• Saratoga Business Report
Thursday, 05 May 2022 20:10

Pandemic Insolation: Mazzone Uses Pause to Propel Forward Featured

Written by Megin Potter
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Photo by SuperSourceMedia.com Photo by SuperSourceMedia.com

During the 14-month peak of the pandemic, when everyone was cancelling their weddings and events, Mazzone Hospitality lost 85 percent of their catering business. 

“It’s been quite a transition,” said Justine Ochal, Mazzone’s Director of Strategic Alignment and Human Resources. 

“There have been high highs and low lows.” 

During that same time period, Mazzone’s PRIME Dining revenue was only down 20 percent because they were able to continue operations at 10 facilities (which include colleges, corporations, and independent living centers).

“It offset the lows of the catering side of things. It’s a steady line of business that kept money in the coffers,” said Tim Vennard, Vice President of Mazzone Hospitality’s PRIME Dining. 

Reinvesting in the Community

Since so many of their catering events were cancelled, Mazzone Hospitality redirected their infrastructure and trucks to deliver food to where it was needed most during the pandemic.  

By partnering with the Schenectady Foundation, City Mission, and Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, as well as working with the Boys & Girls Club of Schenectady, they demonstrated that they are still nurturing their local connections. 

Currently, they are working to rebound their workforce. Focused on retention and recruitment, they’ve regrown enough to employ 650 people and continue to hire more. 

Packing a Different Lunchbox 

Like others, Mazzone’s business was tested during the recession when, in December 2007 alone, it lost $500,000 in revenue. 

Until that point, Mazzone Hospitality had built their reputation on fine dining and catering services but the economic downturn inspired them to diversify into the business and organizational dining sector with their PRIME Dining division. 

“We were creating a different lunchbox,” said founder Angelo Mazzone. 

By 2009 they’d recouped the money. Today, they are the largest local business dining provider in the Capital District. 

Now, they are expanding further through New York State as well as to locations in Southern Vermont and Western Massachusetts. 

Setting the Spark

In 2011, Angelo Mazzone, who is now 70, announced he would begin stepping back from Mazzone Hospitality, the business he’s been growing for more than 40 years. 

Since then, he has still actively supported the team he brought together.  

“He’s earned his stripes and is enjoying the fruits of his labor,” said Vice President of Catering Sean Willcoxon. “He’s still there, just a phone call away, to help us any time we need it.”

Lighting the Fire

Angelo Mazzone has always said that “when you focus on great food and great service, the rest will figure itself out.”

It’s a philosophy informed by a lifetime of experience in the industry.

Mazzone began working in his grandfather’s pizzeria at the age of 11. In 1981, he opened Peggy’s Restaurant. Seven years later, Mazzone began operating from the Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia. 

During the 1990s and early 2000s Mazzone Hospitality’s portfolio grew to include a large number of restaurants and a thriving off-site catering business. Go down the list of top event venues in the area and it’s more likely than not that you’ll see Mazzone Hospitality’s name there, too. 

In 2017, Mazzone was sold to the Compass Group, one of the world’s largest food service providers. Compass’ global reach also includes Levy, the sporting event catering company that NYRA and Mazzone work with to feed hungry fans at the Saratoga Race Course. 

Open-air dining is now done there on multiple levels within the track’s Clubhouse, which features first-floor seating just a few feet from the outside rail; the second-story Club Terrace, with its casual a la carte menu; and, on the upper floors, the Turf Terrace’s formal dining room.

This year not only is Mazzone’s catering looking forward to rebounding from the 2020-2021 shortfalls, they are accelerating toward new opportunities including serving guests at the coveted National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s annual gala. 

Carrying the Torch

Mazzone may have ignited the Mazzone Hospitality torch but it is his team (which includes Chef Mark Delos who has been working by Angelo’s side for 33 years) who are the backbone supporting everything they do now, he said. 

“Rest assured, we’re still the same company. Once people mention Mazzone Hospitality, they have a certain expectation. Whether we’re in the dining halls or catering events, we’re all working together,” said Mazzone. 

Even when faced with extraordinary challenges, this unity and cohesiveness keeps the Mazzone flame burning brightly.  

“Our role now is to carry that torch and push the company to the next level,” said Vennard.

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