She Is A Natural Leader, Laughing Planet Midtown Store Manager, Anell Dominguez
This is the third interview in an extended series highlighting some of the Laughing Planet staff who make it all happen, day in and day out. We sat down with Anell Dominguez, Store Manager for the Midtown location, and her “coach,” Tim Healion, joined us. One thing the Dominguezes have in common is their passion for Laughing Planet. Anell is the youngest sibling and the only female in her immediate family. She says she was fortunate to be raised in such an amazing, hard-working family. Her mother, who is also helping Anell raise her six-year-old son, is her hero.
Anell credits her brother Manny for her interest in the food industry. She says “Manny was the coolest, I dressed like him, I tried to do everything he did, even though he is six years older. When I was 15, Manny was at Beaujolais, and so was Abel [her oldest brother]. At the time, I was expecting my son and needed a job, so I started as a prep cook. I learned so much.”
Anell worked at Beaujolais for three years. She started by learning how to prep, then she moved to salads, then to pastry. Beaujolais sou chef David King (who had been at Buchon, an upscale restaurant in Napa) taught her to work with efficiency, and even though he was really hard on her, she learned a lot from him.
Anell says it was a giant shock to come to Laughing Planet after her three years at Beaujolais. She felt that going from fine dining to burritos and salads was a step down, especially because she wanted a culinary career, but once hired, she found she loved the LP culture and all the love that goes into the food. (Meanwhile, Bill Gilbert was wondering why LP kept hiring away his employees.)
“Think of yourself as who you want to be, not what you are.”Anell D.
By the second week at LP, Tim says she started telling everyone what to do. Anell started on the line like everyone else because, she says, it is important to get a sense of what LP is doing. She then moved to the counter, then to shift lead, and after four years at LP, she was promoted to Store Manager about a month ago. She lives and works by this motto: “think of yourself as who you want to be, not what you are.” She added that “good leaders take as much work off of others and take it on [themselves].”
Anell is more interested in learning how to run the business, unlike her brother Manny, who is interested in the food prep end of the business, but like her brother, she wants to help expand LP. She sees a lot of opportunities for growth, similar to Manny’s ideas, by adding breakfast and opening more Laughing Planets in the Truckee Meadows. Whatever gets thrown at her, she just wants to learn it and give it the best shot that she can, but she believes in taking things one step at a time. Even little things, like greeting customers, can get overlooked in the busy pace of a restaurant, but being fabulous with customers is a game-changer. She feels she is just doing her job when she is friendly with customers.
She has excelled in her roles at LP because of her ability to remain objective. “There will always be situations when you deal with difficult people, so I’ve learned not to attach so much emotion but remain joyful. If you’re in the kitchen and someone is yelling at you, don’t take it personally.” She believes the same goes for customers. “Most customers are really great, but complainers need special attention. “Tim used to tell us that working at LP is not just about making each other’s days go well; it’s also about making the customer’s days better, and if someone is coming here and in a bad mood, imagine how you would feel if you could make their day better. You don’t pay bad for bad. Just be kind and be human, give people the benefit of the doubt.”
She also feels that LP has benefited her family. She grew up on beans and rice and tortillas, which is all they could afford. Working at Beaujolais, she became familiar with the high end food business, but working at LP has helped her be more mindful of every aspect of how Americans access food. At first she thought “these people are crazy, where is the butter and salt,” but the more time she spent at LP, the more she understood the importance of the choices people have when they are putting food in their body. There is a way to eat healthy, smart and stay within a budget.
“Even my mom has changed how she eats!”Anell D.
Like her family members who work at LP, Anell believes that LP is an educational business. “We reach out to young people, and we use real and fresh ingredients.” Through Laughing Planet’s partnership with Urban Roots, public school children are being exposed to different kinds of fruits and vegetables.
Tim added that the kids menu goes way back. It’s all part of LP’s mindful thinking: “people have kids, people have families, our demographic is everybody.” And of course this philosophy goes back to the Deux Gros Nez, a popular local restaurant in Reno in the 80s to mid-aughts, one of the inspirations for the Laughing Planet chain. “We are in the business of taking care of people, kids want to come in here, so we are family friendly.”
Laughing Planet has the same familial support that she grew up with, so Anell feels a connection at work that is familiar. “It is amazing! I had not seen Kelly for five years. LP connected us, and I got to know her better through LP. Kelly pays attention to the tiniest details, like floor drains, she is detail-oriented, and she is super hard-working.” Anell loves working with family because they have her back, especially when things get difficult.
Tim jumped in and added, “As soon as she opens her mouth, people realize they’re being taken care of, they’re talking to the right person.” Anell said that frequently people who come to LP don’t realize that she is the person in charge (because she is so young and looks even younger), but she doesn’t let that get to her. Tim chimed in again “I want to learn from you,” and then he turned to me “I’m taking notes; you should sit in meetings with her, she’s brilliant!”
Anell’s favorite dish is the Comfort Bowl, but she says that isn’t something you want to eat every day, so what she really loves is modifying the food. Anyone who comes to Laughing Planet can modify menu items, and while there is a small charge for adding items, LP takes the price down if customers don’t want everything listed in any given menu item.
“Be the best you can be as if every little thing mattered.”Anell D.
What Anell values most is having the opportunity at LP to teach others, who, as she was once taught, and to take pride in everything she does in her career, whether it’s a prestigious assignment or mopping the floors. “Be the best you can be as if every little thing mattered. LP is a real nice change of pace. Other restaurants have workers who don’t seem to have the tools to communicate, but at LP, the employees do.” This approach, she says, is productive, but most of all, it is just loving and caring.