The Aapricity Podcast

Interviews with Entrepreneurs and Innovators in the Ann Arbor Area

Episode 8: Joel Panozzo, Co-Owner of The Lunch Room

Maggie Cease

Aug 03 2016

Joel Panozzo is co-owner of The Lunch Room along with Phillis Engelbert.

Joel and Phillis started off hosting vegan brunches and dinner parties for friends in 2010, and then opened The Lunch Room food cart in the Mark's Carts courtyard in the summer of 2011. If you haven't already done so, check out my interview with Mark's Carts founder Mark Hodesh in episode six.

The Lunch Room food cart was so successful that Joel and Phillis went on to open a brick and mortar restaurant in Kerrytown in August of 2013. And then, in February of 2015, they opened a second location, The Lunch Room Bakery & Cafe, in the first floor of Huron Towers on Ann Arbor's northeast side. In all of their locations, they've had a lot of success, and were awarded Best Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurant in Washtenaw County in 2016 by the Detroit Metro Times.

In our discussion, you'll learn how Joel and Phillis went from being neighbors to business partners, what it was like to open a food cart and start serving their food to the public, some of the differences between running a food cart and running a restaurant, a few of the businesses they looked to for inspiration when they were scaling up from food cart to restaurant, how Joel and Phillis develop ideas for new dishes, and what lies ahead for the future of the Lunch Room.

To find out more about the Lunch Room, go to or find them on Facebook at