Cameron Mitchell started as a grill cook at Max and Erma’s years ago and almost got fired. It will open its 100th restaurant this summer.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — 2023 was a landmark year for both Cameron Mitchell the man and Cameron Mitchell the company.
“I love being Cameron Mitchell,” the restaurant mogul said. “You know, I’m very proud of that. My family would be proud, I think.”
2023 marks his 30th anniversary, the opening of his 100th restaurant, his 60th birthday and 28th wedding anniversary. This is also the year that Cameron Mitchell will open his first restaurant on the glittering strip of Las Vegas.
“I am the head of our company, there is no doubt about it. But everything we do at Cameron Mitchell Restaurants is a collaboration.”
He calls all these milestones a group effort. It’s all about the team.
Always humble, but not too shabby for a high school dropout who nearly lost his job as a cook at Max & Erma’s at 18.
“I was always late for work. “I was just working for beer money, lazy, you know,” Mitchell recalls. “I was suspended for a few days and then given 30 days probation.”
That’s when Mitchell has an epiphany. He loved the restaurant business and told his mother he wanted to be president of a restaurant company by the time he was 35.
“She was relieved and excited,” he said. “The next day I went to work. So, I’m the laziest guy in the kitchen on Fridays. I’m the hardest working guy in the kitchen on Saturday. I have the worst attitude in the kitchen on Friday. I have the best attitude in the kitchen on Saturday. On Friday I worked for a man. On Saturday, I worked for my future and my career.”
But Cameron Mitchell exceeded his aspirations. Not only did he become president of a restaurant company, he became president of his own restaurant company.
This is a company that puts people first.
“Our associates come first, we call our employees associates,” he says. “I look at it as a triangular relationship. We care about our people. Our people care about our guests, and our guests care about our company through repeat business.
The company culture he created has made Cameron Mitchell Restaurants a place where people want to work.
“You know, we’re closed on major holidays because I worked on holidays. I don’t want to work on holidays,” Mitchell said. “We can make a lot more profit if we work on some of these busy, busy holidays. It’s not worth it. We say that associates come first in our company.”
Mitchell is living proof of what a second chance can do for someone, which is why he says he runs the Second Chance Company.
“I always joke, if you meet somebody who got fired from Cameron Mitchell’s restaurants, give them a pat on the back because they worked hard for it,” he told 10TV. “I use my story. If I had been fired from Max & Erma’s back then, as a troubled young man, who knows where I would be now.’
The veteran restaurant also gives back. One of his greatest achievements is Mitchell Hall, a culinary school and restaurant at Columbus State College.
Now, as he enters what he calls the fourth quarter of his career, Mitchell is starting to look ahead in a new direction.
“I’ve certainly exceeded my goals and aspirations and so on, and so I’m turning around to some extent. I’m trying to think more about legacy, more about traveling with my wife, spending more time with my children and one day my grandchildren,” Mitchell said.
However, he still has goals he wants to achieve. So it doesn’t look like retirement is too close for Cameron Mitchell. When asked which of the many restaurants he liked best, he simply said “the next one.”
As of May 2023, Cameron Mitchell’s next restaurants to open are Cento, his 100th restaurant, which will open in German Village in June. Plus, there’s Valentine opening in Dublin that month, as well as Ocean Prime opening this summer on the Las Vegas strip.