Hugo Marin, Margaritas Mexican Restaurant

Margaritas Mexican Restaurant, the 23-unit New England restaurant chain, has named accomplished restaurant executive Hugo Marin as the company’s new president—a move that will help grow the brand through a focus on franchising.

Marin has an extensive background and knowledge in the restaurant industry, combined with strong organizational expertise and leadership.

Marin most recently served as chief operations officer with Al Copeland Investments, a Louisiana-based restaurant group with 15 company-owned and 11 franchised restaurants under the names Copeland’s, Copeland’s Express, and Cheesecake Bistro by Copeland’s.

Before that, Marin served as vice president of operations for Ted’s Montana Grill for three years, and in various management positions at The Cheesecake Factory, Romano’s Macaroni Grill and other restaurant brands.

During his tenure with Ted’s Montana Grill, Marin oversaw site selection and the opening of six new restaurants. While working for Al Copeland Investments, Marin continued to build the franchise base and recently finalized a deal with an international group for 20 locations in the next four years.

In his new position at Margaritas, a chain known for its remix of Mexican flavors and Mexican-style décor, Marin will focus on continuing to expand the brand through franchising. In addition to his restaurant expertise, he has lived overseas and is fluent in Spanish. His foodservice career started at Alfredo’s Mexican Restaurants, a six-unit, family-owned chain.

“I’ve enjoyed being a customer of Margaritas for the past 14 years with my family, and I have watched the restaurant’s growth from a guest’s perspective. There’s something about Margaritas that’s always drawn my family back,” says Marin. “Now being part of the team, I’m looking forward to sharing the Margaritas experience with more consumers by expanding the franchise community and enhancing our core concept.” 

Margaritas has outpaced competitors in the casual dining segment, with an EBITDAR of 23.5 percent,a beverage to gross sales ratio of 45.5 percent and profitability that places the business into the top tier among its peers. The company opened its first franchised location in Livingston, New Jersey, in June.

“We’re looking forward to working with Hugo to take Margaritas to the next level. We’re confident that with his solid organizational and leadership expertise, combined with his industry knowledge and restaurant operations background, he’ll help create systems which will enable us to grow and expand the brand,” says John Pelletier, founder of Margaritas.

Keith Stich, Wildfish Seafood Grille

Wildfish Seafood Grille in Newport Beach, California, has announced the newest addition to its team of culinary experts, executive chef Keith Stich. 

Stich has his culinary roots planted deep in the steak and seafood industry, having served as executive chef at prominent restaurants throughout the Southwest including Mastro’s Ocean Club in Newport Beach and Shanahan’s Steakhouse in Denver, Colorado.

He played a key role in securing numerous accolades such as “Best Seafood Restaurant” by City Search and “Best Steakhouse” by the Orange County Register while at the kitchen’s helm at Mastro’s. 

“We are excited to have someone with such impressive credentials join our team,” says Guen Wolfe, general manager of Wildfish Seafood Grill, which offers an innovative menu made up of “top of the catch” prime seafood and USDA prime steaks.

“Chef Stich will be invaluable to continuing our tradition of providing top quality food to our guests. His skill set and high standards will no doubt take the Wildfish culinary experience to the next level.”

In addition to his behind-the-scenes work in the Wildfish kitchen, Stich is a force in the community and at home. He participates regularly in charitable events, including fundraising for the Hoag Hospital Foundation and Huntington’s Disease Society of America. His passion for philanthropy leads him to partake in four to five charitable events per year, with a particular focus on organizations that assist children.

Morgan Puffenbarger, Westward Look Resort

Westward Look Resort, a favorite Tucson, Arizona, vacation destination, has announced its new director of restaurants, Morgan Puffenbarger.

In his new role, Puffenbarger will oversee Westward Look’s award-winning GOLD restaurant; its Lookout Bar & Grille; the Monsoon Café; Oasis, the resort’s poolside bar; and room service.

So far, he has plans to help create a fresh fall menu for both of the resort’s on-site dining venues, GOLD and Lookout Bar & Grille. The new menus debut this month.

Puffenbarger is also making changes at the Lookout Bar & Grille to accommodate the football season. He plans to move the Saturday night live musical entertainment to Friday nights for the fall. The Grille will then feature football on-screen on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and will offer a dining special for the season: a choice of a brat or hot dog and a draft beer for only $9.

While he’s new to Westward Look, Puffenbarger is no stranger to Tucson or the restaurant industry. He attended Tucson’s Saguaro High School followed by the University of Arizona, and has been involved in the food and beverage industry on many levels since 1988. His work has taken him from Tucson to Phoenix, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Chicago. After working various positions in the restaurant business, including server, bartender and cook, Puffenbarger opened two venues of his own in Chicago. He ran a tavern named Flounders and an upscale restaurant called Sausalito Restaurant and Martini Bar from 1999 to 2005.

Following the sale of his Chicago restaurants, Puffenbarger and his family returned to Tucson. He was hired on at Westward Look, Tucson’s first resort, this August.

Puffenbarger says of Westward Look, “It’s a great property with a great history. The facility, views, and people are second to none.”



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