hong Kong to New York’s Times Square. To lift the chain into its current worldwide ubiquity took years of planning and strategy, and its story is being told for the first time in “Gumption: Taking Bubba Gump from Movie to Restaurant,” a book chronicling the restaurants’ success, written by former CEO Scott Barnett, a resident of Solana Beach.

Former CEO Scott Barnett has written “Gumption.” Courtesy photo

“People have been telling me for years I should write a book about this,” said Barnett. “When I started writing, it was originally going to be a case study for the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. When I showed it to the dean, he said it should be a book, and that sealed the deal.”

Barnett — a longtime North County resident who has moved around Solana Beach, Encinitas and Del Mar since 1985 — was originally the brains behind a chain of a successful restaurants called the Rusty Pelican. Barnett’s life soon changed, though, when his Rusty Pelican partner, Del Mar resident Gordon Miles, received a call out of the blue from the powers that be at Paramount Pictures. “They asked if we were interested in doing a restaurant based around the movie ‘Forrest Gump.’”

Bubba-Gump Shrimp Company is the fictional company founded by the character Lt. Dan in the 1994 hit movie.

“We decided to go for it,” said Barnett, who agreed to a licensing agreement with Paramount. The first restaurant later opened in Monterey and it became a runaway success, paving the way for the restaurant’s global future. When it came to putting together the book, Barnett tried to remember the stories and anecdotes he collected along the way, to the method behind the brand’s immense success.

“The book is for entrepreneurs or people in business,” said Barnett of “Gumption,” which follows the brand from its infancy. “I was writing 1,500 words a day for about 10 weeks. I had written things all my life and writing had always come easy to me, but writing the book is a totally different thing.”

Throughout the rise of Bubba Gump restaurants, Barnett had to sometimes navigate tricky waters — which included opening its first international location in Osaka, Japan, and supervising the 2004 launch of the Bubba Gump location in Times Square.

“Clearly, that was a massive thing for us,” he said of that restaurant, which has since become a landmark and nets a whopping $25 million a year. “People refer to Time Square as the crossroads of the world, so that was our first big milestone.”

Barnett left Bubba Gump in 2010 and as of March is the interim CEO of Ruby’s Diners, a chain of 1940s-themed eateries. But with the Bubba-Gump Shrimp Company ingrained in American culture and the book completed and released, Barnett rightfully looks at his accomplishments with pride.

“I hope people like the book; I think it has a pretty fun and interesting story,” he said, adding with a laugh, “I’m the last guy to ask if it’s a good book, but I hope readers find it fun and informative.”

“Gumption: Taking Bubba Gump From Movie to Restaurant” is available now. Visit www.scottbarnettassociates.com/TheBook.


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