Small Business Person of the Year

Gail Baker, executive director of the Central Ohio Restaurant Association, where Mitchell serves as chairman of the board

“He has brought the most amazing energy to the association. … He has personally made a huge difference in the way that other restaurant industry people support our political action committee. …

“He’s recognized as a leader within the industry, and I think a lot of people became more interested in actively participating in the association through his leadership. … During his presidency we experienced a 25 percent increase in membership.

“It takes a lot of time to be the president of the association as well as CEO of his company. … To put forth that kind of a commitment in a volunteer position while he was opening several new restaurants is just a tremendous commitment to the industry.”

Tom Etgen, CEO of The FiftyFive Restaurant Group Ltd., where Mitchell worked before starting his own company

“I think more than anything else he’s a visionary with regard to what appeals to his market. … What Cameron does is he does a great job of connecting with his customers, providing them food, environment and an atmosphere that they want or they desire.

“Cameron’s 35. He’s very in tune to the market in approximately that age bracket because he grew up in it. Then he combines that with his formal culinary training and his God-given abilities of being a promoter. It’s a great combination.”

Bruce Burkholder, one of Mitchell’s investors and his attorney through Wiles, Boyle, Burkholder & Bringardner Co. LPA

“Needless to say, he’s a very dynamic individual. But he’s also got excellent focus and direction. …

“While he’s a very charismatic individual, he’s a fairly demanding guy. Not in the sense of being difficult, but he lets you know what he expects and has levels of accountability associated with that. …

“Today’s day and age takes more than good food and good service to be successful in the restaurant business. You’ve also got to create an atmosphere of excitement, which he does in his restaurants. That encourages me that he could create something that would continue to grow.”

Sally Jackson, president and CEO of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, who nominated Mitchell for the SBA award

“The growth in terms of the number and diversity of restaurants he has opened successfully is really unprecedented in this whole community. Because of that, he has been able to move from a start-up to a major employer. …

“There’s no question he has a special focus on his employees. … He uses a team approach so people understand the total objectives of the restaurants and how they fit in as a member of the team, not just in individual roles. As a result, the service is smooth, the quality is high, and customers go away satisfied.

“… Through the success he has been able to demonstrate, we know he has been able to influence other entrepreneurs.”

Michael Bloch, owner and president of Michael’s Finer Meats and Seafood, a supplier and friend of Mitchell’s

“He’s a good people person. He’s got a lot of vision. He’s able to conceptualize what he wants a place to look like, and he’s not afraid to try new ideas. He travels around to get ideas from successful operations around the country. He sticks to quality, quality, quality. He will not sacrifice quality for price. And I also think he surrounds himself with good people. His support staff is outstanding. He treats them well, and they’re loyal to him.

“In my opinion, he has boundless energy. He’s young, energetic and full of great ideas.”

Sue Doody, owner of Lindey’s and a partner in Bravo!, two local Mitchell restaurant competitors

“He’s gone out and gotten local people behind him as investors. I think that’s a good thing for him because hardly anybody could afford to put up all these restaurants that he’s done without some financial backing. I think it’s interesting, too, that he’s kind of gone like Rich Mellman, a famous restaurateur in Chicago, and he’s done different concepts. That’s a difficult thing to pull off, but he’s done it quite well.

“I think his success is attributed to his researching his food, too. He does the same thing we do in traveling to the finer restaurants across the country trying to search out good items and see what the trends are.

“When I first started Lindey’s 19 years ago, I didn’t have any competition, so it’s a whole different ballpark. It makes it harder on everybody to have all this competition, but we like to feel competition breeds success. The more good restaurants there are, the more people will dine out.”