There are countless articles about the top CEOs in the U.S. Check out CNBC and Forbes, for example, and you’ll likely see the names of many successful, influential leaders who work in technology.
We often don’t hear much about folks who work in other industries, though – particularly the best restaurant CEOs.
When most of us think about restaurants, we naturally think about the food, the service, and then likely the chef. But the CEO? Not always.
Take a lesson or two from these six restaurant CEOs who have successfully scaled their respective businesses.
Christina Tosi, CEO of milk bar
Two-time James Beard Award-winning Christina Tosi is the Chef, founder and CEO of milk bar, which has been called “one of the most exciting bakeries in the country” by Bon Appétit magazine.
Here’s why Christina rocks:
- Christina single-handedly started the “naked cake” trend – cake without frosting on the outside.
- Milk Bar has locations in New York, Toronto, Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas. Christina is a role model to her team of over 200 and is also a big believer in restaurants giving back.
- Christina authored two highly acclaimed cookbooks: "momofuku milk bar" and "milk bar life."
Patrick Doyle, CEO of Domino’s Pizza
While Doyle announced earlier this year that he will be moving on from his role as CEO of Domino's in June 2018, we had to recognize the unbelievably impressive growth the company has seen during his tenure.
Remember the famous 2009 ad where Domino's admitted its crust tasted like cardboard and the sauce like ketchup? It worked. In May of last year, The LA Times reported Domino's Pizza stock is up 5,000 percent since 2008.
Here are three more reasons why Doyle deserves major props:
- Since airing that ad, Domino’s outperformed Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google with its stock going from $9 a share to over $180, according to CBS News.
- Domino’s “supply chain” is key to its success. According to Quartz, “Domino’s, built around delivery, has been quick to embrace the 21st century. But behind that flashy technology, the core of the business is still the supply chain that Domino’s has been building and fine-tuning for the last four decades.”
- The company knows its brand well: While most restaurant chains are chasing the health and wellness trend, head of digital Nick Dutch told Marketing Week, “We have a point of view on health and it will be a new frontier for everyone but we have done well the last four years by focusing on the things our customers truly care about.”
Lynsi Snyder, CEO of In-N-Out Burger
You can probably thank Lynsi for the “secret menu” trend that has swept the country – it first originated at In-N-Out. With a California-cool celebrity cult following, In-N-Out’s burgers have reached celebrity status themselves – just search #innout on Instagram.
Lynsi is a force to be reckoned with because:
Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group (UGHG)
Two words: Gramercy Tavern.
According to the USHG website, “Danny’s Union Square Hospitality Group comprises some of New York’s most beloved and acclaimed restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern, The Modern, Maialino, and more. Danny and USHG founded Shake Shack, the modern-day ‘roadside’ burger restaurant, which became a public company in 2015.”
In addition, Danny:
- Authored the New York Times Bestseller “Setting the Table.”
- Received countless recognition and awards, including the 2017 Julia Child Award and the 2015 TIME 100 “Most Influential People” list. Danny and USHG’s restaurants and individuals have also won 28 James Beard Awards.
Kimberly Grant, CEO of ThinkFoodGroup
"Kimberly Grant, my sister, my friend..." José Andrés wrote of ThinkFoodGroup's CEO.
You might know José as one of the world’s most famous anti-hunger advocates; he received the 2018 James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year award for his work following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017. However, he leaves the overall success of TFG in the capable hands of Kimberly Grant, who is spearheading the expansion of restaurants like Beefsteak and America Eats Tavern.
As if this weren’t impressive enough, Kimberly:
- Runs a company composed of 27 restaurants, including Jaleo by José Andrés and Hyde Beach, and is adding more locations to the group.
- Has worked her way to the top following 20 years of restaurant leadership at big names like Ruby Tuesday and Lime Fresh.
Lisa Ingram, CEO of White Castle System
Named 2016's CEO of the Year by ColumbusCEO, Ingram is a proven restaurant CEO. The popular hamburger chain has been passed down from generation to generation, but Ingram doesn't take the role lightly. She already made major changes to the company's 95-year long traditions, such as recruiting execs from outside of the company to encourage growth.
To cut her own path in the White Castle legacy, Ingram has:
- Received 2017's Golden Chain Award from NRN.
- Successfully brought White Castle back into an R&D phase. “We’ve done more product development in the last eight years than we’ve probably done in the last 80,” she said.
Bonus! Maneet Chauhan, Chauhan Ale & Masala House
Maneet is an honorable mention on this list; while she doesn't have the official title of CEO, she still displays all the best behaviors of a self-starter and success story all restaurant CEOs should aspire towards.
If you are a fan of the Food Network, you already know Chef Chauhan well. According to the Food Network: “After being the only Indian female ever to compete on Iron Chef and a fierce competitor on The Next Iron Chef, Chef Chauhan is now a full-time judge on the Food Network hit show Chopped, which granted Chef Chauhan the honor of receiving the prestigious James Beard Award of Excellence.”
In 2014, Chef Chauhan opened Nashville’s Chauhan Ale & Masala House; a year later, she launched Mantra Artisan Ales, a brewery and taproom in Franklin, Tennessee.
As if Chef Chauhan hadn’t already crushed it, she also:
- Was selected as the only chef to cook at the first-ever Indiaspora Inaugural Ball, honoring the re-election of President Obama.
- Authored “Flavors of My Word,” a cookbook exploring the culinary profiles of 25 countries.
- Is the only Indian female ever to compete on Iron Chef.
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