Kat Cole

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Kat Cole
Kate Cole.jpg
Born (1978-03-18) March 18, 1978 (age 43)
OccupationChief operating officer of Focus Brands

Katrina "Kat" Cole (born March 18, 1978)[1] is an American businesswoman. She is the former Chief operating officer and president of North America for Focus Brands.[2] She is a former president of Focus Brands' subsidiary Cinnabon, an American chain of retail bakeries specializing in cinnamon buns.[3] Prior to that, she was an executive vice president of Hooters.

Early life[edit]

Cole was born the eldest of three sisters in Jacksonville, Florida, and raised in Orange Park, Florida. Her mother divorced her father (a Vietnam War veteran) when Cole was nine years old, and raised the three girls as a single mother.[4]


Cole received her MBA in 2010 from Georgia State University.[5] She had dropped out of her undergraduate engineering program at the University of North Florida to focus on her global career at Hooters, so she had to take the GMAT and extra interviews to apply.[6] She was only allowed to attend the Georgia State MBA program, since they are one of the few schools that allow experienced students who did not receive a bachelor's degree to apply.[7] She also asked ten CEOs, including Ted Turner, for letters of recommendation to the business school program.[8]

Early career[edit]

Following her mother's divorce, Cole began working to help pay some of the family expenses.[9] Cole worked at The Body Shop before starting her career at Hooters as a hostess.[10][11]

During her first year waitressing at Hooters, Cole covered varied positions from manager to cook, nearly every position at the restaurant.[12][13] Upon her manager's recommendation as the Jacksonville franchise's best employee, Cole was sent to Sydney to train and motivate the new owners and employees at the opening of the first Hooters in Australia.[10][14] She continued to travel overseas to train employees in Hooters Restaurants abroad.[15]

She became a vice president at age 26.[16] As the vice president of training and development, Cole oversaw the growth of Hooters, from approximately 100 locations and $300 million in revenue to 500 locations in 33 countries and $1 billion in revenue.[10][17]

Tenure at Cinnabon[edit]

In November 2010, Cole was hired by Cinnabon Inc., and was named president in January 2011.[3] During the first three years of her tenure, Cinnabon added 200 bakeries, created partnerships with grocery stores and restaurants like Taco Bell and Burger King, and became a global brand in 56 countries.[18][19] Cinnabon's 2013 sales was estimated at a billion dollars.[13]

Cole worked anonymously in several of Cinnabon's retail and production roles during her appearance on the American television show Undercover Boss.[20] At the time the show aired in 2012, she was 34 years old and the youngest CEO to appear on Undercover Boss. Among a number of other awards and accolades,[3] Cole was also recognized by Fortune Magazine in 2013 for its 40 under 40 list.[21]

In the winter of 2015, Cole moved to become group president of Focus Brands, the company that owns Cinnabon as well as Moe's and Auntie Anne's.[22]

Non-profit and humanitarian work[edit]

Cole in Ethiopia

Cole has worked in Africa for sustainable development of women and children in need.[23][24] She has also volunteered and advocated for many food service related organizations.[3][16] Additionally, Cole serves as a mentor to young women and entrepreneurs.[12]

Awards and memberships[edit]

  • A part of the board of directors for the Women's Foodservice Forum[25]
  • Motivator of the year award by Elliot Leadership Institute (2008)[25]
  • Serves as the chair of the Certification Governing Board for the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (NRAEF)[25]
  • Awarded Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence (GRACE) Award (2010)[25]
  • Serves as past chair for Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) on the executive committee[25]
  • Women's Foodservice Forum volunteer of the year award (2007)[25]
  • She has been a chair for many committees and projects of organizations dealing with food service and hospitality[25]
  • Ranked No. 40 in Fortune's 40 under 40 top young business stars (2013)[26]

Personal life[edit]

In 2015, Cole became engaged to Daley Ervin. The couple married in 2016 at Burning Man.[27]


  1. ^ Hong, Edward. "A Cinnabontastic Birthday to Kat Cole + A Cinnabon Love Poem". The Cinnabon Monster. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  2. ^ "www.focusbrands.com/management"
  3. ^ a b c d "About Us – Management". Cinnabon. Archived from the original on September 22, 2014. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  4. ^ Schrager, Allison (June 6, 2016). "How Kat Cole went from a Hooters waitress to the president of a break dancing". Quartz. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  5. ^ "Kat Cole: Executive Profile & Biography – Businessweek". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  6. ^ Kowitt, Beth (September 23, 2013). "From Hooters Girl to the corner office". Fortune Magazine. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  7. ^ Clifford, Catherine. "How Kat Cole Went from HootersGirl to President of Cinnabon by Age 32". Entrepreneur.
  8. ^ "Cinnabon CEO Kat Cole Discusses Her Rise to the Top". ABC News. July 5, 2014. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  9. ^ Lutz, Ashley. "A 35-Year-Old Former Hooters Waitress Now Runs A $1 Billion Company". Business Insider.
  10. ^ a b c Bull, Roger (January 24, 2011). "First Coast native wore the Hooters shorts, now calls the shots at Cinnabon". The Florida-Times Union. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  11. ^ Bryant, Adam (July 19, 2014). "Kat Cole of Cinnabon, on Questioning Success More Than Failure". New York Times. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  12. ^ a b "Sweet success for Cinnabon's 35-year-old president (video)". Undercover Boss. June 2, 2014. 11Alive. WXIA. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  13. ^ a b Stanford, Duane (September 26, 2013). "Cinnabon President Kat Cole: Hustling the Gut Bomb". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  14. ^ Gallo, Carmine (July 2, 2014). "'No Borders, No Boundaries': Cinnabon's Kat Cole Shares Her Recipe For Success". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  15. ^ Grant, Adam (March 17, 2014). "How to Succeed Professionally by Helping Others". The Atlantic. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  16. ^ a b Clifford, Catherine (August 19, 2013). "How Kat Cole Went from Hooters Girl to President of Cinnabon by Age 32". Entrepreneur. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  17. ^ Goudreau, Jenna (November 27, 2012). "From Hooters To Hot Buns: How Kat Cole Turned Cinnabon Into A $1 Billion Brand". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  18. ^ Dunn, Laura (August 8, 2013). "Women in Business: Q&A With Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon". Huffington Post. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  19. ^ Dishman, Lydia (April 9, 2014). "How Kat Cole Operates Cinnabon Like A Tech Startup". Fast Company. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  20. ^ "Cinnabon – Kat Cole". Undercover Boss. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  21. ^ Arora, Rupali; et al. (September 19, 2013). "Fortune's 40 under 40 – The hottest young stars in business". Fortune Magazine. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  22. ^ "Kat Cole Reflects on Sweet Success at Cinnabon https://www.cnbc.com/2015/02/28/kat-cole-reflects-on-sweet-success-at-cinnabon-and-beyond.html"
  23. ^ Moler, Aly (July 15, 2014). "FIRESIDE CHAT WITH KAT COLE: YGL, PRESIDENT OF CINNABON, AND LOVER OF RWANDA". Global Shapers Community. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  24. ^ Polish, Joe (November 14, 2013). "The 6 Things I Like Most About Kat Cole". Genius Network Insights. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g "Cinnabon About Us". www.cinnabon.com. Cinnabon, Inc. Archived from the original on September 22, 2014. Retrieved December 18, 2014.
  26. ^ Arora, Rupali; Benner, Katie; Bradley, Ryan; Cendrowski, Scott; Dunn, Catherine; Epstein, Eli; Grandel, Stephen; Giammona, Craig; Kowitt, Beth; Leahey, Colleen; Lev-Ram, Michal; Mangalindan, JP; Newmyer, Tory; VanderMey, Anne; Vella, Matt; Roberts, Daniel; Sellers, Patricia. "Fortune's 40 under 40 – The hottest young stars in business". fortune.com. Time Inc. Network. Retrieved December 18, 2014.
  27. ^ "Steph Grant Photography Kat Cole Burning Man Wedding to Daley Ervin by Steph Grant". Retrieved April 26, 2019.