This award is presented to individuals who are dedicated to improving the food industry by creating new pathways of success for women within their companies and supporting workplace diversity in all its forms.

2017 Recipient


President & CEO

Buffalo Wild Wings

As President & CEO of one of the most successful, fastest growing restaurant companies in the industry, and with one of the longest CEO tenures in any industry, Sally Smith’s accomplishments are not only numerous, but inspirational. She credits much of her success to her insatiable curiosity ―about how people think, how things work, and how to drive improvement.

Smith joined Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. in 1994 as CFO, became President & CEO in 1996 and took the company public in 2003. She has grown the brand from 35 restaurants primarily in Ohio to more than 1,000 locations across the globe. Smith has shepherded the brand through name, logo and décor changes, created strategies that enabled them to thrive during the recession and recovery, and propelled Buffalo Wild Wings to the 10th fastest growing chain in the U.S.

Through her own example and mentoring of new talent, Smith demonstrates tremendous respect for the possibility inherent in every position along a career journey. She has treated every assignment along her path as ripe with opportunity to learn new skills and expand her perspective. She shows all of us the value of immersing yourself fully in the work you are doing today, confident it will prepare you for new paths down the road.

Smith is known for her servant leadership style and investing significant time in the field to ensure home office decisions are really in the best interests of guests and team members. When she considers new members for the Buffalo Wild Wings team, Smith looks for people with strong passions outside of work. She knows they are likely to bring that same fire to their careers.

Smith strives to provide her team with robust clarity around expectations and seeks that same clarity around her own performance. Every year, she requests confidential feedback from her senior team to the Board to help her continue to improve always striving to learn more, to understand better how people and processes work and to drive progress.

View Past Winners
  • 2016 - Dawn Sweeney, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Restaurant Association
  • 2015 - Lorna Donatone, CEO of Sodexo Schools Worldwide and President, Sodexo North America
  • 2014 - Fritzi Pikes Woods, CEO & President, WFF (awarded posthumously)
  • 2013 - Carla Cooper, President and Chief Executive Officer, Daymon Worldwide
  • 2012 - Pat Harris, VP & Chief Global Diversity Officer, McDonald’s Corporation
  • 2011 - Denise Morrison, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Campbell Soup Company
  • 2010 - Mindy Rich, Vice-Chairman, Rich Products Corporation/President, Rich Entertainment Group
  • 2009 - Dr. Rohini Anand, SVP and Global Chief Diversity Officer, Sodexo
  • 2008 - Rosalyn "Roz" Mallet, President and Interim CEO, Caribou Coffee Company
  • 2007 - Patricia Miller Anton, President, Anton Family Foundation
  • 2006 - Julia Stewart, Chairman and CEO, IHOP Corp.
  • 2005 - Joni Thomas Doolin, CEO & Founder, People Report™
  • 2004 - Brenda Gaines - President - Diners Club
  • 2003 - Edna Morris - President - Darden Restaurants/Red Lobster
  • 2002 - Jack Greenberg, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, McDonald's Corporation
  • 2001 - Alice Elliot, President, Elliot Associates
  • 2000 - Dick Rivera, Vice Chairman, Darden Restaurants
  • 1999 - Frank Belatti, Chairman, CEO, AFC Enterprises, Inc.
  • 1998 - Jeff Berlind, Senior V.P., Foodservice Division, Cahners Business Information
  • 1997 - Gordon Teter, President, CEO, COO, Wendy's International
  • 1996 - Jackie Trujillo, Chairperson of the Board, Harman Management Corp.