Steele Brands, a Minnesota-based company developing healthy lifestyle brands including Crisp & Green, Stalk & Spade, and Paco & Lime, announced that restaurant industry leader Kelly C. Baltes has been named Chief Executive Officer of its brand development company, Steele Brands Management. Baltes has over 28 years of restaurant industry leadership experience in both founder-led and private-equity brands. In his most recent role as President for the iconic brand Maggiano’s Little Italy, Baltes provided strategic and operational guidance to refresh the brand experience, improve guest metrics and develop the business model to unlock sustainable growth with system revenues of $425 million.
Baltes succeeds Founder & CEO, Steele Smiley, who remains the sole controlling shareholder in the business and will continue to support the company as Executive Chairman of the Board. Smiley founded the company in 2016 by opening the first flagship Crisp & Green store in Wayzata, MN. Smiley has led the company through exponential footprint growth through a franchising model, with over 200 total stores currently open or in development in 25 states.
“Kelly is an industry veteran, and I am confident in his ability to expand the Steele Brands’ footprint,” says Smiley. “Kelly and I met a few years ago, and our relationship has grown to a point where I have 100% confidence in his ability. Kelly is a true operator – he literally grew up in this business, and has played every operational role within a restaurant system, from bussing tables early in his career to CEO. But what makes Kelly the most impressive to me is his passion around people – he truly wants the best for all our employees, franchise partners and customers, making Kelly uniquely qualified to lead Steele Brands into the next phase of growth and expansion.”
Baltes has experience establishing scalable business models and significantly growing revenues across restaurant formats and brands in various stages of growth. Previous to Maggiano’s Little Italy, Baltes held the Chief Executive Operator position at Good Smoke Restaurant Group that merged Jim ‘N Nick’s and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, with system revenues of $200 million. Earlier in his career, Baltes served as Chairman and CEO to transition the founder-led Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen into a more nationally positioned chain, resulting in tripled revenue growth. Baltes also held operations leadership roles at Darden including Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Pizzeria UNO.
“Of all of the career opportunities I’ve had, this is the most exciting one,” says Baltes. “Since first meeting Steele and his team, I’ve admired what they are creating and what they have achieved. Each brand is positioned for today’s consumer, and aligned to a personal passion I have for wellness. The growth potential for these brands goes beyond national expansion and I am eager to work alongside Steele and his leadership team to continue the impressive work he started.”