Today, Kat Cole is group president of FOCUS Brands, which owns Cinnabon, Schlotsky's, Auntie Anne's, Seattle's Best Coffee and other food service companies. But it all started with a pair of orange hot pants, when a 19-year-old Hooters girl, having worked every job at the infamous restaurant, was asked to go open the very first Hooters franchise in Australia. Cole served as one of the keynote speakers at CUNA's GAC.
When she was asked by a leader of the National Organization for Women--in the midst of a radio interview with NPR, no less--how she could call herself a women's advocate an yet work Hooters, Cole took a second to think before she responded. When she did, she talked about her pride in everything the restaurant chain has built, including one of the strongest reimbursement programs in the hospitality industry, and her gratitude for the opportunities she received, far outweighed any concerns she might have had about working for a restaurant more well known for its beautiful, buxom waitresses than the food.
While credit unions don't generally have to contend with such negative perceptions, Cole noted a number of lessons she learned first at Hooters and then throughout her career since can just as easily be applied to the movement. "We have to remember, if we don't, the competition will," Cole said. "But the other side of that is, just because we can doesn't mean we should. These have been my guardrails."
Another gem she said CUs should keep in mind as they head to hike the Hill to lobby their lawmakers this Wednesday, "if you don't have a seat at the table, you're on the menu," she said, quoting her mother. "But don't confuse having a seat with having a voice."