Editor’s note: The Nevada Sagebrush sat down with Laughing Planet CEO Franz Spielvogel to talk about his history with Reno, the university and the chain’s new location on Virginia Street, just across the street from the University of Nevada, Reno’s residence halls. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Nevada Sagebrush: Tell us about yourself and what you do as CEO of Laughing Planet.
Franz Spielvogel: I am originally from La Paz, Bolivia, where I was born and raised. I went to the American Cooperative School in La Paz. I came to Reno to go to college. I worked at a couple of great restaurants and cafes while going to school. One is still in existence, which is La Vecchia up on Skyline Blvd. I also worked at the mighty Deux Gros Nez, which was a Reno institution owned by John Jessie and Tim Healion. That cafe was open for 20 years. I went on to work for a couple of sporting goods companies as VP of international sales as well as VP of sales and marketing. I got tired of the constant travel and lack of meaning in what I was doing, so I joined my former business partner in getting Laughing Planet going in Portland, Oregon. My business partner and I met while I was working at Deux Gros Nez. I bought him out four years ago and set out to create a multi-state company with a sustainable supply chain model and a great place to work.
My main role with the company is to make sure that everyone is stoked to come to work every single day. Every day I work on having a positive company culture and make sure that we keep things as simple as possible. I also work on selecting our restaurant locations and coordinate the design and construction.
Laughing Planet has been in business over 15 years now and we are very excited to be in Reno.
I have been married 20 years to my wife, Christina Barnet, who was born and raised in Reno. We have twin boys that are almost nine.
NS: What about the 10th Street location should people be excited for?
FS: It is a total transformation of that corner. I lived in Sierra Hall when it was the College Inn. There was nothing around other than the beer barrel and Giant Burger. We have created a wonderful ambience that is fun, consistent with our brand while maintaining the integrity of the building. We have huge patio seating and three very distinct seating zones.
NS: What kind of environment will the 10th Street location have? How will it be different for the MidTown location, if at all?
FS: MidTown is a large, flat sprawling space. Our 10th Street location is very vertical as we have two stories of dining space plus a huge shared patio. We try to take the building into consideration when doing our build-out. We don’t just try to shove our ‘look’ into the space, we respect the bones of the building and try to bring out its best features.
NS: Will you offer any sort of discounts to university students? If so, what kind of discounts?
FS: A program is in the works, but I am not a huge believer in discounts. My philosophy is to keep our prices low so anyone can eat at Laughing Planet. There will be a ton of support given to student clubs and organizations that are trying to make this planet better.
NS: Are there going to be any new dishes on the menu?
FS: All 17 locations have the same menu. Consistency is paramount to what we do. We are rolling out a couple of new seasonal bowls in addition to introducing our summer menu, which focuses on great salads and smoothies. We have a weekly special that rotates every Tuesday and a seasonal special that runs about eight weeks at a time. This keeps our offerings interesting, seasonal and varied.
NS: When did you decide you wanted to have a location near the university?
FS: We always knew that we wanted to be part of the university community and the surrounding neighborhood. There is a lack of variety and good, healthy, tasty food close to campus. You have mostly national tenants like Jimmy John’s and Subway. We are the opposite of what they are. Our spaces are cool, vibrant and awesome to hang out at while serving well-priced food that is good for you.
NS: How long has it taken to get the 10th Street location built?
FS: Too long. Just kidding, I am very impatient when it comes to construction. It took us a little over four months to do our part. This was a very complex project, especially when it came to altering the floor plan. You would never guess that our space was a seven-bedroom house. Our team, WCC construction, was amazing, truly lucky to work with them.
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