Chief Executive Officer, President and Board Member of Benihana,
Thomas J. Baldwin is Chief Executive Officer, President and Board Member of Benihana, where he is responsible for more than 100 iconic Benihana Teppanyaki, Haru Sushi, RA Sushi and Samurai Restaurants.
Tom is past Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Morton’s Restaurant Group (NYSE). Tom, who led two IPO’s for Morton’s, is widely recognized throughout the restaurant industry for his role in building Morton’s The Steakhouse into a global brand and category leader.
Tom joined Morton’s when there were just nine Midwest-based restaurants as part of an LBO with a leading private equity firm. Morton’s grew to personify warm, genuine hospitality with more than 80 restaurants throughout the continental US and in Honolulu, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Macau, Mexico City, Shanghai, Singapore and Toronto.
Tom has extensive domestic and international leadership experience in growth oriented branded restaurants and consumer products, brand positioning and management, global strategy, operations, marketing and sales, people resources, real estate development, investor and public relations and franchising.
Tom is fully committed to superior people focused cultures and brands, unparalleled guest experiences, uncompromising quality standards, consistent execution and creative marketing and has deep experience with public and private company management, Board governance, capital markets, private equity, IPOs, public equity offerings, workouts, acquisitions and going private transactions.
Tom worked in the Chief Executive role on the 2010 Claim Jumper Restaurants restructuring. Earlier in his career, he was CFO for Le Peep Restaurants (NASDAQ), an innovative casual dining operator and franchisor. He also held several executive positions with Kraft (General) Foods.
Tom currently serves as a Director on the Boards of Baked by Melissa (Consumer), Flynn Restaurant Group and Metro Dunkin Donuts (NYC Franchise).
He had been a Director for the Boards of Bravo Brio Italian Restaurants (NASDAQ), Caribbean Restaurants (Burger King sole Franchise, Puerto Rico), Charlie Brown’s Restaurants, EveryWare Global (branded consumer and food service products manufacturing, distribution and marketing) (NASDAQ), Firebirds Wood Fired Grill Restaurants, Home Run Inn Pizza (branded grocery frozen pizza, distribution, restaurants and real estate), Lone Star / Texas Land & Cattle Restaurants, Marie Callanders / Perkins Family Restaurants, McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood,ROI Acquisition Corp (NASDAQ) and Zoe’s Kitchen (NYSE).
Tom was identified as “All Star CEO the Best and Brightest” by Restaurant Finance Monitor. He is a Sommelier (Guild of Sommeliers – First Level.) and has been a frequent speaker at domestic and international professional, industry, and investor events.He has been quoted in major print media and has made multiple TV appearances.
He has been active in fund raising for Cardinal Hayes High School, the South Bronx High School which he attended. He is a past Chairman and Board member of the March of Dimes and has been active in several other professional, civic and community service organizations.
CEO and Founder, Brownie Brittle
Sheila G. Mains grew up spending Sundays with her mom and grandmother in the kitchen, making meals and desserts for the week. She watched as her grandmother rolled out dough for rugelach, a family favorite. She helped her mom package and freeze dinner entrees and mix batter for brownies using an old family recipe. The kitchen was always Sheila’s comfort zone, but she figured she couldn’t make any “dough” baking, so she went to business school.
In 1992, forty-something Sheila was laid off from her CFO position at an industrial advertising agency. Finding herself at a crossroads, she took stock of her strengths. Her training was in finance. Her passion, though, was baking. Her fudgy, rich brownies always received two thumbs up from friends and co-workers. So, she thought, why not trade bean counting for baking?
She baked dozens of brownies in her oven at home and delivered them to local stores and cafes. Within months, there was so much demand that Sheila moved her business to a commercial kitchen and began selling party platters and gift tins filled with her delicious brownies.
She soon had a booming business and her own “hotline”, 1-800-BROWNIE. One day she received the call of a lifetime. The executive chef of Epcot at Disney World had tasted her brownies and wanted to place an order––for 37,000! That amazing partnership continued for 24 years.
Her next creation was a flash of brilliance. Like many brownie aficionados, Sheila was particularly fond of the crispy edges. She spent many afternoons walking through the bakery gathering the brittle batter off the sides of the sheet pans as the brownies cooled in their racks. It had that same rich chocolate taste, but with an amazing crunch. The challenge was developing a recipe to make pans full of crunchy brownies.
Thankfully, she figured it out. Brownie Brittle™ opened up an entirely new, thin, crispy, sweet snacking category. Sales grew from $500,000 to $28 million within 18 months. Today there are over 50 million bags on store shelves.