In many ways, as the co-owners and co-CEOs of Mountain Mike’s Pizza, Ed St. Geme and I (Chris Britt) play the role of cupid. Does that sound odd? Of course, it does. So, let’s slice it up.  

Pizza has long been the most popular food in the country, and it seems to be gaining in popularity every year—if that’s even possible. Ed and I have recognized that pizza’s national allure is strong and limitless, fueling our decision to dive headfirst into the pizza business five years ago with our acquisition of the Mountain Mike’s brand. Cupid is clearly just symbolic of our role—simply a metaphor. However, our commitment to America’s love affair with pizza is very real. And, what drives our work is the love we feel for the people, the communities, the families and the teams who love our pizza and our legendary crispy, curly pepperoni. So, we remain dedicated to our business model, our brand promise and to ensuring that we deliver a fantastic pizza experience that’s just as attractive to new guests as it is to those who have been enjoying Mountain Mike’s Pizza for more than 40 years. 

Mountain Mike’s Pizza is not just a big part of our livelihood, it’s a big part of our lives. Although we purchased the brand five years ago, our relationship with Mountain Mike’s—and our friendship with one another—began decades ago at Stanford University in Palo Alto, where the first Mountain Mike’s restaurant opened on the edge of campus. Ed and I were student athletes, and we loved Mountain Mike’s Pizza. Long after graduating and establishing successful (but separate) investment careers, our fond memories of this time in our lives, including the great food and atmosphere we enjoyed at Mountain Mike’s, inspired us to seize the opportunity to acquire a legacy brand that baked in so much personal nostalgia—and professional possibility. 

Today, with 270-plus restaurants open across seven states, we couldn’t be prouder of our amazing franchisees and our talented franchise support team. Even more, we are affirmed and uplifted each day for the 2017 decision we made to embark on a journey together with Mountain Mike’s Pizza.  We’ve met new people and opened new locations in new markets. We’ve launched new promotions and introduced new menu items. But everything in our world that’s new rests on something that’s not—America’s love for outstanding pizza. 

What was your first job? 

CB: In foodservice, at Famous Ramos Hot Dog Place in the Brea Mall!! 

ESG: At a local car wash near my home―it was tougher work than I’d expected!

What’s your favorite menu item at Mountain Mike’s Pizza? 

CB: I have many favorites but if I had to pick just one it would have to be our legendary crispy, curly pepperoni pizza, regular or thin crust. 

ESG: This is an impossible question to answer, given many favorites, so I have a two-part answer: the crispy, curly pepperoni, but my special favorite of the month is our incredible Garlic Not-Knots.

What’s your favorite cuisine aside from Pizza? 

CB: Anything we can throw on a grill and BBQ, from burgers, hot dogs, steaks, and ribs to vegetables such as corn on the cob! 

ESG: I love Mexican.

Who inspires you as a leader? 

CB: In terms of historical figures, Abraham Lincoln for me is probably the most inspirational U.S. leader in history. Courage, vision, grit, engagement, stick-to-itiveness, love, humility—he defined the attributes of leadership and is arguably the OG of the concept in American history. In terms of my business life today, it’s truly our franchisees. The six years of our MMP ownership have been some of the most tumultuous years in foodservice in the last 50-plus years, and we’ve been blessed to see many of our franchise partners display these leadership attributes in more ways than you can count. And they do it with a smile on their face with a servant mentality and that for me has been mind blowing to watch and learn from. 

ESG: Another two-part answer: my own Dad was the most impressive and inspiring leader I’ve been exposed to, and although he passed away when I was 24, he has an ongoing daily impact on my life, thinking and actions. In addition, Warren Buffett inspires me in many similar ways as my dad. Buffett is well known as perhaps history’s greatest investor, but the way he’s gone about his 92 years is even more impressive and inspiring. The humility, common sense, empathy and care for all of those around him are a model for all of us―he has led by example. And he will go down as the greatest philanthropist of all time. 

What’s the best piece of advice that other restaurant executives should hear?

CB: Keep an open mind. Be a good listener. Learn every day. And if you focus on culture and people first, your best performance will follow.

ESG: Your guests and your people/team are the ultimate source of answers. Observe, absorb, and activate. 

What are some of your interests outside of work?

CB: Anything with our three daughters, Spring Training baseball, Hawaii vacations with my wife, reading, amusement parks, fairs, and sporting events, and, hopefully soon, golf. 

ESG: My wife, six young adult children (plus ones) and seven grandchildren are the center of my universe … spending time with them around ongoing life milestones is a constant highlight. They would say that I read constantly.

Pizza, Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs, Story, Mountain Mike's