About

Make a Memory
Thunderdome Restaurant Group was created with a simple vision: create a memorable guest experience, and make sure to positively impact our teams and our guests every single day. Currently Thunderdome has 6 concepts in it’s portfolio with close to 34 locations nationwide.

While Thunderdome Restaurant Group was officially founded in 2012, it’s roots go much deeper. Joe, John, and Alex, the founders of Thunderdome, have spent their whole lives working within the restaurant business. In 2005, Joe and John set out to do something on their own after working for restaurant groups in Boston and Chicago. Currito was born out of this endeavor, and successfully grew to 12 locations by 2011. At that time, the brothers re-connected with Alex, who had previously worked with the Lanni's 10 years prior. The idea of the three doing a restaurant together came together. After months of planning and scouting locations, they decided Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati had promise. From there, Bakersfield was opened, and with it’s success, a second location quickly followed. With numerous Currito locations, and the addition of the Bakersfield concept, Thunderdome Restaurant Group was born.


Joe Lanni

Co Founder and Owner
Bakersfield, Eagle, Kruegers, SoHi, Currito, Maplewood
Photo of Joe Lanni

Joe Lanni attended Babson College and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Entrepreneurial Studies. After college Joe moved to Chicago and became a Manager of Franchise Development for Wingate Hotels. He later accepted a position as Director of Franchise Development for Cendant Hotels (now called Wyndham Hotels) and was also the Director of Franchise Development and Real Estate for Uno Chicago Grill Restaurants. In 2004 Joe moved back to Cincinnati to open the Currito chain of restaurants with his brother John. The two went on to create SoHi Grilled Sandwiches and later partner will Alex Blust to create Thunderdome restaurants. Joe is an avid golfer and fly fisherman who lives in Cincinnati with his wife Katie and son Leo.

John Lanni

Co Founder and Owner
Bakersfield, Eagle, Kruegers, SoHi, Currito, Maplewood
Photo of John Lanni

Johnathan Lanni grew up in Hamilton, OH just outside of Cincinnati. John had his sights set on the restaurant industry, working in his father’s restaurants from an early age. John attended Badin High School and then went on to study at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. Upon graduating in 2003, he worked for Lettuce Entertain You in Chicago. In 2005 he and his brother Joe decided to start their own restaurant business. After creating Currito in 2005 and SoHi Grilled Sandwiches in 2010, Thunderdome Restaurant Group was officially formed in 2012 with the addition of the Bakersfield. John enjoys tennis, golf, and skiing, as well as spending time with friends and family.

Alex Blust

Co Founder and Owner
Bakersfield, Eagle, Kruegers, Maplewood
Photo of Alex Blust

Alex Blust ​is ​from Okeana Ohio​, and​ is a graduate of La Cordon Bleu culinary institute in Pittsburgh​.​ ​He ​also attended the CIA at greystone napa valley. ​Alex ​has worked for Houstons​ Restaurants​, Ritz Carlton, and Winegardner and Hammons Hotels. Opening Thunderdome Restaurant Group is the culmination of​ a​ life long dream of ow​n​ing his own business. He has 3 children and is ​happily ​married to Geradine Blust.

Brian Riggenbach

Regional Partner
Bakersfield
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Brian is an Ohio native who grew up in Van Wert, OH. He graduated from Bowling Green State University (OH) with a BSBA in Marketing and Sales. After spending several years in Cincinnati, OH as a Regional Manager and Certified Trainer with Papa John's Pizza he and his wife moved to Charlotte, NC where he worked as Director of Operations for the Charlotte based restaurant chain Just Fresh. During this time he received his MBA in Business Finance from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Brian currently resides in Charlotte with his wife Sara and two sons, Max and Eli.

William A. Coughlin

Brand Partner
Maplewood
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After serving 4 years in the US Navy, Bill attended and graduated from Widener University in Philadelphia with a Bachelors degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management. During and after college, Bill was a Food & Beverage Manager for a large hotel conference & convention center located in the Philadelphia area. He later accepted a position with Winegardner & Hammons for which he operated several hotels including the Cincinnati Airport Marriott. Bill was later promoted to Regional Vice President of Operations for Winegardner & Hammons, a position where he had direct oversight of 13 full service hotel & restaurant operations located throughout the US with brands that included Marriott, Renaissance, Hilton and Embassy Suites. He later accepted a position as Vice President of Operations for Highgate Hotels where he oversaw all the company’s corporate managed hotels on the West Coast which included Canada, California and the Hawaiian Islands. Bill and his wife, Barbara, have 3 children and reside in Northern Kentucky.

Kyle Gardner

Director of Operations
Currito
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Kyle is responsible for the operations of all corporate Currito locations and is charged with leading and developing our Management Team. He is also the point of contact for all franchise locations. A native of Cincinnati, Kyle began his hospitality career at the age of 16 working at Trio Bistro.

He graduated from Miami University in 2005, and accepted a position with Winegardner & Hammonds. In 2008 he became the General Manger at the Holiday Inn Express Blue Ash where he led them to multiple service awards with IHG.

He accepted a position with Thunderdome Restaurant Group in 2010 as the Franchise Operations Manager. He also held titles as the Assistant Manager, and General Manager at our Clifton and Xavier locations respectively. He was promoted to Director of Operations in 2014.

He and his wife Raelee have a daughter Avery and reside in Madeira.

Tony Dornbusch

Food and Beverage Director
Thunderdome Restaurant Group
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Tony grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio but spent 15 years in Arizona, Michigan, California, and Tennessee before returning to his hometown to raise a family with his wife Ashley and their two children. Tony graduated from the hospitality program at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. He spent much of his career with Aramark Sports and Entertainment running food service operations for arenas, amphitheaters, convention centers and, most recently, the NFL. Before Aramark, Tony spent time working in ski resorts and fine dining restaurants where he developed his passion for food and beverage. Outside of Thunderdome, Tony enjoys baseball, fishing, bird watching, and hiking. He also has a passion for whiskey and tequila, making his position at Thunderdome one of the most rewarding of his career.

Lauren Altman

Director of HR and Training
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Thunderdome Corporate Manager Lauren Altman has helped build and maintain outstanding brands from the inside out for more than a decade. She joined the Thunderdome team in 2011 as the first General Manager for the original Bakersfield OTR. Her role has since evolved as she now oversees hiring, training and development of management, and implementation of standards for which Thunderdome concepts have become known.

Chas Barracato

Corporate Executive Chef
Photo of Chas Barracato

Chas grew up right outside Cleveland, in the city of Solon Ohio. After taking a foods course throughout high school and learning an appreciation for food, Chas attended culinary school in Pittsburgh at Le Cordon Bleu. Graduating in the top percentile of his culinary class, Chas started his career at Barrington country club and the Bertram Inn hotel in Aurora Ohio. Chas then worked with Ted's Montana grill opening numerous locations throughout the Midwest and southern states before deciding to return to the hotel business which he loved. He then honed his skills working with Holiday Inn and Marriott hotel brands before joining the Thunderdome group in late 2011. Working side by side with co founder Joe Lanni ,Chas has developed the menus for Bakersfield, The Eagle and Kruegers Tavern. In Chas' spare time he enjoys watching horror films, singing karaoke, urban exploring, and finding antiques at local shops and flea markets.

Robert Creager

Director of Purchasing and Special Projects
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Robert Creager attended Wright State University, graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Business Management. After college, Robert relocated to Cincinnati to work with a startup movie production company. Robert accepted an opportunity with The Great Steak and Potato Company, eventually assuming the position of Director of Marketing and Store Design. After leaving Great Steak, roles as an independent restaurant operator and marketing/operations consultant all lead up to some very special time as a stay at home father. Robert then accepted an opportunity to work with Joe and John Lanni as part of their Currito restaurant team which has since expanded to his current role in the Thunderdome Restaurant Group. Robert lives in Springboro, Ohio with his wife Kathy and three children, Kristina, Stefan and Samantha. And in his spare time enjoys beer and rambles on about Volkswagens...

Glenna Creech

Executive Administrator
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Debbie Sowder

Administrative Manager
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Debbie Sowder grew up in McClure, Ohio and graduated from Napoleon High School in 2001. She graduated with an associate's degree in hotel/restaurant management from Hocking State College in 2004. Right after graduation, Debbie accepted a position at the Cincinnati Marriott NE in Mason, Ohio as the Front Desk Supervisor. She was promoted to the Executive Bookkeeper at that same hotel in 2006 til Feb of 2015. That is when she joined the Thunderdome Restaurant Group as the Corporate Admin Manager. When not working she enjoys spending time with my family, and rooting on The Ohio State Buckeyes!