Elegant furnishings and soft lighting create a lavish atmosphere for dining in the Blu Lounge of Mitchell’s Ocean Prime restaurant in Atlanta.
By Liz Barrett
Ohio restaurateur Cameron Mitchell credits his success to
aggressive marketing and following the “golden rule” in
Cameron Mitchell knew from a very young age that he was destined for the restaurant business, and once he had his plan in place, nothing could stop
him. Today, Mitchell owns more than a dozen award-winning restaurant locations across the nation under the Cameron Mitchell Restaurants ( cameronmitchell.com) umbrella
and shows no signs of slowing down. His concepts include
Marcella’s Italian Kitchen and Martini Modern Italian, both
in Columbus, Ohio, along with Cameron’s American Bistro,
Molly Woo’s Asian Bistro, Cap City Fine Diner & Bar and
His success can be attributed to a combination of factors,
including the company’s dedication to its employees, Mitchell’s natural-born marketing instincts and a deep love for the
Mitchell recently sat down for an interview with PMQ Pizza
Magazine to discuss the challenges of running multiple concepts, his most successful promotions, and one of the biggest
mistakes he has seen restaurant marketers make.
How did you get started in the restaurant business?
I started washing dishes as a junior in high school 32 years
ago, and I fell in love with the business. After high school, I
was working at a local restaurant in Columbus and had an
epiphany that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of
my life—I wanted to be in the restaurant business. I went
home and wrote out my goals and woke my mom up at 1:00
in the morning and told her my plans to attend the Culinary
“The brand image is everything, and that takes
years to build and days to ruin.”
Institute of America, become executive chef, general manager, then regional manager, then VP of operations. But the
ultimate goal was to be president of a restaurant company by
the time I was 35. So that’s what I pursued. By the time I was
in my late 20s, I got hired as a sous chef at a local restaurant
company, which had one restaurant. They built a second restaurant, and I became executive chef. Then, after four or five
more restaurants, I grew into the general manager [role] and
oversaw operations of six restaurants. I eventually hit my head
on the ceiling and decided it was time to start my own restaurant company. We opened my first restaurant (Cameron’s) in
October 1993, when I was 29 years old.
How did you get the idea to develop
several different concepts?
I saw Rich Melman with Lettuce Entertain You, Buckhead
Life Restaurant Group in Atlanta, and other multiconcept operators around the country. That’s where I got the idea and
decided to become a multiconcept operator here in Columbus.
What are the pros and cons of a multiconcept setup?
In all the restaurants I equate it to the chassis being the same—
the accounting system, the cultural philosophy, the way we operate, etc. The window dressing is the body of the car, meaning