June 16th, 2014
Inside The Mansion Grand
At 141 Mansion Avenue at Great Kills Harbor in Staten Island, New York, you will find an elegant restaurant called the Mansion Grand. It is by far my favorite restaurant in my former hometown and I have never turned down an opportunity to dine here. Over the years my parents have grown close to the owners of the Mansion Grand and made this interview a reality. Formerly known as the “Marina Grand,” this Italian food oriented restaurant has evolved much since its 1986 inception. Whether you’re looking for catering, fine dining, or the bar and grill, the Mansion Grand has plenty of mouth-watering menu choices to meet your needs. Jim Tepedino, who is a part owner of the restaurant, was more than willing to meet with me and answer some questions from someone who has no idea what goes on behind the scenes of a successful Italian restaurant in the city that never sleeps.
Can you tell me a little bit about your self and your restaurant?
I have 18 years experience in the restaurant business. I’m happily married with three 3 children. The Mansion Grand is a casual waterfront restaurant that serves Italian style seafood. We have a bar that seats 12, our downstairs seats 46, and the upstairs catering seats 100 people.
What are some pros and cons being in the restaurant business?
Some pros are the excellent profit potential, socializing with customers, and creativity with menus. Some downsides, however, are the long hours, weekends & holidays, high staff turnover, customer complaints, over regulation, and the subject to downturns in the economy. Overall, when the business is thriving then being in this business can be a great deal of fun.
Has there ever been an uncomfortable situation with a customer due to a food complaint? And if so how was it handled?
Unsubstantiated complaints on social media can ruin business. And there have been a few incidents where the food was not cooked properly, or to the customer’s satisfaction at least, and we give them either a gift certificate or complimentary dinner as a type of refund. There was actually an incident when a woman complained about how hot her lobster was so we put it on the refrigerator to cool it off a bit.
Are there menu favorites and do you have a personal favorite item on your menu?
I would have to say that our lobster specials, seafood pasta dishes, and short ribs are our most popular dishes; my personal favorite will always be the lobster.
(Above is the main dining section of the Mansion Grand)
What lead you to a career in the food industry?
I started as part time server/bartender in college and eventually became a chef/owner as my interest in the business continued to grow. I really enjoyed being a bartended because each and every night was completely different than the last. You never knew what to expect on a given night. One memorable story from my bartender days was my first experience of a bar fight. These two men were arguing about a football game and eventually got arrested because of it. Stupid on their part but it made my night.
What are your specific responsibilities as a part owner of a popular restaurant?
My main responsibilities are ordering supplies, scheduling, paying expenses, creating the menu, hiring staff, and preventing theft. Other than that a restaurant owner’s job is really to just fix any problems within the business and assure a smooth overall operation.
What’s your secret to keeping customers coming in? How do you go about promoting your restaurant?
Social media specials and events, emails, newspaper adds, and flyers are have all proven to help our restaurant thrive through the years. Low prices and good service will always keep customers coming back as well.
How did you decide on a location for the restaurant?
Well since it’s a seafood restaurant and we wanted to find a place fitting for our style of food. So, naturally, this location worked out perfect because it is right on the water in a popular marina on Staten Island.
(Pictured above is the upstairs bar of the Mansion Grand)
What have you learned about the food industry after being involved in it for many years?
The one thing I learned above all is that government rules and regulations are making it very difficult for private owners to compete with chain restaurants.
What advice would you give for running a successful restaurant?
Ownership is extremely important and must be available at all times in order to control costs, prevent stealing and to maintain a high level of customer service. Solid management and reliable workers are a must.
Describe your restaurant in 5 words.
Water view. Reasonably priced. Quality.
As an extremely biased, Italian, New York native, I highly recommend eating at this beloved restaurant. In all seriousness though, if you are a fan of seafood and you find yourself in the area then you should give it a try. Jim and I promise you won’t be disappointed.