Wok on! Meet P.F. Chang’s Operating Partner, Dan Puka

There’s the stress and excitement of hosting a dinner with friends, and then there’s hosting dinner (and lunch) for guests at nearly 50 tables every day of the week, which is the core of Dan Puka’s role as operating partner at P.F. Chang’s here at The Market Common.

“I take that responsibility seriously,” says Puka. “The most rewarding thing is seeing the connections that you make with both your guests and your employees and the impact that you have on everyone. I take it seriously when I hire an employee to join the hundred people that work here, and they rely on me to make sure I keep the doors open and keep this place busy.”

Puka, 39, studied business management at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Conn., where he started working in the hospitality industry as a bartender to earn some extra money in college. After he graduated, he began his ascent into management with another restaurant company before joining P.F. Chang’s as a manager in 2008 in his hometown of Hartford, Conn. Puka transferred to The Market Common location in October 2018.

“I love working here,” he says. “The people are awesome.”

Although it’s been rewarding for Puka, the ever-changing restaurant industry isn’t one without its own set of challenges, of course. The trending delivery services like Uber Eats and DoorDash eliminate the need for patrons to sit down and dine in the restaurant.

“A lot of people aren’t sitting in restaurants anymore, when they can order online and get food delivered to their house,” he says. “So it’s really important for us to provide a really great experience that attracts people to come in. It’s definitely one of our biggest challenges.”

To combat this obstacle, Puka and his staff are armed with only the best in customer service and a commitment to serving only made-from-scratch creations from “farm to wok” – their food philosophy since P.F. Chang’s first opened in 1993.

“We’ve changed a lot of things here lately to create a fun working environment where people enjoy coming to work every day,” says Puka. “So I think that certainly reflects in our guests’ experience.”

“And we have a fantastic chef,” he adds. “We’re beginning to kind of expand out into not just focusing on Chinese food, but also just all sorts of Asian cuisine and Asian cooking styles.”

They’ve also just ramped up a new rotation of daily specials that started last week. And Puka says the Market Common location is aspiring to be a Certified Training Chang’s, just as his previous location was a Training Store.

“We’re also in contention for Restaurant of The Year for P.F. Chang’s for 2019,” he adds.

When Puka isn’t busy making P.F. Chang’s a better environment for his staff and patrons, the father of two children, ages 9 and 6, loves spending time in their world, watching them play football and cheer this season.

“I don’t have whole lot of time off, but when I do, I love going to catch them at their practices and games,” he says.

P.F. Chang’s is located at 1190 Farrow Parkway, Myrtle Beach. For more info on the expanding menu or for reservations, call 843-839-9470 or visit https://www.pfchangs.com/locations/us/sc/myrtle-beach/1190-farrow-pkwy/9997-myrtle-beach.html. Hours are Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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