Minnesota-based Steele Brands — parent to restaurant chains Crisp & Green, Stalk & Spade, and Paco & Lime — has named Kelly C. Baltes CEO. The 26-unit Crisp & Green, which has almost 200 units in its pipeline, announced Monday that its founder and current CEO Steele Smiley would step down from the position and take on a new role as chairman of the board.
“Kelly is an industry veteran, and I am confident in his ability to expand the Steele Brands’ footprint,” Smiley said in a statement. “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, left, was most recently president at Maggiano’s Little Italy. Before Maggiano’s, Baltes was the CEO at Good Smoke Restaurant Group, which merged Jim ‘N Nick’s with Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. 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. For his work in that role, NRN awarded him a Golden Chain Award in 2013.
Baltes has also held operations leadership roles at Darden, including at Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Pizzeria UNO.
“Of all of the career opportunities I’ve had, this is the most exciting one,” Baltes said. “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.