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#120: How Kat Cole Hustled from Hooters Waitress to President of a Multi-Billion Dollar Food Empire

About the Episode:

In today’s episode, we’re talking to Kat Cole, the Chief Operating Officer and North American President of Focus Brands—the owner behind several fast-casual food companies the likes of Jamba, Cinnabon, Auntie Anne’s and several others that add up to a whopping 5,000+ locations in the US alone.

Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, Kat’s spent most of her life in Atlanta, Georgia since she found herself on the corporate career path.

Since a young age, Kat’s been a hard worker. She mowed lawns, babysat, cleaned gym equipment in exchange for a membership, and at The Body Shop in her local mall. At the age of 17, she became a hostess at Hooter’s in order to save for college.

Kat quickly made her way up to being a waitress, worked in the kitchen, managed the restaurant, trained new employees, and was eventually asked to travel to Australia and help launch a new franchise there.

One opportunity led to another, and she became a Vice President at the company at the age of just 26. As Kat progressed in her career, it was clear to lots of people in the industry that she was an incredibly hard worker and had a knack for looking at the big picture that’s when in 2010, she was recruited by Cinnabon to come to be the President of the company where she helped the brand to add several hundred new locations and expand through partnerships with other fast-casual chains over the coming years.

In Today’s Episode, We Talk About:

[02:51] Where Kat is originally from.
03:13 The first job she had.
[04:09] When she started her job at hooters.
[05:04] How she got her first big break.
[07:43] How she became a vice president at Hooters at the age of 26.
[09:00] Her biggest challenge as a vice president at Hooters.
[14:06] Landing her job at Cinnabon and growing the brand.
16:01 The most important work she finds herself doing each day.
17:19 Why who you hire is super important.
29:58 Her best advice to anyone looking to launch a food and beverage business.

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Focus Brands

Kat on Twitter and LinkedIn

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If you enjoyed this episode of The Side Hustle Project, I would love your support. Head over to the show on iTunes or in the Apple podcast app and give us a rating please! And as always you can catch every episode on the Apple podcast app, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for tuning in.


Hi I'm Ryan Robinson

Blogger, podcaster and recovering side project addict. Head of Content at Close. Join me here, on to learn how to start a blog, make money blogging and grow a profitable side business. Be sure to try my free keyword research tool too. I also write for publications like Fast Company, Forbes, Entrepreneur, The Next Web, Business Insider, and more. Let’s chat on Twitter and YouTube about our feelings (and blogging, of course).

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8 replies to “#120: How Kat Cole Hustled from Hooters Waitress to President of a Multi-Billion Dollar Food Empire”

  1. Hi Ryan
    I really like your blog and all your Side Hustle features It is informative, inspirational, structured and well researched.
    Kudos to you and keep the good work coming.

  2. Hi Ryan

    Thanks again for an informative podcast with you and Kat Cole. You can clearly tell from the conversation that Cole has been around the block and I’m just learning a lot from her and you. Thanks bro 👍 and keep on informing and inspiring us.