We were fortunate enough to get a chance to sit down and have a wonderful discussion with VP of Operations at Shenandoah Provisions, Massanutten Resort’s food and beverage provider., Mark Litz. Enjoy.
What’s it like managing resort restaurants? How does it differ from the average restaurant?
“One of the things I’ve seen when you are working for the average restaurant that’s not a resort, you kind of have one theme that you’re working with.” He begins. “Your clientele is your clientele.”
Massanutten Resort is home to several dining spots, of them under Mark’s management being the Campfire Grill, Base Camp, and Virginia BBQ & Pizza Co. Each of these locations offer a unique flavor and dining experience. At the Campfire Grill, you’ll really get the feel of the great outdoors in an indoor setting; a smoky after smell of a dying campfire mixed with a crisp, earthy sensation come to mind when you take in the rustic wooden architecture. Virginia BBQ & Pizza Co. resonates of warm days down south where the smell of homemade BBQ is a permanent fixture. Meanwhile, Base Camp has somehow captured the feel of home with their set up – couches, chairs, end tables, signature bar and fire pit help make this a popular stop.
“My clientele changes – always. So we are always looking at a very diverse crowd.” He explains that these restaurants have to continuously take into account seasonal variation: a winter, fall, spring and summer crowd as well as and what he refers to as “empty nesters,” who know what they like. It’s a contradictory ebb and flow, but thanks to Mark and his team’s dedication, one they’ve been able to master.
“You kind of have to play with it a little,” he says when talking about deciding on everything from menu items, to décor, to overall theme. “ He accredits this as a positive though, stating “There’s definitely a little more flexibility [than your average restaurant]. The great thing about that is that it doesn’t become humdrum.”
If you were to describe the Campfire Grill with just 3 words, what would they be and why?
“The first word that came to me was comfortable. It’s a comfortable atmosphere. It’s outdoorsy and that’s what we’re all about, you know? Massanutten is out here in the middle of the woods on 6,000 acres of land; lots of wildlife and things like that. So it’s in that theme of the outdoors world. We wanted to bring the camping indoors!”
“It’s accommodating because number 1, we try to make sure that we accommodate everything we can for you.” You’ll find that you wont have to compromise when you’re dining at Massanutten Resort. From different seating areas to additional off-the-menu add on items, they will always do their best to make sure guests have a satisfying meal.
Many people might associate resort-style dining with resort-style price, but here at Massanutten you can expect your dollar to go further. “It’s not going to break your bank,” he says encouragingly. “You’re not going to turn around and say ‘Oh my god, I spent a lot of money!’”
Your favorite thing on the menu?
Litz reflects on his hiking journeys with their Executive Chef, Mike Ritenour, attributing many of Campfire Grill’s menu items to these exploration trips. He jokes, “It’s great to travel with a chef, you eat good, always! One day I just turned to him and said ‘Hey, what do you think about creating a menu with all of your camping stuff we’ve eaten over the years?’”
The response was the birth of the Campfire Grill. When you go camping there’s not a very large menu you can play with, but take a chef along and the outdoor smells and ingredients become a palette for all kinds of delicious concoctions! These hikes turned into the heart of the concept for the Campfire Grill, which features a menu ranging from things like warm soups and fresh salads to pan fried trout and burgers. To see the full variety of the Campfire’s menu, click here.
“I guess I’m a little biased… there’s two things on the menu that I just really love.”
- Chicken and Dumplings – Home cooked rotisserie chicken served with local vegetables and fluffy dumplings.
- The Pizzas – Unlike many main pizza restaurants who use chain-driven ovens, Campfire Grill uses a classic slate hearth oven, which means crispier, bold texture and flavor.
What does an average day look like for you?
His response if a very hearty laugh. “The first thing that I’ll tell you is that I’m blessed. I love what I do.”
The main factor that goes into Mark’s everyday schedule at Massauntten is that there is no routine schedule. On a normal day you may find him in an important meeting, responding to emails, or handling other VP stuff, but the next day you’ll find him in the kitchen cooking with the chefs or out on the floor with the rest of his staff. Thanks to prior work experience, he is also heavily involved in any of their new construction or development projects in the restaurants.
“I would tell you almost every day is never the same. It’s about teamwork and it’s about being a good leader.”
What is your favorite thing about being a part of the Massanutten family?
“I’ve been here going on 23 years. I handle the never-ending development. The great thing is that we’ve always been given the freedom to develop. It gives us all the ability to create and have fun doing what we’re doing.”
Litz went through paramedic school, followed by work in the field for 14 years in South Florida. Something was missing though.
“I knew I needed the mountains back in my life. I came up here and I fell in love with the Valley.” A born and bred New Yorker, Litz has touched on most East Coast points, finally decided the Shenandoah Valley was a place worth staying. If there’s anything that speaks volumes, it’s his warm personality and dedication to our Valley, and ultimately to Massanutten Resort.
Massanutten Resort is always a great place to stay – especially if you’re a food lover who seeks adventure. You can check out more of their expansive amenities here. We’d like to thank Mark Litz for his time and authenticity.