by LIZ ONUFER | photo by Soul of Photography

It Takes Gumption

A mix of work ethic, fortuitous timing, and unorthodox methods is the recipe for success for local entrepreneur Scott Barnett. A Solana Beach resident, Scott has staked his claim in the restaurant business from the ground up.

Starting as a valet attendant, Scott quickly filled positions in the front and back of the house. “One night I was told I was going to be working inside as a busboy and the rest is history,” he explained. After earning his finance degree from the University of Arizona, Scott began managing the Rusty Pelican Restaurants. Soon after, he and his business partner were approached by Paramount Pictures about opening a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant, inspired by the film Forrest Gump, of course. “We told them ‘Great idea!’ Actually, we had no idea how it would go – but beggars can’t be choosers,” Scott admitted.

Scott, as President/CEO, transformed Bubba Gump from a movie idea to one of the busiest restaurants in the world. “I am most proud that we were able to create a restaurant for people that they didn’t just experience – they were a part of the experience,” Scott shared. In 2010, they sold the business and Scott opened a restaurant consulting firm, Scott Barnett and Associates. The story of his rise from valet attendant to CEO is narrated in Gumption: Taking Bubba Gump From Movie to Restaurant. What started as a 10,000 word case study requested by the Dean of the Eller School of Business at the University of Arizona turned into a top-rated book authored by the entrepreneur.


Scott’s relentless pursuit of success has earned him a reputation in the industry. When assembling his teams, he insisted on key characteristics. “I didn’t care who you were or what your preferences were – just can you do the job better than anyone else and get along with other people on the team.” Not settling for traditional business models, he admitted, “I was probably a little too quick to tell people what I thought.”

Success is not without its challenges and Scott acknowledged a few of his greatest: dealing with naysayers, staying ahead of government regulations, and finding good people who can work toward a common goal. “If you want to make a small fortune, take a large one and go into the restaurant business,” he joked. In the end, his advice is grounded in old-fashioned acumen: “Follow your dream with passion and wisdom. Good things will happen.”


Name: Scott Porter Barnett
Profession: Restaurant Executive
Community: Solana Beach and Del Mar since 1985
Hobbies: Reading, workouts, trading, golf, cooking
Favorite Local Spots: Piatti Italian Restaurant & Bar, Prepkitchen Del Mar, Pacifica Del Mar, Belly Up, Sbicca