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Slutty Vegan CEO talks new cookbook, plans to go global

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NEW YORK (AP) — Over the past few years, Atlanta-based restaurant Slutty Vegan has garnered a cult following with its raunchy take on veganism.

Celebrities often come for a visit. And customers routinely wait through long lines to order from the chain’s cheeky-named menu, which includes the “One Night Stand” burger and slutty fries.

Owner Pinky Cole opened the first brick-and-mortar location in 2018 in Atlanta, where the famous burger joint attracted a mostly black clientele. Since then, Cole has added new locations in other parts of Georgia as well as Birmingham, Alabama and Brooklyn, New York.

This month, she’ll embark on a five-city tour to promote her new cookbook, “Eat Plants, B(asterisk)tch: 91 Vegan Recipes That Will Blow Your Meat-Loving Mind.” The Associated Press recently spoke with Cole about her business, her new cookbook, and how she’s preparing for a potential economic downturn. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: How did you start your business? And why did you decide to go with a steamy name?

A: So I started my concept in my two bedroom apartment while working full time as a casting director. The idea came to me out of nowhere. Little did I know that a side business would turn into a $100 million brand. I thought I was doing something personally for me. But I was really doing something for people who want to reinvent food in a different way. The name was a catchy way to grab people’s attention. I knew ‘bitch’ and ‘vegan’ didn’t go together. They are so oddly different that if you put them together it would make people wonder.

Q: Speaking of your previous career, how did you transfer your broadcasting skills to the restaurant industry?

A: I know what people pay attention to. I know what bothers them. I know what drives them to connect. I learned that while working in television as a producer for the Maury show. I’ve also worked on more therapeutic shows, so I know what draws people’s emotions. Our marketing is racy, raunchy, and face-to-face. I produce TV every day.

Q: The chain limits customers to two burgers per order. Have you dealt with any complaints about this?

A: No. It’s funny. People don’t even complain about queuing. We make the limit because there is something about the art of rarity that people have fallen in love with. If you make it available to them sometimes, but not all the time, it will keep them coming back. Another reason we implemented the limit was to ensure the experience was efficient for customers. We are still a small business. So the policy might change in the future as we grow.

Q: Many fear that we will soon have a recession. Are you preparing your business for one?

A: Yes, we are currently in the process of doing so. You know, it’s a very scary thing. Even for someone who just raised $25 million, you’d be surprised how quickly you can lose it if you’re not aware of how you’re spending the money. We strategically develop a game plan. Once upon a time, we only focused on brick and mortar locations. But it takes almost a million dollars to build a physical site. Now we are focusing our energy on buying food trucks.

Q: Do you plan to go global?

A: We have already obtained trademarks internationally. So we prepare. But I can’t say yet what we are preparing for.

Q: Who is the new cookbook for?

A: It’s for the meat eater. Vegans have already figured this out. No limitations – very good food. It happens to be herbal.

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