Mozzeria, the all deaf-owned and operated Neapolitan Pizzeria, has been serving up great pizza and a unique dining experience in San Francisco’s Mission District for nearly a decade. The arrival of the popular restaurant in the historic Atlas district of Washington DC in fall of 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic underscores just how successful Mozzeria really is.
The year 2020 was notoriously difficult for the food service industry. According to the National Restaurant Association, nearly 1 in 6 restaurants is long-term or permanently closed to the pandemic. Now, nearly a year into the pandemic, lockdowns, indoor dining restrictions and reduced-capacity seating arrangements continue. But while most restaurants are just trying to stay afloat, Mozzeria is expanding.
So how does Mozzeria keep growing against the odds?
Is it the classic charred, pillowy pies? The team’s ingenuity and service expertise? Or a partnership that provides back-office support and forward-facing public relations savvy? Probably a little bit of everything!
Mozzeria’s inclusive dining concept, where deaf team members communicate with deaf and hearing customers via American Sign Language (ASL), gesture, and writing, is limited to briefer takeout and delivery exchanges due to coronavirus restrictions, but the innovative deaf spirit is the same. CEO Ryan Maliszewski and his team have worked hard to create strict safety protocols for contactless service, and continued to use technology already in place—like online ordering through the website—to keep Mozzeria running smoothly and accessibly for all.
Meanwhile, when faced with an exorbitant earthquake retrofit requirement that would make it a challenge to serve diners in a pandemic-safe manner, Maliszewski and his team make the bold decision to pivot to a food truck-only approach in San Francisco. Closing the flagship brick and mortar space was a big change, but the mobility and flexibility offered by the food truck model keeps the Mozzeria pizza cooking on both coasts.
Partnership with CSD’s Social Venture Fund played an integral role in the brand’s successful expansion and operations.
With the support of business services experts behind them, Mozzeria’s CEO, Ryan Maliszewzki, and the rest of his team received more of the small business world’s scarcest resource of all: time.
With support from CSD experts in finance, legal and human resources, information technology, and communications, Mozzeria’s team is freed up to do what they do best: manage day-to-day operations and logistics, serve customers, and make great pizza! For instance, a creative team spearheaded tasks like social media management, media kits, managing press interactions and interpreter scheduling, copywriting and graphic design through the DC opening and beyond. The restaurant’s outreach continues to expand via a dynamic campaign strategy that has resulted in media coverage not only at the local, but national levels.
“The timeliness, attention, and quality of services received from [CSD] has been unparalleled, ” said Maliszewski. “On top of all this, there are no communication barriers whatsoever, so what better partner could we have as a Deaf-owned, Deaf-led business?… In all honesty, it does not feel like a ‘partnership,’ per se, as it feels like they are already part of the Mozzeria family.”
What could be better than coming together as a family around a pizza fresh from the oven?
Even though we may not all be able to gather around a physical table for a few more months, Mozzeria’s perseverance in feeding the hearts, minds and stomachs of our community continues to be a tasty exemplar of deaf success.