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Laura LaVigne
Director of Bar Strategy & Marketing
Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar

Interview By Lisa Gmur, CSW

Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar is an American casual dining restaurant chain that operates 42 restaurants across eight states including California, Florida, Nevada, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Georgia and Virginia. There are also more on the way.  The extensive and very eclectic menu has everything from Fish & Chips to Chicken Parmesan to Thai Noodles on the main menu.

The kids menu is also pretty diverse from pasta and mini corndogs to chicken teriyaki. Yes, there are even a few dishes for your four-legged friends like the grilled hamburger patty bowl and a brown rice bowl with veggies and grilled chicken breast. Doggie bowls of water are complimentary.

If you haven’t been to a Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, well, the décor is pretty much what you would expect; walls decorated with photographs and drawings of hounds.

We talked with Laura LaVigne, Director of Bar Strategy & Marketing for Lazy Dog Restaurants about everything from growing up in the restaurant industry, her love of Mexican food to how much she loves being a mom.

Laura LaVigne, Director of Bar Strategy & Marketing

The Interview

The Mark Wine Group

So, you are a true California girl. I can totally hear The Beach Boys singing.

Laura LaVigne

Yes. I grew up in Southern California and have lived here my whole life.

The Mark Wine Group

Any Siblings?

Laura LaVigne

I am the youngest of four.

The Mark Wine Group

And your folks, what do they do?

Laura LaVigne

Well, when I was a younger child, they were both in the restaurant industry. My mother is still in the restaurant industry overseeing marketing! My father works for a technology/security company.

The Mark Wine Group

Ha! The apple definitely didn’t fall far from the tree. Did you fancy yourself being in the restaurant industry when you were a kid?

Laura LaVigne

Hmmmm… kind of I guess. I always enjoyed baking and watching the food network. So definitely something in that field.

The Mark Wine Group

Does that mean you were a foodie as a kid and eating escargot and souffle?

Laura LaVigne

I was not that adventurous as kid. Mac and cheese and pizza were my go-tos. As I got older, I got more adventurous with food and love trying new stuff now!

The Mark Wine Group

Well, there is a huge menu, for you to choose from at work. How about wine? Was that on the menu at home?

Laura LaVigne

I remember my first taste. I had moved back into my parents one summer and remembering having a taste of Chardonnay with my mom. It’s her go to wine.

The Mark Wine Group

A great first taste. Chardonnay is such an important wine.  Did you ever have more of an “Aha” moment?

Laura LaVigne

Probably when I had my first really, good bottle of red wine. It got me into exploring wine more.

The Mark Wine Group

What did you study in college? 

Laura LaVigne

I went to Cal State Fullerton. Then I got my MBA from Concordia University in Irvine with an emphasis on Marketing.

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Say Hello to this Lazy Dog!

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The Mark Wine Group

I started working as a host at Mimi’s Café when I was 14. All of my siblings worked there.

Laura LaVigne

I started working as a host at Mimi’s Café when I was 14. All of my siblings worked there.

The Mark Wine Group

Kind of a family affair. Ahhh. Seeing it now. The Lazy Dog/Mimi’s connection. Tell us more.

Laura LaVigne

I met the Simms family during the 10 years I worked at Mimi‘s Café. They’re such an amazing family so I was thrilled when they reached out to me while I was working at another restaurant group to come be a part of their marketing team.

The Mark Wine Group

Love that. Where else did you work before Lazy Dog?

Laura LaVigne

I worked in the marketing departments at a handful of restaurant groups; Elephant Bar, California Pizza Kitchen and BJ’s.

The Mark Wine Group

What a fantastic group of restaurant groups to have on your resume. And you are so lucky you have gotten to stay in sunny California. I love California.  Any favorite places you’ve traveled away from California?

Laura LaVigne

I love to eat and drink my way through Chicago & Portland. You can’t waste a meal in those towns!

The Mark Wine Group

Oh Man. Truth!

I personally love the restaurant at Neiman Marcus in Chicago. The popovers! And Pok Pok in Portland was one of the most consequential culinary experiences in my life. So, I totally get that.

Any getaway spots that you jones to get to?

Laura LaVigne

Local beaches like San Clemente, Carlsbad. Places that feel like they are far away, but they are really, just a short drive!

The Mark Wine Group

Any faraway places you dream about?

Laura LaVigne

Eventually I want to travel to Europe. Particularly France and Italy.

The Mark Wine Group

You must go! I fell madly in love with Italy both times I have been. I was only 15 when I traveled to France but I still remember every detail from the smell of the fresh bread and croissants to the fashion displays in every window. And of course, the wine. Do you have a favorite wine?

Laura LaVigne

I love a good Chardonnay and Cabernet. I love Napa! It’s gorgeous!

The Mark Wine Group

Yup. It’s pretty breathtaking, and definitely an easier trip than Europe. Do you like mixing it up a little, for instance adding other ingredients to your wine?

Laura LaVigne

Yes. I love cocktails that are topped with Prosecco for a bubbly finish. I also recently got into New York Sours.

A long-standing tradition of hospitality.

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The Mark Wine Group

Totally looking this up now. Wow! Very cool drink; Bourbon, egg white, lemon juice and a floater of red wine. Love it!  I honestly didn’t know this one.

Still reading,  “….thought to be first made in the 1880’s by a bartender in Chicago and called a Continental Sour, then called a Southern Whiskey Sour…a Brunswick Sour….and Claret Snap before finally landing on its current name when a Manhattan bartender grew its popularity.”  Thanks for this!

I love learning about new wine cocktails. But back to wine as a solo star. Do you have a favorite food and wine pairing?

Laura LaVigne

Crab legs and Chardonnay!

The Mark Wine Group

OMG yes! My mouth is literally watering with those two words in combination. And speaking of the number two; it’s a pretty special number for you this year, right?

Laura LaVigne

Yes! I have a wonderful husband and a daughter that just turned two years old! I’m lucky I get to spend so much time with her since we are still working from home.

Laura and family

The Mark Wine Group

What a wonderful thing.  Does this mean your life now is how you pictured it would be when you were growing up?

Laura LaVigne

It’s exactly how I pictured it. Maybe even better! Living close to our family and having my little family of my own.

The Mark Wine Group

Love this. Do you have any pets? Any more dreams?

Laura LaVigne

We have 2 fluffy white rescue dogs and I very much want to continue to grow my family and travel more.

The Mark Wine Group

Any hobbies?

Laura LaVigne

I am in a co-ed soccer league. I’ve been playing soccer my entire life.

The Mark Wine Group

So, you really are a soccer mom. I bet you can’t wait for your daughter to power some cleats. <<laughing out loud>>  Anything you’ve powered through and overcame that you never thought you would have?

Laura LaVigne

I would say that getting my MBA was a big accomplishment that I didn’t think I was going to do.

The Mark Wine Group

A huge feat. And such an important triumph to show your daughter. What a wonderful role model you are.  Thank you so much for talking with us.

Laura LaVigne

I really enjoyed it. Thank you.