Sauce Boss Gang specializes in hot sauce, but the company’s wide-reaching impact is heating up the entire Columbus restaurant scene.
Nicole DiTommaso and Victoria Hyder established Sauce Boss Gang in 2019. Their collection of sauces was finalized only three months before the onset of the pandemic, requiring that they get creative with launching their products — taking to restaurants instead of shelves.
“We were going to take a traditional path of going straight to retail. That is not the case any longer. We went direct to restaurant wholesale and developed this entire program that did not exist, or was not in the plans at all,” Hyder said.
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The pair worked with DiTommaso’s connections in the restaurant industry to create ticketed events, where they served four-course meals incorporating the hot sauces — which range from savory to sweet to smoky, boasting a variety of heat levels.
When they received positive feedback about these events from customers, the pair ventured further into restaurant partnerships. Now, DiTommaso and Hyder routinely work with kitchen and bar staff to create new menu items incorporating their sauces. Ultimately, the pair said their sauces are an ingredient, not just a condiment.
Recently, the Sauce Boss Gang has developed new menu items in collaboration with Buckeye Bourbon House. Customers can look for the sauces in the new Smoke City margarita, Buckeye Bourbon House burger and Sauce Boss Gang wings.
Through their collaboration with restaurants, Hyder said Sauce Boss Gang was also able to aid the restaurant industry as it took a hit amid COVID-19.
“We leave them the sauce and the chefs kind of experiment in the kitchen. They get to create new menu items that are Sauce Boss Gang menu items,” DiTommaso said. “That helps obviously excite existing customers, you know, something cool and wild is coming to the restaurant. But it also brings new business.”
The founding duo has also served a mentorship role — bringing out passion and creativity in chefs and bartenders.
“You reinvigorate the creativity behind the bar and in the kitchen, and allow the culinary artists to really bring something completely new and different to the table,” DiTommaso said.
Although the pandemic created numerous challenges, DiTommaso and Hyder said the way their business model pivoted throughout it allowed them to emphasize the company’s belief that with hard work, anything is possible.
“It made us really go back to the heart of the culture of the company,” Hyder said. “We embarked on this with self-belief and basically, a dream.”
Hyder said she suspects the company may have actually grown even faster in the pandemic than it would have otherwise, since partnering with restaurants allowed them to put a personal touch on their impact in the community that retail sales may not have permitted.
Looking forward, Sauce Boss Gang hopes to develop new products and continue growing its restaurant partnerships. In 2023, DiTommaso said the pair hopes to open its own restaurant. When that time comes, they’ll look to harness the brand’s personality and bring it to life in its own space.
“We view Sauce Boss Gang as being independent, wild and fun. But really, it’s about nurturing talents in the people that we’re working with and seeing potential where others may not,” DiTommaso said.
This story originally appeared in Stock & Barrel Winter 2021
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