Outlook 2013: Success of Mazzone family empire built on reputation
On a snowy morning just a few days after Christmas, Angelo Mazzone got a phone call.
Snow was falling heavily and steadily creating whiteout conditions that had cars slipping on slick roads and plows working in full force, barely clearing the roads before they were covered again. Employees across the region were calling in to work, warning their bosses they would probably be late.
“We go way above and beyond to protect our brand,” said Mazzone. “One of our managers called this morning to say they couldn’t get into work because of the snow. My response is, ‘I don’t really care. You open.’ It’s not a matter of making money every day, it’s about maintaining our brand.”
Mazzone, president of the Mazzone Management Group, believes the key to his growing roster of restaurants and catering empire has always been reputation. Every new project isn’t always an immediate success, but he and his family work hard to make sure the Capital Region knows Mazzone will always rise to the occasion, oftentimes going above and beyond what most would expect.
Mazzone owns Angelo’s 677 Prime in Albany, Angelo’s Tavolo at the Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia, Angelo’s Prime Bar + Grill in Clifton Park, Aperitivo Bistro in downtown Schenectady, Prime at Saratoga National and Mazzone Hospitality, a catering company that recently merged with Colonie-based Classé Catering.
For the last several years, the Mazzone Management Group family-run empire has barely had a break from expansion. In 2011, it opened a 90-seat restaurant in Clifton Park that was a breakout from its usual fine dining offerings. Its bread and butter, so to speak, was burgers, sandwiches and salads.
“We had a rough road with that opening,” said Mazzone, reflecting more than a year later. “People didn’t understand the concept of Prime Bar + Grill at first. They expected it to be like Albany or Saratoga, and this was supposed to be a bistro-type restaurant. Once people understood the concept, it became a lot easier to run.”
Less than a year later, when Mazzone announced it would build a new restaurant in Latham, regular clientele all wondered what this new endeavor would add to the Mazzone name. TALA, An American Bistro would be a 50-seat restaurant that caters to the clientele of the Rumors Salon & Spa next door. Its culinary offerings were described as a “spa menu” and no one was really sure what that meant.
“It’s a pretty trendy, upscale-type of bistro,” said Mazzone. “People come into the salon for three or four hours to get spa treatments, and they can get lunch delivered to them or the husbands coming over waiting for wives to get their hair done can get food that complements the spa.”
Originally, the idea was to put a Mazzone-brand coffee shop in the building at 626 New Loudon Road, but company officials soon realized a coffee shop wouldn’t be successful in the local market, which already had Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. So they expanded the plan from 600 square feet to 1,800 square feet and planned for a fall 2012 opening.
It took longer than planned, however, to get building permits in order, so TALA’s opening has been pushed back to March.
During the December interview, Mazzone said he wasn’t sure what comes next. He said it wasn’t the company’s plan to keep expanding without thought or reason.
“We don’t have plans for future restaurants,” he said. “It just seems to happen. We probably get three or four calls a week to take over facilities or open new facilities. But they have to have the right demographics to what we do. We don’t say, ‘OK, we’re going to do this because we’re bored.’ It has to be a good fit for what we do and who we are.”
Perhaps it wasn’t a surprise then, when just three weeks later, Mazzone Hospitality announced it had acquired longtime competitor Classé Catering, creating the single largest catering entity in the Capital Region. At the same time, Mazzone Management Group continues to renew its in-house catering contracts with big-name companies like GlobalFoundries and, most recently, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Rensselaer.
It also is working to maintain its image with small customers, as well. Mazzone recently checked his email to find a note from a longtime customer who didn’t like her turkey. The chefs behind his catering operation had served an undercooked turkey on Thanksgiving Day — a bad day to serve bad turkey.
“Except for this one very undercooked turkey, your dinners have always been wonderful,” Mazzone read from the note. “So we understood that this was most likely an unfortunate, one-time blip.”
In response to the complaint, however, Mazzone Hospitality provided her and her extended family with a free, catered tenderloin dinner on Christmas Eve. She wrote him the email to lavish praise for not only the delicious dinner, but also the high level of customer service.
“Reputation is key,” he reiterated.
As his sons grow older and take on more responsibility at the company, the elder Mazzone’s role has changed from a guy with his nose in everything to a guy sitting back and looking at the big picture.
“My role has definitely changed to where I’m kind of more overseeing things and looking at new concepts and pushing new ideas. And even though we’re a family business, we’re probably the most corporate family business around. We have a small family approach to things, but we have a strong corporate feel for what we do.”
To read all the stories from the 2013 Outlook special report, click here.