FOCUS Brands, the franchisor of iconic brands Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, Cinnabon, McAlister’s Deli, Moe’s Southwest Grill, and Schlotzsky’s, announced that Kat Cole has been named chief operating officer and president, North America. In this new position, Cole will lead the company’s domestic franchise brands in addition to its licensing division.
“Leveraging her deep industry experience and track record of achieving step-change in previous assignments at FOCUS Brands, Kat’s thought leadership, broad executive experience, and exceptional communication skills position her well to enable our brand leaders to drive our business with accelerated energy,” says Steve DeSutter, CEO of FOCUS Brands. “Those who have ever met Kat know that she is a uniquely skilled leader. She’s purpose-driven and has the demonstrated ability to bridge the worlds of franchising, large global brands, innovation, and entrepreneurship with her collaborative management style.”
Paul Damico, who previously held the position of president, North America, has been named chief executive officer of Naf Naf Grill. “Over the past nine years, in his role as president of Moe’s Southwest Grill and most recently as the leader for all of our brands domestically, Paul had made a big impact on our business and helped us achieve impressive results,” DeSutter says. “It has been a pleasure to work with him, and we truly wish him the best as he takes on this next new role.”
FOCUS Brands is poised for growth in the industry. As a leading developer of global multi-channel foodservice brands, FOCUS has more than 5,000 locations globally and is experiencing growth that is being driven by its focus on consumers, technology, and multichannel development to grow existing markets and bring its concepts to new markets in exciting and relevant ways.
Cole joined FOCUS Brands seven years ago as president of Cinnabon and for the past three years has served as president of FOCUS Brands Global Channels group. She has had a central role working in partnership with DeSutter to design and deploy the company’s multi-brand and multi-channel operating model designed to accelerate growth by leveraging the strength and collective power of the company’s multiple brands.
“There has never been a more dynamic time for our brands to stand out in their respective categories. Being bold, purpose driven, authentic, and results oriented are central to optimizing our opportunities and impact,” Cole says. “I’m thrilled to leverage the company’s talent, technology, and capabilities to connect with our fans, stand for something that’s clear and connected through all we are and do, and drive growth of our amazing brands and businesses with our franchisees and licensees.”
Cole has a long leadership history within the industry, including on the Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF) Board of Directors since 2009, Executive Committee from 2012 to 2015, and Chair of the Board in 2015 and 2016. She has a deep connection to purpose and global impact through humanitarian work globally, serves as a member of the United Nations Global Entrepreneur’s Council, and participates in organizations and initiatives in the U.S. and in Africa to help individuals and villages elevate themselves out of poverty.
Recognized for her ongoing impact, Cole was named one of FORTUNE Magazine’s “40 under 40”; named to CNBC’s top 25 Disruptors, Innovators and Leaders; and received the Distinguished Young Alumni award from Georgia State University J. Mack Robinson School of Business. She received her MBA from Georgia State University and honorary doctorate from Johnson and Wales University.