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Cinnabon President Kat Cole: Hustling the Gut Bomb

How a former Hooters waitress helped turn Cinnabon into a $1 billion empire
Cinnabon President Kat Cole: Hustling the Gut Bomb

Cinnabon’s signature product is an 880-calorie cinnamon roll that the Dallas Observer has called a “gut bomb.” It’s a swirly pillow of dough dripping with cinnamon, brown sugar, margarine, and cream-cheese frosting. To call it a cult object understates the zombie-like relationship patrons have with Cinnabon’s 1,100 stores, which collectively sell about 100 million rolls each year. Cinnabon is mentioned every 10 seconds on social media. Comedian Jim Gaffigan has said the chain is run by Satan. Consumers in focus groups have told the company they often experience anxiety on their way to Cinnabon. They’re not worried about the calories, though a Classic Roll contains 330 more than a Big Mac. They’re concerned someone ahead of them might get the last fresh one. A fan on Twitter writes, “Just ate a Cinnabon while staring through a window of a gym watching people work out. This is what heroin must be like.”

It’s difficult to understand the way the Classic Roll supercharges multiple senses at once—unless you have eaten one. The plastic knife cuts through an outside that’s mildly crusty before giving way to a softer middle. Frosting melts into the ridges of the bun, which sits in a brown puddle of excess. Take a bite and the buttery flavor bathes the edges of the tongue as the gritty sweetness of sugar and cinnamon washes over the tip. The texture is lighter than expected. The sensation of pure sugar can be overwhelming. It coats the mouth and clogs the back of the throat. Halfway through the roll, the body cries out for water or, even better, Diet Coke, which has a way of cutting through the varnish laid by the fats and sugars. Deep inside the roll, the bun’s core is hot and yet just barely cooked. Once gone, the bottom of the clamshell box is left smeared like a crime scene with a mash of syrup and cream cheese. Each one is 3 inches high and 4 inches in diameter and costs $3.69.