Kat Cole of Cinnabon Wins GRACE Distinguished Service Award
Kat Cole, COO, Cinnabon, Inc., was honored at the 2010 Georgia Restaurant Associationâ€™s Crystal of Excellence Awards (GRACE) with the Distinguished Service Award.
Kat Cole has spent a career building an international brand and mentoring countless women, and now she is on a new adventure as COO for Cinnabon, the market leader among cinnamon roll bakeries that operates more than 770 franchised locations worldwide.
Prior to her role with FOCUS Brands at Cinnabon, Inc., was Vice President of Training and Development for Hooters of America, Inc., the international company that operates and franchises restaurants and manages the Hooters Brand Entities and generated approximately $1 billion in annual revenue.
Itâ€™s where she got her start in the restaurant industry. She was first hired as a hostess at a Hooters in Jacksonville because she wasnâ€™t yet old enough to be a Hooters Girl and serve alcohol in the state. As soon as she turned 18, however, she went through her first day of training to become a Hooters Girl.
She has built on that first day of training with more than a decade of multi-disciplined experience, Kat is widely known in and outside of her industry for mentorship and development, and is a sought-after speaker and consultant in the field of leadership development, strategic communications, personal branding, and leveraging social media and technology to enhance brands, professional networks and philanthropic initiatives.
Her own philanthropic involvement includes serving on the board of directors of the Womenâ€™s Foodservice Forum and the Certification Governing Board for the NRAEF. She is also chair of the board of directors for the GRA and is president of the GRA-PAC. She is an avid volunteer with organizations that support women and children in need and fighting hunger and homelessness. On top of all that, she is currently pursing her MBA at Georgia State University, and is set to graduate this December.
What restaurant industry means to Georgia: It is a foundation upon which this stateâ€™s culture and economy is built. Whether itâ€™s the actual â€œbusinessâ€ of this industry and the many chains that have grown here, or the mere act of gathering at a great Georgia eatery with friends and family, dining in Georgia is a foundation of all of our families, our business lives and our economy. It is comfort, not only in what it provides by way of sustenance, but also by way of being a workplace with arms open wide to all those who have the â€œwant toâ€ to serve others.
Major trends: Innovations that lead to capturing market share and providing cost savings will be top priority. Surviving by acquiring or being acquired, running lean or changing your business model. Also, customer service and volunteerism will increase. Now more than ever, our guests need an escape from reality, and our industry is always the go-to place in tough times. Those operators who master service inside their four walls and out will no doubt be more successful long term, even through tough times.Â And lastly, green initiatives will continue to grow and be a focus of consumers â€“ not only to reduce the carbon footprint of our operations, but to support local industry that is so vulnerable to market fluctuations.
Industryâ€™s most pressing challenges: Customers having the disposable income to spend in our restaurants, regulatory changes (food safety, healthcare, employment law, banking), and exterior expenses as an employer (taxes, healthcare, wages) that may cause local restaurants to go out of business.
Advice to those just starting out: Take care of the employee first, then the customer; treat it like itâ€™s your own business; and SAVE MONEY! If youâ€™re not sure what to do, always ask these three questions: Is it good for my guests? Is it good for my employees? Is it good for my business?Â If the answer is yes to all three, then do it!
Greatest accomplishment: My greatest accomplishments are the people I have mentored and developed. They have taught me so much about myself and life and are the very reasons I am able to do all the volunteer work that I do. I am also proud of my work with food banks across the country and in places like Rwanda to elevate and educate women. This industry has been very good to me, and itâ€™s the least I can do to give back every chance I get.