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2012 flashback: Cinnabon CEO on 'Undercover Boss'


I'm posting this story now because Atlanta is featured on a January 22, 2016 episode of "Undercover Boss" and the original story was on a different blog platform that is no longer available except on archive.org. (Thank you, archive.org for saving this!)

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed November 14, 2012

Kat Cole, CEO of Sandy Springs' Cinnabon, dons a blonde wig to throw employees off the scent. CREDIT: CBS

If smells could waft from a TV, this Friday’s “Undercover Boss” on CBS [this is written in November, 2012 mind you] could make your home seem like the local mall.

The concept of the CBS show hasn’t changed in its four seasons: A corporate bigwig dons a disguise to learn more about his or her company from the ground up.

In Friday’s installment, the show’s cameras luxuriate over the aromatic sticky, sweet buns from mall staple Cinnabon as the plot focuses on Kat Cole, chief executive officer of the Sandy Springs-based company.

But fooling employees has gotten more complicated as the show has grown more popular. In this case, “Undercover Boss” sets up Cole as a reality show contestant competing for funds to open her own cupcake shop. As a would-be entrepreneur, she spends a few days at Cinnabon to learn about running a business.

The brunette CEO dons a fake-looking blond wig and pretends to know very little about the company she runs in real life. Her employees appear to fall for the ruse, though a customer at one point whispers in her ear, “Is this ‘Undercover Boss’?”She laughs him off, saying, “I wish!”

To divert employee suspicions, the show hires a chipper pseudo-TV host.

“That threw them off,” Cole says. “They’re thinking, ’ ‘Undercover Boss’ doesn’t have a host. This can’t be ‘Undercover Boss’!’ It confused them enough.”

In many ways, “Undercover Boss” is an hour-long infomercial as long as the CEO acts professionally. In this case, Cole comes off as sweet as a Cinnabon.

And given her svelte figure, Cole says people frequently wonder if she even eats her own product: “I am an indulgent human being. I just love our product. The mini-buns are only 320 calories. And I get most of my exercise running around malls and airports.”

Cole, a Jacksonville native, was “Undercover Boss” before in a brief cameo when Coby Brooks, then-CEO of Atlanta-based Hooters was featured in 2010. She was a vice president for Hooters at the time. In fact, she was a Hooters girl in her younger days before moving into upper-level management in her mid-20s. Early in the episode, she even meets with Brooks to talk about his experience. He encouraged her to do the show and just be herself. “You’ll be a better person when it’s over,” he said. (Brooks left Hooters and now is helping out with a similar restaurant concept called Twin Peaks.)

On TV

“Undercover Boss,” 8 p.m. Friday, CBS


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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.