About

Make a Memory
Thunderdome Restaurant Group was created with a simple vision: create memorable guest experiences and positively impact our teams and our guests every single day. Currently Thunderdome has 7 concepts in its portfolio with over 39 locations nationwide.

While Thunderdome Restaurant Group was officially founded in 2012, its roots go much deeper. Joe Lanni, John Lanni, and Alex Blust, the founders of Thunderdome, have spent their whole lives working within the restaurant business. After working for restaurant groups in Boston and Chicago, Joe and John took off on their own in 2005. Currito was born out of their collaboration, and the brand successfully grew to 12 locations by 2011. Right around then, Alex reunited with the brothers Lanni, having worked together 10 years prior. With their experience and expertise, the idea of opening a restaurant quickly formed. After months of planning and scouting locations, they decided Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati had promise. And in February 2012, Bakersfield opened. Focusing on tacos, tequila, and whiskey, the concept took off, and a second location in Indianapolis quickly followed. With the addition of the Bakersfield concept, the existing Currito locations, and a deep passion for unbeatable service, 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, son Leo, and daughter Nina.

John Lanni

Co Founder and Owner
Bakersfield, Eagle, Kruegers, SoHi, Currito, Maplewood
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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
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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 Geraldine 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
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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

Regional Managing Partner
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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.

Gregory Huertas

Regional Managing Partner

From Long Island, New York, Gregory Huertas started his career in restaurants while he was in high school. Gregory had a natural knack for the hospitality business and rose to management, which prompted a return to college. Gregory moved to the desert and graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with a B.A. in Hospitality Management. Upon graduation, he returned to New York City where he worked under celebrity Chef Marc Murphy for over 5 years, serving as both a beverage manager and a general manager. After getting married, he moved down to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he started to work for Thunderdome Restaurant Group. After a brief relocation to Cincinnati, Gregory moved to Louisville, Kentucky, to serve as general manager of The Eagle. In 2018, he was made a Regional Managing Partner, overseeing Thunderdome restaurants in Louisville and Nashville. Gregory currently lives in Louisville with his wife Eryn and their two dogs, Bear and Tito.

Ricky Tindell

Regional Managing Partner
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Originally from Orlando, Florida, Ricky Tindell's been working in the hospitality business since his very first job. He washed dishes and manned the fryers at the Columbia Harbor House at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. With a degree in Food and Nutrition from Florida State University, Ricky moved to Ohio to work for the Bravo Brio Restaurant Group and later became a general manager at Jeff Ruby's in downtown Cincinnati. In 2015, Ricky found an opportunity with Thunderdome and moved to Indianapolis to serve as general manager of The Eagle. In 2018, he was named as a Regional Managing Partner and oversees Thunderdome restaurants in Indianapolis.

Chas Barracato

Corporate Executive Chef
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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!

Gina Gaetano

Director of Social Media
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Armed with millions of questions and a Macbook, Gina Gaetano is an Internet lover with endless curiosity for how people live and create. With a degree in rhetoric and professional writing, Gina's been doing social media for over 5 years and working in the hospitality industry for 10. In her current position as Director of Social Media, she manages social profiles all of Thunderdome's diverse concepts, spending a lot of time taking gratuitous food photos, writing clever captions, and engaging with guests across the Internet. In her off time, she enjoys falling into YouTube black holes, cooking for and hosting dinner parties, and shamelessly attempting to entertain herself, her boyfriend, Tom, her two cats, and everyone around her.

Matthew Schmidt

Director of Training and Development
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Matthew is a native of Wisconsin, growing up in the suburbs of Milwaukee. After graduating from University of Wisconsin Stout with a BS in Hospitality and Tourism Management he relocated to Cincinnati to begin his career. He has worked for Hyatt, WHI, and Bravo Brio Restaurant Group. Matthew joined Thunderdome Restaurant Group in 2016. He and his husband Todd live in Northern Kentucky with their troop of rescued animals.

Kier Muchnicki

SHRM-CP
Director of Team Member Experience
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With over 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Kier Muchnicki serves as Director of Team Member Experience for Thunderdome. After receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Organizational Communication from Ohio University, Kier used her restaurant experience from throughout high school and college and accepted a Restaurant Manager position at Marriott in West Chester, Ohio managed by Winegardner & Hammons, Inc. During her time there, Kier explored her interest in human resources and found an opportunity as HR Manager at another location. After 10 years as HRD with WHI, she joined Thunderdome Restaurant Group in a dual role, serving as Director of Training for Currito and Human Resources for the full service brands. Her role as Director of Team Member Experience began in 2018, after she earned her Senior Certified Professional Certification with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM-SCP). When she's away from work, Kier enjoys spending time with friends and family. She resides in Liberty Township, Ohio with her husband and two children.

Stephanie Adkins

CFBE
Corporate Chef, Culinary Development
Photo of Stephanie Adkins

A native of Cincinnati, Stephanie grew up in Loveland. She began her hospitality career at the age of 17 working for Winegardner & Hammons at the Cincinnati Marriott Northeast. Honing her skills while attending Culinary school, she worked for Trio Bistro, Primavista, Chefs Kitchen Cakery, Cincinnati Marriott Rivercenter and Cincinnati Airport Marriott. Graduating Cum Laude from Midwest Culinary Institute in 1999, she accepted position of Chef de Partie with Wolfgang Puck at Spago Chicago. Upon returning to Cincinnati, she returned to Winegardner & Hammons Hotels where she worked for 15 years as an Executive Chef for both InterContinental Hotels Group and Marriott Hotels. She joined Thunderdome Restaurant Group in 2016 working with the Culinary Development Team as a Corporate Chef. Working on menu development with co-founder Joe Lanni she has developed recipes for Currito, Maplewood, CityBird and The Eagle. She and her husband Randy have two sons, William & Michael, and reside in Loveland.