In 2005, Greg Lippert returned to Mazzio's Corp. after leaving the Tulsa-based restaurant company for a two-year stint as chief marketing officer for the fast-casual Italian chain Fazoli's.
But the former senior vice president of marketing, research and development and 19-year Mazzio's veteran was hired this time to head the company founded by Ken Selby 46 years ago. "I came back because Ken offered me the job of president and chief executive officer,” Lippert said, and because of his strong belief in Selby's business philosophy. Since then, the one-time corporate marketing pro has overseen a number of transformations at the company that started as a pizza parlor near the University of Tulsa. Change is inevitable in the increasingly competitive restaurant business, and Mazzio's has evolved along with consumer trends and technology advances. The company also last year sold its Zio's Italian Kitchen division to better focus on Mazzio's. "Change is important to success,” Lippert said. And in the industry today, "what have really changed are the demographics.” Mazzio's revamped its restaurant name and design, menu offerings and even how it prepares the food to address a busy population that is aging, eats out more and is looking for quicker, healthier choices. In a recent conversation with The Oklahoman, Lippert shared some of his early career aspirations and talked about the company he heads that has stayed competitive for almost 50 years. Q: Where did you grow up, and when did you get your first taste of the restaurant business? A: I grew up in Cincinnati, and I worked in restaurants in high school and in college as a waiter and in restaurant kitchens to help pay for school. Q: But you didn't go right into that business after college. Did you consider other careers? A: I started with photography in high school, and realized in college I could sell the pictures I took and make money taking pictures at fraternity and sorority parties and then selling them. I spent several summers working with programs in northern Minnesota and Canada teaching kids to canoe and live in the wilderness. I thought about being a television reporter, and one of my most exciting things I ever did during college was an internship one January with NBC. I shadowed news correspondent Erick Burns when he covered the murder trial of former Olympic skier Spider Sabich in Vail, Colo. I also traveled across the state for a comprehensive study of Indiana's prison system. I used my college life to explore and better understand what was out there for me after I graduated. Q: Why did you choose to take a job with Proctor & Gamble? A: I always had an interest in marketing and being involved in the process of creating new ideas. I always thought that was where my strength was. After Proctor & Gamble, I became a brand manager at the Seven-Up Co., which was then part of Philip Morris Co.
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Personally speaking•Position: President and chief executive officer, Mazzio's Corp. •Birthdate: Feb. 20, 1955 •Family: Married 29 years to Elizabeth Lippert; daughters: Nicole Lippert Overland, 27, and Sarah Lippert, 25; son Peter Lippert, 21; and three grandchildren. •Education: Graduated from DePauw University in 1977; graduate studies at University of Cincinnati. •Favorite pastimes: Snow skiing in Colorado and Utah, trout fishing, golf and restaurant touring.