Lots of Buffalo Wild Wings’s customers say the chain’s success can be traced to its secret sauces but many restaurant insiders say the chain’s “secret sauce” is its chief executive Sally Smith. Smith, who joined Buffalo Wild Wings in 1994 as its chief financial officer when the chain had 35 units, established the necessary framework to grow the concept. And grow it she did. When Smith joined the company there were 35 units, processes were non-existent, and the company’s finances were near ruin. Smith, who was named president and chief executive in 1996, made a number of tough decisions that turned the tide. She changed the name and logo, closed underperforming units and updated and modernized the units, among other strategic moves. Fast forward to today and Smith has evolved into one of the most admired foodservice executives today, leading a chain of 720 restaurants across 44 states. She is the newest chairman of the National Restaurant Association, an IFMA Gold Plate winner and an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Title: President and chief executive officer
Concept, headquarters location: Buffalo Wild Wings, Minneapolis, MN
Number of Units: More than 720 restaurants
Newest Ventures: International expansion into Canada
Hometown: Grand Forks, North Dakota
Education: University of North Dakota with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Accounting degree.
First Restaurant Job: Waitress – lunch at Windmill Restaurant in Grand Forks, ND
What do you cook at home: A lot of new recipes that my daughter finds and wants to try.
Pick your final meal: Spaghetti, a great salad and garlic bread
First dish prepared as a child: Ginger cookies – dipping the bottom of a glass into a bowl of sugar and pressing down the cookies
Favorite part of the job: Meeting team members and listening to their stories about Buffalo Wild Wings
Best stress management: A long walk!
Best Advice Ever Received: TTSP – This, too, shall pass.
Favorite Book: Usually the one I’m reading!
Hobbies: Travel, time with family and friends, golf, and reading
Personal: Two adult children
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