Food & Beverage

How social media drives innovation at Cinnabon

Cinnabon, sweet smell of success

The thirtysomething who helped turn "irresistible indulgence" into a billion-dollar business in four years is taking on a new challenge.

Recently promoted to group president of Cinnabon's parent company, Kat Cole is also hoping to work her magic on the five other Focus Brands chains: Auntie Anne's pretzels, Carvel ice cream, Moe's Southwest Grill, McAlister's Deli and Schlotzsky's sandwich shops.

Read MoreFrom hot wings to hot buns, Cole's sinful success story

In an interview Friday on CNBC's "Squawk Box," Cole described one of the key strategies she employed at Cinnabon. "We ask questions such as, 'What ends up in the garbage?'" She said her goal was to find out what was not selling.

Kat Cole
David A. Grogan | CNBC

Another way Cinnabon works to find out what customers like is through social media, she said. "Our ability to be very accessible on social media has allowed us to be receptive our fans' request," she said. "And that has driven in the innovation cycle of the business."

Cinnabon used Twitter earlier this month to let people know about the chain's connection with AMC's new "Breaking Bad" spinoff show "Better Call Saul."

The first episode shows viewers what lawyer Saul Goodman has been doing since changing his identity at the end of "Breaking Bad," a Cinnabon manager just as he predicted.

The other reference in that tweet was to Cole's appearance on the CBS show "Undercover Boss" in 2012.

Cole said another important lesson she learned at Cinnabon was "not to try to be something you are not."

She talked on CNBC about an ill-fated foray into low-fat and sugar free products. "No one bought them."

But Cole did say Cinnabon offers some smaller portions for customer who are more health conscience. But make not mistake, she said, "We were an irresistible indulgence."

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