Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

Fort Worth owners cooking up growth recipe for Mr. Gatti’s, Gigi’s Cupcakes

Michael Poates, new president of Mr. Gatti’s Pizza, photographed in their new restaurant on West Seventh Street in Fort Worth’s museum district.
Michael Poates, new president of Mr. Gatti’s Pizza, photographed in their new restaurant on West Seventh Street in Fort Worth’s museum district.

If you’ve been in the Cultural District lately, you may have noticed the new Mr. Gatti’s Pizza on the west end of Museum Place, near Van Cliburn Way. Next door, a sign announces an upcoming location for Gigi’s Cupcakes.

It’s no coincidence the two will be next to each other. Both chains are now based just a couple of blocks away, in the former Bombay office building on Bailey Avenue.

Over the past two years, Fort Worth investors purchased Mr. Gatti’s, a nearly half-century-old chain known for its locations near Texas university campuses, and Gigi’s Cupcakes, an upscale bakery franchise out of Nashville.

Michael Poates, who serves as president of both chains, identified the new owners only as two Fort Worth family offices, but declined to name them, saying they prefer to stay in the background. He said they are actively seeking other acquisition opportunities with an eye toward expansion.

“We believe we could grow another 100 (Mr. Gatti) locations in five years,’ said Poates, 53, a former Whataburger executive who came to work for the investors when they owned Dairy Queen locations.

Mr. Gatti’s has about 90 locations in 16 states, including new stores at Davis Boulevard and North Tarrant Parkway in North Richland Hills and in Mesquite, where it has a 13,000-square-foot family entertainment center with a game room for kids. Other stores are planned in Murphy and Rockwall, and they’re looking in Mansfield and Weatherford. It’s focusing on smaller markets for new franchises.

The spacious 4,600-square-foot Museum Place restaurant is now the chain’s flagship, sporting a large open oven, craft beer on tap and gelato for dessert. On a recent lunch hour, traffic was light. Poates said the site was picked to be across from a proposed hotel, though that project has been delayed by concerns over its height. He said the company may hold off on opening the Gigi’s for a while.

Meanwhile a new Gigi’s has opened in Presidio Towne Crossing in north Fort Worth, joining other area stores in Southlake and Dallas. Gigi’s has more than 100 stores in 23 states, according to its website.

Flying Saucer lands at DFW

International travelers passing through Dallas/Fort Worth Airport will soon get a taste of Fort Worth’s best brews.

The Flying Saucer will be opening a new pub and entertainment bar at Terminal D near gate 21. The restaurant will also have a second story entertainnment area, called the Flying Square, for live entertainment and music.

“It will feature 40 different craft beers from the Fort Worth area, as well as some great tasing food,” airport vice president of concessions Zenola Campbell told the board on Thursday.

The airport has been trying to attract more Fort Worth brands to its terminal concessions. Last month, it announced leases to a Fort Worth magazine coffee and travel essentials store and a FW Inc. newsstand that will feature made-in-Fort Worth products.

The Flying Saucer and Flying Square are scheduled to open next year.

State hires new seismologist

Aaron Velasco is going to be telling Texas oil and gas regulators what’s shaking.

Velasco was hired this week by the Texas Railroad Commission to be its seismologist to help the agency study where and when there is seismic activity as it relates to oil and gas drilling. The railroad commission regulates the oil and gas industry in Texas.

Velasco will replace the commission’s first seismologist, Craig Pearson, who was hired in 2014 after a rash of earthquakes in North Texas were linked to oil and gas drilling. Pearson, who resigned June 1, remains on staff as the director of the Midland Oil and Gas Division District office.

Besides reviewing drilling permits for the agency, Velasco will work with the TexNet Seismic Monitoring program run by UT Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology. TexNet has more than 50 seismographs placed around the state at any one time to study what is making the ground move below our feet.

“The Railroad Commission takes the issue of induced seismicity very seriously,” said Commissioner Ryan Sitton. “I look forward to working with Dr. Velasco to continue to ensure we have necessary procedures in place to minimize and mitigate potential risks.”

Velasco, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso, will continue to serve in that post.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko