Part 1: The Foundations of the Brownstone and Building a Business
Wedding traditions and family/business celebrations may come and go. The television series that The Brownstone was featured in (“The Sopranos,” The Real Housewives of New Jersey” and “Manzoed with Children”) all had limited runs.
But what ultimately lasts is business savvy and great service, which is the secret to Albert Manzo’s success. He grew a struggling catering call into a $17 million business and has flourished over the past 35 years in what can be a fickle industry.
We sat with Al to talk about how he got into the catering business and what he sees for the future. Join us at Catersource to ask your own questions and hear some of his unpublished stories, which are not only humorous and relatable, but also inspirational—whether you’ve been in business three months or 35+ years!
How did you get started in the business?
I probably would have made a really good lawyer but I didn’t enjoy the reading that career would have required. I started out as a general manager in the fast food industry and enjoyed it. I realized I was a leader early on. When my dad called me and asked me to come in on a restaurant that he had just bought, I was hesitant at first. After a couple of months, I left and joined the Brownstone in 1979. My father went on to do other things and I took over the catering business. We reinvented it by providing exceptional food. The next natural step was remodeling.
If you're not fortunate enough to get major TV exposure what else can you do as a business owner to get noticed?
Although the shows certainly built awareness, the business was already at its peak. I grew the Brownstone with just good business sense l I did without good business sense. No one makes money just from being on TV. You still need to deliver great food and a great product. When “The Sopranos” filmed at The Brownstone, I made sure that the production company hired me to provide food for the cast and crew. I don’t give anything away.
I built my business with no advertising at all. I do 450 pick-up orders for Christmas and I’ve never advertised it. Focus on every order, every customer one at a time. Provide better food, better value, and better service and people will keep coming back.
See Albert Manzo at Catersource! Click here to view his session.
What advice would you give someone just starting out in catering today?
You need ‘ground up’ experience. Money and experience in another industry doesn’t qualify you. Our industry requires a deep understanding of the process – food, culture, décor, staffing, and so much more. As the U.S. becomes a melting pot, traditions and food tastes become even more important.
Having that knowledge means you can do a better job of meeting clients’ needs. We’ve even allowed kosher caterers to come in and take over our kitchen, just to ensure that a client chooses our venue.
Hungry for more wisdom about building a catering business that grows from zero to millions? Come join us at Catersource 2019!