Continue to Site

    What Inspires FOCUS Brand's Rock Star President Kat Cole

  • Kat Cole has had one of the industry's most inspiring and impressive careers.

    focus brands / Steph Grant Photography
    Kat Cole believes the ability to pivot and innovate is massive.

    There was no point where I thought: Foodservice is the place for me. I started in retail, yes, but in fairness I was 15 and worked multiple jobs so none of those things were my career aspiration—it was working in chemical engineering and being an attorney. I just fell in love with the people side of the business, the direct impact that comes from this business, the fast pace. It was a combination of loving the consumer element and the employee element and also being challenged by the high growth. Still today, it’s not so much that I say, “Wow, I just love foodservice.” I love the concept of impacting people’s lives, and that can be done in many industries.

    I’ve continued to double down in this industry ironically because I haven’t had to stay narrowly in restaurants per se; it’s more about being in serving people and impacting their lives through product. At FOCUS I’ve been able to do that through CPG, through multiple brands, and certainly through franchising. On the side, I invest and advise early-stage startups. What is so beautiful about franchising—and restaurant franchising in particular—is it’s where Main Street meets Wall Street. It’s the entrepreneurial spirit, which is so inherent in brick-and-mortar restaurant operations, paired with big-brand global potential impact that continues to provide challenges and opportunities.

    One of my favorite quotes that I use all the time—it’s a version of what my mom shared with me but I’ve reinterpreted it—is, “Don’t forget where you came from, but don’t let it solely define you.” We always want to look at our roots, but our roots should not become our anchor. In foodservice, the ability to pivot and innovate is massive.

    What still inspires me about the industry is the continued change and evolution and innovation that’s happening, whether that’s embedding technology, changing the business model, getting narrower with the product offering, or getting more robust in the product offering. There’s so much I continue to learn from that short cycle, and that’s what really excites me.


    What’s your favorite type of food beyond FOCUS Brands?

    I’ll build the healthiest bowl I can, and usually it’s a lot of greens, avocado, fresh chicken, and citrus, so kind of Latin American–inspired California health bowls.

    Who has inspired you as a leader?

    In terms of pure grit and get-shit-done, it’s my mom because she raised my sisters and me as a single parent. Outside the industry, I’m also super impressed with Brian Chesky, founder and CEO of AirBnb, and Dara Khosrowshahi, who was the CEO of Expedia and is the new CEO of Uber—Brian being the founder and just scaling over time, and then Dara being sort of the classic hired-gun CEO that’s done amazing things.

    What are some of your interests outside of the business?

    I’m the mother of a 5-month-old, so my hobbies are spending time with my husband and my newborn and just enjoying life: spending time in beautiful places, breathing fresh air with people I love, and figuring out how to be a mom.