Introducing the CEO of Morton’s The Steakhouse

Barbara introduces the CEO of Morton's, Chris Artinian

I had the pleasure and honor of introducing Christopher J. Artinian, CEO and president of Morton’s the Steakhouse on June 16 as the keynote speaker of the Opening Session at the 2011 Hearing Loss Association of America’s Convention, held in Washington, D.C.

Morton’s The Steakhouse (formerly Morton’s of Chicago) was founded in 1978 by Arnie Morton and Klaus Fritsch. Besides the paper menu, Morton’s offers a visually presented menu. The server rolls a meat cart to the table with raw samples of the meats on the menu. This presentation includes a detailed description of the preparation of each item. As my dad, Johnny Garneau, would say: “You have to sell the sizzle, then the steak!”

About Chris Artinian

Chris Artinian, president and CEO of Morton's and his son, Peter at the HLAA Convention

Chris Artinian joined Morton’s Restaurant Group (NYSE:MRT) in 1995 and became CEO and president in spring 2010. He is recognized as making Morton’s a niche leader and the largest company-owned fine dining restaurant brand in the world. There are 76 locations in the chain. I talked to one of Chris’ regional directors, Mike Donlon, who gave me some insight to his boss:

  • Chris is more comfortable visiting the operations of the restaurants than he is behind a desk.
  • On one of Chris’ trips to D.C., his staff offered to take him to see the famous cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin. He declined and said, “No. Let’s get right to visiting operations. We can do that another time.”
  • At a national managers meeting, Mari, Chris’s wife, baked cookies out of her home kitchen for all the staff at the meeting.
  • Chris’ mother, Marianne, holds the original recipe of Morton’s famous carrot cake.
  • Chris is a NY Giants fan.

I concluded very quickly that food, entertaining and hospitality are at the very core of Chris Artinian. I told the audience of 1,400 people that Chris Artinian is the sizzle and the steak.

Why Chris Artinian as a Keynote Speaker for the HLAA Convention?
The Artinian family was the subject of the Oscar-nominated film Sound and Fury which tells the story of two brothers: Chris, who was born with hearing, and his older brother, Peter, who was born deaf. Both brothers married and both had children who were born deaf. Chris and his wife, Mari, chose to have a cochlear implant for their son, Peter. Mr. Artinian’s brother thought his children weren’t ready for such a medical procedure. The differences tore the family apart. The families have come full circle since then.

Chris told the heart-wrenching story that he has been reluctant to talk about publicly. He was joined on stage by his 14-year-old son, Peter, who received a cochlear implant when he was a baby. Peter hadn’t planned to say anything but he was moved to speak sensing the warm reception of the audience. Peter’s goal is to become a pilot or a cochlear implant surgeon and to go to his father’s alma mater, Villanova University. Chris and Mari have five children and they live in a suburb of Chicago. You can view the video of Chris’ keynote speech here on the Hearing Loss Association of America’s website.

People clamored to meet Chris and Peter; you could hardly get near them. The Opening Session was followed by a reception sponsored by T-Mobile. Let’s just say, there was hospitality everywhere that evening!

We’ll Meet Again in Chicago, August 27

I’ll have the pleasure of introducing Chris again in Chicago on August 27 at the Chicago Walk4Hearing Kickoff lunch. Chris and Mari Artinian will be there with their five children. Morton’s has a Walk team and Chris will be there to help kickoff the Walk4Hearing which will take place on October 15. Go to for more details. If you’re in Chicago on August 27, be sure to RSVP and come to the kickoff event. See you there!