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Alumni in Action: Anthony Lambatos

Alumni in ActionAnthony Lambatos“I grew up saying I’d never be in this business, but here I am.”

Anthony Lambatos, the owner and CEO of Footers Catering at Social Capitol, couldn’t be happier about that now, but it took a while.

Lambatos was raised in a restaurant family. His father cofounded Footers Restaurant in 1977, and added Footers Catering in 1981.

“My dad loved it,” Lambatos recalled. “He’s so passionate about hospitality. He spent all of his time in it.” That led to Lambatos being a little resentful at times. “My sister and I joked that if you wanted to see dad you had to go to work.”

As a teen, Lambatos bused tables at the restaurant and worked catering events.

“It was fun, and it was a great job to have. I recruited all my friends to come work for us when we were in high school,” he said.

Anthony Lambatos running track at OHSAfter attending a private school from fourth to eighth grade, Lambatos went to Overland High School, where he played football, basketball, and ran track for four years. He was part of the yearbook staff, served as class president his junior year, and student body president his senior year. After graduating in 2000, he headed to the University of Oregon to study business, economics, and sports marketing. Strangely enough, that led him back to his family business, working for his dad.

“I always thought that I was going to do something different,” he said. “This was my dad’s passion, not my passion.” However, a conversation with a mentor changed his mindset. “I was lamenting that I should have been a college basketball coach. He was asking why, and I was giving him all these reasons about strategy, game plan, recruiting people to come be part of the team, getting to work together, and he said, ‘Anthony, you can do all that at Footers.’ That’s when my perspective really changed.

“I realized I get to come to work every day and bring all these people together and give them the tools they need to be successful, help them grow, and really create an environment where they have fun, and they love what they do,” he added.

Footer's Catering leadershipSo, Lambatos set about creating what he calls a “heart culture” at Footers Catering, since his dad had closed the restaurant some years before. In 2009, he and his future wife, April, who also worked in the hospitality industry, decided they wanted to buy the business.

“I was really ready to stop working for my dad,” Lambatos said. “We had some different philosophies and I think I was probably too young and arrogant, and he was too old and stubborn, so there was a lot of friction there.”

Lambatos’ father agreed to sell, and now, 15 years later, the couple has built a national reputation for creating a positive culture in the hospitality industry, which is something of an anomaly.

“The hospitality industry has been notorious as not a great place to work,” Lambatos explained. “The throwing of pots and pans, and accepting high turnover has been the norm.”

However, Footers has 50 full-time employees, many of whom have been there for years. They have embraced the company’s mission of “Love what you do, Make it better every day, and Create exceptional experiences.”

Other companies started to take note of Footers culture. Company leaders asked to visit Footers, to observe and learn. That led Lambatos to found another company in 2018. It’s a culture and leadership development company called “mibe,” which stands for “make it better every day,” the second tenet of Footers mission statement.

“I want to create more heart leaders who are committed to having that impact and helping people find more joy and fulfillment in their lives,” Lambatos said. “That’s my overall goal.”

Mibe now offers a range of leadership development and intentional culture building programs, including mibe Monthly, mibe Masters, Heart Leadership Workshops, and the annual mibe Summit.

Thanks to the great team he has at Footers, Lambatos can spend about half his time on mibe, and the other half on high-level planning for the catering company. Footers survived the COVID-19 pandemic, and in 2021, bought a 47,000 square foot facility which houses its offices, kitchen, design studio, warehouse, and a 22,000 square foot event space called Social Capitol.

Life is full for Lambatos and his wife, who now have an almost-nine-year-old son and a seven-year-old daughter. Still, Lambatos makes time to serve on the Hospitality Pathway advisory committee for the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus.

Looking back, Lambatos realizes that his time at Overland helped prepare him for his pathway of purpose.

“One of the things I really appreciate was the diversity of the school,” he said. “To be in that environment and to interact with so many different people was invaluable. For me, it was formative.”

Being a ‘Blazer and going from a freshman who didn’t know anyone, to president of the student body, helped Lambatos develop the confidence and heart leadership skills he now shares with others.

The Footers theme for 2024 is “Never settle” and Lambatos remains focused on continuous improvement, constantly looking for new ways to “make it better every day.”

Posted 4/2/2024.