After developing nearly a dozen brands since 1993, Cameron Mitchell, president and founder of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants  in Columbus, Ohio, sold four of those brands late last year to the parent company of Ruth’s Chris  Steak House for $92 million in cash. Fonder of creating concepts than opening hundreds of identical units, Mitchell believed his largest chain, the 19-unit Mitchell’s Fish Market , along with the other sold brands, would meet their growth potentials under the guidance of a company with more financial muscle and expansion expertise.
Would you call your company well capitalized at this point?
That really depends on how you look at it. The development of restaurants requires tremendous amounts of capital, and so you’re always in the capital acquisition mode.
Explain your thinking behind the Mitchell’s Fish Market sale.
We had too many restaurants [that] we were trying to grow and develop at one time, and it wasn’t fair to our people, our associates, to ask them to grow all those brands…[and] to the standard we wanted. It also was time to reward our partners and pay down our bank debt. We also wanted to get some growth capital [and] I wanted to be in the creation and development of new brands again.
Would you sell additional brands to fund further development?
My goal has always been to build an extraordinary restaurant company, and things become problematic if your prime motivation is to build it and sell it. To say I would or wouldn’t sell one of our brands would be pure speculation at this point.
How do you balance being a creative restaurateur and a businessman?
I guess I’m left and right brained. I love running restaurant businesses, but I love the creativity of it, the creation of new menus, new concepts—that’s the fun part of the business. I’d probably go crazy if all I was doing was building restaurant number one to 100. I admire those who do that, but I need the creativity of developing new ones.