photography by Douglas Wagenhauser
For much of his career, Charlie Morrison has been a turnaround guy, working with ailing companies to transform lagging profits and weakened reputations into healthy businesses. That’s certainly been his task at The Colony-based Pizza Inn, where he was named chief executive in December 2007. Just over 50 years after Pizza Inn was founded, Morrison is working to redefine the image of the company that began as a small pizza parlor across from Southern Methodist University, and since has grown to approximately 320 franchisee-owned restaurants. The focus now: reintroducing Jo Jo, the corporate mascot; getting “back to basics” with franchisees; and establishing a strong reputation in the casual-dining business. It’s challenging work, but Morrison has a passion for the restaurant industry. With experience including stints at Boston Market, Steak and Ale, Kinko’s, and Pizza Hut, Morrison says he’s aimed to be a CEO for quite some time. “It always has been a goal of mine,” he says. “This was in the cards.”

Title/Company CEO/Pizza Inn Inc.
Age 40

Tenure

Two years; one as CEO, one as CFO


First job

Working in the parts department for TG&Y in Wichita, Kan. It was Wal-Mart before there was a Wal-Mart.


Worst job

Repossessing furniture for a rent-to-own company. I worked in collections for three months; I didn’t like what it meant.


Best part of your job

I love the restaurant business. I’ve done it most of my career.


Worst part

Dealing with difficult times, be it the economy today or the competition. With a turnaround, there are days when you have to continuously deal with the challenges of the past.


If you weren’t CEO of Pizza Inn

I’d probably be with some other restaurant company somewhere. I like the interaction with customers; I like the food in general. It’s just a passion of mine. I’ve always been excited about service-based retail.


Mentors
Gary Kusin, the first CEO at Kinko’s when I was there. Another great mentor was Joe Hardin Jr., a decorated Vietnam vet [who was with] Wal-Mart. There are a lot of people who have influenced my life.


Weakness
I tend to get frustrated trying to move things along. You could say I’m overambitious.


Book

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom


TV
My wife and I watch CSI: Miami and Brothers & Sisters, lots of news shows, and I’m a nut for sports.

Recent purchase
We bought a 35-year-old home on three acres of land. We’ve been restoring it. It’s very difficult, but you get through it—it’s never as easy as it seems.

Industry trends
People are either eating out less or choosing value over higher-ticket meals. That’s good for us—pizza is a very affordable proposition for people today. Casual dining is going through a big change, but I think we’re well-positioned.

Restaurant failures
Some companies became overleveraged, and food costs went up. It caused companies to go into a mode to cut costs and cut service and, in the restaurant business, that’s a hard thing to do. If quality and service are there, price is less of an issue. If [they aren’t], price becomes an issue.

Accomplishment
Staying married, raising a family, and becoming a CEO all at the same time.

Best advice
An adviser told me, “You never know what it’s like to have keys to the building. You aspire to be the one with the keys, but you’ll soon recognize what that means in terms of the weight those keys put on your shoulders.”

 

Weekends

I golf, I go hunting. I have four children and I spend an amazing amount of time with them.