New Restaurant Manager at Lake Panorama National

Matt Mikkelsen is the new restaurant and special events coordinator at Lake Panorama National. A 2009 Panorama graduate, he comes to the position with about eight years of experience.

By Susan Thompson

A 2009 Panorama graduate who worked at Lake Panorama National as a teenager has returned. Matt Mikkelsen started work in late April as the new LPN restaurant and events manager.

Mikkelsen began working in the LPN cart barn at the age of 16. For the next five years, he worked part-time in various capacities, including the cart barn, pro shop and kitchen.

After high school graduation, he attended DMACC and later AIB. At both colleges, he majored in hospitality and event management and played on the golf team.

As a college student, Mikkelsen was hired at Beer Can Alley in downtown Des Moines, where he worked for three years before transferring to manage a second Beer Can Alley location in Okoboji. After two years there, he moved to Whiskey River in Ankeny, where he was the assistant manager and special events coordinator.

Now he’s bringing the school and work experiences he gained over the last eight years to Lake Panorama National. “I really like this kind of work, because you’re always on the move,” he says. “I enjoy working with people, and wouldn’t want to sit in an office all day.”

“I’m going to use what I’ve learned in my earlier positions, combine it with what’s already happening at the LPN, and make this position my own,” Mikkelsen says. “I’ve got an interest in food, beer, wine, and liquor. I like to study all these things, and look forward to developing new offerings for our guests.”

One small change is already in place. A board on the front porch of the conference center lists daily food and drink specials in the Links, plus the location of special events being held in the building.

Mikkelsen is in the process of developing a drinks menu, which will be delivered along with the regular food menu as patrons arrive. This booklet will include a specialty cocktail menu, a beer menu, a Moscow Mule menu, a seasonal cocktail menu and a wine list. The house wine will be changing, and the list of wines available by both glass and bottle will be expanded.

This additional drinks menu should be ready by early June. “These offerings will help increase the average revenue per transaction for our servers,” Mikkelsen says. “That will be better for the servers, because they will make more, and it also will be better for the bottom line of the Links.”   

Turning to the Links food menu, Mikkelsen says he thinks it’s in good shape right now. The menu was assembled by Drew Labath, a 2004 Panorama graduate who has been the LPN executive chef for two years.

“Drew has done a good job putting together a menu that meets the varied needs of our clientele,” Mikkelsen says. “It’s a nice mix of appetizers, sandwiches, salads and entrees that offer something for everyone we serve. We may experiment with a late night menu, and perhaps a seasonal food menu, which would give Drew a chance to offer some dishes not currently on the menu.”

For now, the Links will continue the popular prime rib special each Friday night. On Saturdays, Labath will offer some higher-end entrée specials, which can be paired with a glass of wine.

The LPN is generally quite busy spring through fall, with only one Saturday evening not already booked between now and the end of September. “We’re really busy with events already, something I learned in my first three weeks, when we had about 15 events,” Mikkelsen says.

“As special events coordinator, I will be in charge of planning events to draw in people during the time of year when we’re not as busy. For instance, I’ve set a goal of having a special event every Saturday evening next January and February. I really like live, local music so I’m sure we’ll be doing some of that. Dueling Pianos was popular, and I would think we’ll do that again. And I’d like to host a murder mystery,” he says.

Mikkelsen says he’ll rely on social media, such as regular Facebook postings, to help spread the word about special events and new food and drink offerings.

John Dinnebier, LPN director of operations, will continue to be the point person for weddings, golf tournaments and other large banquets. “I’ll help John with whatever he needs. I’ll be creating the staff schedule, and managing the staff during the event,” Mikkelsen says. “I want to do what I can to alleviate some of the pressure on John, so he has time to do other things he needs to be doing.”

In high school, Mikkelsen was on the Panorama boys golf team, and a state qualifier. He loves to golf, and is glad to have the opportunity to get onto the LPN course whenever he has a bit of free time away from the clubhouse.

“I’m really happy to be back,” Mikkelsen says. “It’s almost like I never left. John Dinnebier always says there is no place like Lake Panorama, and I agree. It’s a unique place, and I’m looking forward to helping expand business at Lake Panorama National.”