INSIDER: Take a peek into Plaid Penguin’s operations and Igloo

INSIDER: Take a peek into Plaid Penguin’s operations and Igloo
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Plaid Penguin dominates the food+drink creative services and dining experience market in Charlotte.

If you’re a restauranteur, you know them. If you eat or drink in Charlotte, you’ve likely experienced their work (unless you’re a power user of chains like Applebee’s and Olive Garden – then you probably have no clue).

Need evidence of their dominance and execution? Drink from an Unknown beer can, view Rooster’s new site, look at the Pour Olive bottle on your countertop, pick up an Edible Charlotte magazine or attend a Relish Carolina event.

The Plaid Penguin is one of those rare, creative boutique agencies that know exactly who they are. Anybody with marketing or advertising service experiences has to respect their vision and strategy.

And the good news is that their services align with the future of marketing — high quality design, digital skills, content production, deep vertical knowledge and ability to create remarkable experiences. It’ll be fun to watch their growth.

Fast Facts

  • Clients include: littleSpoon, Stagioni, Le Crueset, Barrington’s, Rooster’s Wood-fired Kitchen, Savory Spice, Pour Olive, Cowfish, Edible Charlotte, Halcyon, and more.
  • Why is their office called the Igloo (15 photos below)? Joe Haubenhofer (Sir Idea Man) explains, “Technically we call it the ‘Idea Igloo’, but Igloo seems to be sticking – strictly based off the home penguins keep – there are some fun similarities and traits of both penguins and igloos which mesh well in our world. Our aim with our Igloo is to create a fertile ground for creativity and for the food/drink obsessed. Our culture is communal and collective in everywhere…” Joe then started to get really nerdy on igloo culture and I liked it.
  • The space is used for video production and photography. Basically, it’s designed to go from concepting to production quickly.
  • Plaid Penguin uses several contractors and partners in order to staff up and execute on projects. Partners are invited to work out of the Igloo.
  • Relish Carolina and #igloofoodfight are two concepts born from Plaid Penguin. Relish Carolina “recreates the lost practice of dinnertime — on a larger, community scale” and #igloofoodfight is an event series where the Plaid Penguin challenges local chefs to a cooking competition (most recently, JJ’s Red Hots was challenged and the food item was a lobster roll).

Last nights’s @relishcarolina event. via @lzbarrett

A photo posted by Axios Charlotte (@charlotteagenda) on

Afternoon food battle in a South End office. @jjsredhots vs @theplaidpenguin at #igloofoodfight

A photo posted by Axios Charlotte (@charlotteagenda) on


  • Joe on the kitchen (yes they have an impressive kitchen in their office): “We built the #iglootestkitchen (a chef’s kitchen in the office) with the intent of it being a collaborative food and drink experimentation hub. Aside from what you saw with the Food Fight series, we do quite a bit of recipe development for our clients (sometimes looping in local chefs, mixologists and artisans) as well for Relish Carolina connecting which is our sister, roaming dinner and activity club. We also host small company dinners (we do this in the alleyway of Common Market – check out our website homepage for this shot) and festive food/drink days associated with holidays (really any excuse to theme a menu, we jump on it) such as St. Paddy’s Day, 4th of July, National Ice Cream Day, National Grilled Cheese Day, Thanksgiving, etc.”
  • Joe on the design: “Both Kara and I are obviously into space design, so creating an environment where we feel inspired was important. The overall feel is meant to be rustic, yet inviting. Rough, yet refined in some respects. Collision of functionality meets fun. In my office I have a collection of cutting boards, cast irons and cookbooks — been collecting for years and this is the perfect way to show them off — also wallpapered one of my main walls with recipes, client work and stories from publications over the past few decades and built a fun firewood wall and Kevin Spacey-ending-scene-of-season-two-House-of-Cards-Oval-office type desk to spread out all of my chaos. We’ve built a lot of our own tables, desks, bars,  and kitchen hanging rack ourselves to save and plan on building out a rooftop patio with an urban garden and community table late this fall.”

The people behind the Plaid Penguin (extended team)

Joe Haubenhofer – Sir Idea Man & Partner


Kara Hollinger – Creative Mastermind & Partner


Conor Merrigan – Leader of Design Affairs


Corri Smith – Director of Social Experiences

Alyse Meyers – Operations Controller

Leeann Dolan – Office Manager

Joel Kuehn – Director of Digital

Megan Vince – Design Intern

Jeremy & Debbie Deal – Director of Photography & Video

Cat Cater – Strategy & Messaging

Fancy diagram of what Plaid Penguin does


Let’s take a tour of the Igloo

plaid penguin south end office space

plaid penguin main office

plaid penguin office space

upstairs office plaid penguin

workspace plaid penguin

kitchen bar plaid penguin south end

kitchen plaid penguin

photo shoot plaid penguin

office plaid penguin

wood office plaid penguin

edible charlotte office

rooftop deck plaid penguin

igloo food fight room

shower at plaid penguin south end

penguin in south end

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