Cameron Mitchell, CEO and Founder, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants
Cameron Mitchell’s “dish room to board room story” began when he was 16-years-old and started working as a dishwasher at a local Columbus, Ohio steakhouse. Two years later, when Mitchell was working as a line cook during a chaotic shift change, he had an epiphany. He realized he loved the restaurant business and set out to make it his lifelong career and knew he wanted to be the president of a restaurant company one day.
That evening he put pen to paper to map out his career goals, waking his mother in the middle of the night to share them with her. Those goals – to attend the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA), to become an executive chef by age 23, to be a restaurant general manager by age 24, and ultimately to be president of a company by the age of 35 – eventually were the benchmarks that would set the course of his restaurant industry career.
Mitchell graduated from the CIA when he was 22 years old and started his professional career with the 55 Restaurant Group based in Columbus, Ohio. He rose through the company’s ranks until he was directing front of house operations for the local six-unit restaurant chain. But eventually, his corporate ladder ran out of rungs. He left the company in July of 1992, and decided to start his own restaurant company. He then started mapping out his restaurant company that he wanted to build, including first and foremost, an associate-centered culture fueled by genuine hospitality.
In October 1993, after experiencing 14 months without a paycheck and overcoming numerous obstacles along the way, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants (CMR) opened its first restaurant, Cameron’s, an intimate, contemporary American bistro in northwest Columbus. Mitchell was 30 years old.
Today, under Mitchell’s leadership as founder and CEO, CMR has grown to 31 restaurants under 12 different concepts, including a highly successful catering company, Cameron Mitchell Premier Events, and a coast-to-coast 12-state concept, Ocean Prime. CMR also oversees the growth and development of its sister company, Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern, which operates 24 locations in six states.
In 2008, Mitchell’s prominence in the industry increased exponentially when he guided the sale of two of his most popular concepts – Mitchell’s Fish Market and Mitchell’s Steakhouse, a total of 22 restaurants – to Ruth’s Hospitality Group for $92 million. To this day, CMR remains independent and privately held recognizing nearly $200 million in annual revenue from its 34 restaurants and catering division.
Mitchell has built CMR around the philosophy, “The answer is yes. What is the question?” and by making a Raving Fan out of every guest who walks into the door of a CMR concept. It’s a simple statement that serves as the backbone of how the company identifies itself as “great people delivering genuine hospitality.”
With an entrepreneur’s energy, vision, passion and forward-thinking mindset, Mitchell’s sights are set on the development of new restaurant concepts, and the expansion of concepts currently in his company’s portfolio, particularly Ocean Prime. Plans include the continued introduction of this concept in major metropolitan markets across the country, including Chicago, Nashville, Houston, and other cities across the country.
Mitchell’s successes in business and keen understanding of the restaurant industry have earned him countless awards and acknowledgements. He has been recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young, as a Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration and as one of 50 New Taste Makers by Nation’s Restaurant News. Mitchell also received the Richard Melman Concepts of Tomorrow Award in 2005; a prestigious Silver Plate award from the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association; a Commitment to People Award from the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART) in 2007, and in 2008, was inducted into the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame. He was honored to be named one of five Golden Chain Winners by Nation’s Restaurant News in 2009 and was named CEO of the year by Columbus CEO in 2015.
Mitchell is regularly sought after for speaking engagements and by national business and industry publications. He has been featured in publications including: Restaurant Business, Nation’s Restaurant News, Restaurant Hospitality, Chain Leader, Restaurants and Institutions, and People Magazine. He also recently completed a “Behind the Brand” interview, which was featured on Huffington Post and Entrepreneur.com.
Mitchell is committed both to his profession and to the community he calls home. He completed a two-year term as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the CIA, the first alumnus to do so, and actively recruits and mentors current and prospective students. Today, he is the school’s largest alumni donor, having established a $500,000 scholarship fund.
Among his service to numerous local charities and committees in Columbus, Ohio, is his dedication to The United Way and the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Foundation. Mitchell is also a board member of the Columbus State Community College Foundation. The Foundation is currently working to expand the schools’ hospitality program, which is ranked as one of the top 20 culinary schools in the country. Mitchell is also an active member of the Young President’s Gold Organization, the Columbus Partnership, and he serves on the board of directors of the charter school, KIPP Columbus.
Mitchell is a native of Upper Arlington, Ohio. When he’s not working, Mitchell enjoys spending time with his wife and three children, golfing and traveling around the world.