Out of over 50 Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream restaurants across the nation, Crookston’s Happy Joe’s General Manager or “Head Coach” Brooke Panzer was chosen to receive the Head Coach of the Year award for all of her hard work for the restaurant.
Panzer began working for the Happy Joe’s here in Crookston in November of 2015 as the Shift Manager for one year before being promoted to become Assistant Manager. She soon became the General Manager in 2017 and continued working there after Jake Fee and Elle Koepp took over ownership in 2021. Panzer is a very hands-on worker, as she schedules other workers’ shifts, places orders, makes pizzas, runs the buffet, hires and interviews staff, checks the inventory of the restaurant every month, staff training for Shift Managers and regular staff, cleans dishes, makes deliveries, and even makes the bank deposits for the restaurant! When she’s not at the restaurant, she spends her free time walking her dog, Butter, with her fiancé Todd and eating out at the restaurants in the community.
During her time as the General Manager, Panzer played a significant component for Happy Joe’s during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. While the pandemic did impact the restaurant by making them close sections of the restaurant, Panzer worked to keep the restaurant afloat and make sure Crookston got fresh pizza. “We do a ton of dine-in, and a lot of our business is birthday parties and the game room. During COVID, we had to shut down the game room, the dine-in area, and our buffet. So, we had to think of different ways to attract other businesses, so we tried to go hard on advertising for delivery and pick-up and a lot of contactless delivery,” Panzer explained. “We were really successful, though we had to trim down our staff, which was hard to do, just to make things profitable. We ran the store with 12 employees and really marketed to the community for pick-up and delivery.” With the end of the pandemic, Panzer has worked to find and hire employees to restaff the restaurant back to nearly the amount of employees it had before the pandemic began.
Co-owner Jake Fee was thrilled to nominate Panzer for the award and traveled with them to the Bally’s Hotel & Casino for Happy Joe’s Annual Meeting in the Quad Cities, Illinois, from October 16 to the 18, where she received her award. “Basically, all of the nominations are in the running each and every year, and she was then brought down to a select few, and then she was awarded it,” Jake Fee explained. “The fun part was we were able to bring her with us to Illinois for the annual conference, so it was a pretty big surprise to her, but it wasn’t as much for us because we all know how much she deserves that award. We’re so happy for her that she got to accept the award in person, and we couldn’t be happier to have Brooke running the store here in Crookston.”
Panzer says she plans to continue working at Happy Joe’s and is excited to keep working to bring back the staff and the rest of the restaurant to its full glory before the pandemic. “I plan on staying at Happy Joe’s, I really love my job and position here, and everything that Jake and Elle are doing with the business is going in a good direction,” said Panzer. “We’re just trying to build back the staff and train them to satisfy the guests the best we can. We’re trying to make our buffet the best it can be and really attract everyone with their birthday parties and bring our game room back to how it used to be.” Panzer noted that the restaurant is looking to add newer games, prizes, and other updates to the game room, with one being a new ticket counter being added.
A picture of Brooke with her award can be found below-