Kelly BaltesIn the six years since Kelly C. Baltes joined Cheddar’s Casual Café as chairman and chief executive, the casual-dining chain has been widely praised for its offerings and has posted significant sales and unit growth.

Today, the casual-dining chain has 144 restaurants in 25 states and plans to expand to four new states by year’s end, including Arizona, Iowa, New Mexico and Wisconsin. Cheddar’s sales in 2012 were $545.8 million, up from $438.3 million in 2011 and $363.9 million in 2010. Estimated sales per unit, according to Nation’s Restaurant News Top 200 research, were $4.6 million in 2012, up 3.9 percent from the prior year. The brand also earned a quality award in 2009 from Consumer Reports, props for its perceived value in NRN’s annual Consumer Picks survey, and the top spot in the 2012 Zagat rankings for full-service chains. In 2012, Ernst & Young named Baltes its Dallas Entrepreneur of the Year.