Steele Brands Names Restaurant Operations Leader as CEO of Steele Brands Management

by Katie Lee

Minneapolis — Steele Brands, a Minnesota-based company developing healthy lifestyle brands including Crisp & Green, Stalk & Spade and Paco & Lime, has named restaurant industry leader Kelly C. Baltes as chief executive officer of its brand development company, Steele Brands Management. Baltes has over 28 years of restaurant industry leadership experience in both founder-led and private-equity brands. In his most recent role as president of Maggiano’s Little Italy, Baltes provided strategic and operational guidance to refresh the brand experience, improve guest metrics and develop the business model to unlock sustainable growth with system revenues of $425 million.

Kelly Baltes

Baltes succeeds Steele Smiley, founder and CEO, who remains the sole controlling shareholder in the business and will continue to support the company as executive chairman of the board. Smiley founded the company in 2016 by opening the first flagship Crisp & Green store in Wayzata, Minn. Smiley has led the company through exponential footprint growth through a franchising model, with more than 200 total stores currently open or in development in 25 states.

“Kelly is an industry veteran, and I am confident in his ability to expand the Steele Brands footprint,” says Smiley. “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.”

Crisp & Green.

Baltes has experience establishing scalable business models and significantly growing revenues across restaurant formats and brands in various stages of growth. Previous to Maggiano’s Little Italy, Baltes held the chief executive operator position at Good Smoke Restaurant Group that merged Jim ‘N Nick’s and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, with system revenues of $200 million. 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. Baltes also held operations leadership roles at Darden including Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Pizzeria UNO.

Crisp & Green was founded in 2016.

Steele Brands is the brand development company created by Steele Smiley. The company is focused on partnering with experienced franchise owners to bring healthy lifestyle brands to national scale with a local touch. Its portfolio includes three fast-casual restaurant brands: Crisp & Green, Stalk & Spade and Paco & Lime. The company has more than 200 restaurants built and in development across all three brands in 25 states. For more information, visit

Crisp & Green was founded in 2016 by CEO Steele Smiley on the belief that nourishing a healthy lifestyle goes beyond the kitchen. The fast-casual destination is experiencing rapid national growth. For more information, visit

Stalk & Spade.

Stalk & Spade is the nation’s first plant-based, fast-casual franchise restaurant. Its restaurants offer a full selection of familiar American grill favorites, including lunch, dinner and frozen treats. For more information visit

Paco & Lime is a Mexican kitchen whose first restaurant will open in first quarter 2023.





SOURCE: Steele Brands

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