How Pinky Cole Hayes Turned Slutty Vegan Into an Empire

How Pinky Cole Hayes Turned Slutty Vegan Into an Empire

Have you been “sluttified?” If you’ve ever been to Slutty Vegan in Atlanta, chances are, you’re probably now a super fan of Pinky Cole Hayes’ juicy plant-based fast food. If you haven’t tried it yet, don’t worry: your time is coming. In 2022, the celebrity-approved burger joint (Tyler Perry, Snoop Dogg, and Shaquille O’Neal are all in the Slutty Vegan fan club) secured $25 million to finance 20 new locations across the US.

But why is Slutty Vegan such a big deal? It’s all down to founder Cole Hayes’ determination, commitment, and passion for building a mission-led business. But, of course, really great-tasting food also plays a big role. Here’s everything you need to know about Slutty Vegan and where you can find it, plus a little bit more about what you can order when you get there. But just a warning: you may start to drool.

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Who is Pinky Cole Hayes?

Without Cole Hayes, it’s safe to say, there wouldn’t be a Slutty Vegan; she is the life, blood, and soul of the business. The chain’s founder, who also now owns another bar in Atlanta, is a successful entrepreneur, cookbook author, and philanthropist. But it hasn’t been an easy ride to the top.

Born in Baltimore, Cole Hayes has described herself as a “hustler” from a young age. While her father was incarcerated, her mother had no choice but to work several jobs and raise four children by herself. That hard-working spirit and resilience rubbed off on Cole Hayes.

“I just always wanted to double whatever I had going on,” she told Bitter Southerner in 2019. “I never stopped at good enough. I always wanted to just excel and exceed my parent’s expectations and to be able to put my family in a position where they didn’t have to work.”

Initially, she embarked on a career in TV production, but eventually left to start her own restaurant in New York. Pinky’s Jamaican and American Restaurant was a roaring success, but she ended up losing everything in a fire and returning to the TV world. A job with the Oprah Winfrey Network took her back to Atlanta, where she first attended university, and it was there that she decided to try pursuing a career in food again.

Influenced by her mother’s vegetarianism, Cole Hayes eats plant-based. But after struggling to find good vegan food in Atlanta, the idea for a new plant-based restaurant was born. And the rest, as they say, is history. Slutty Vegan has gone from strength to strength since it first started in 2018. And Cole Hayes has used that platform to support her community.

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The Pinky Cole Foundation strives to “empower generations of color to win in life,” and in 2019, she used it to pay off college debt for 30 students at Clark Atlanta University. She also helped provide college scholarships to the four children of Rayshard Brooks, who was fatally shot by Atlanta police in June 2020. And in the same year, she offered 30 former juvenile offenders college scholarships and jobs in her restaurants.

At the time, Cole Hayes said that helping kids in the community is what Slutty Vegan and the foundation is all about. “This is more than about burgers and fries,” she said. “It’s about helping these young men change their lives.”

The resounding success of Slutty Vegan

The idea for Slutty Vegan literally came to Cole Hayes in the middle of the night. “I sat up on my bed, and I thought, Slutty Vegan. It just came to me like a light bulb,” she said. “I immediately went in the kitchen and started thinking of recipes and names like Sloppy Toppy, One Night Stand, Fussy Hussy. And the next thing I know, I was in a shared kitchen cooking food.”

That shared kitchen led to a food truck, which opened in July 2018. The demand was overwhelming, and the success led to a brick-and-mortar location shortly after in January 2019. Customers queued for seven hours to try Cole Hayes’ juicy, loaded Slutty burgers. “This is too good to be vegan. This is really good,” Perry said when he visited. Even Usher said the patty made him feel “frisky.”

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Cole Hayes became a millionaire in less than six months, but she was far from finished. There are now 10 Slutty Vegan locations open and operating, as well as one location at the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park stadium, a fleet of food trucks, and plans to keep expanding across the country. In 2021, you could even find a Slutty Vegan burger, designed by Cole Hayes, at Shake Shack. 

“I like surprises, so I won’t give too much away,” Cole Hayes stated in an essay for Insider last year. “We’re opening more locations, and we plan to get into the TV and film industry. I don’t want to waste this opportunity, so I’m throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.”

How many locations of Slutty Vegan are there?

Right now, there are Slutty Vegan restaurants in Ralph David and Edgewood in Atlanta, GA. Across the state, there are also spots at Georgia Tech, Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park, Jonesboro, and Gwinnett County. There are also four locations currently outside of the state, in Birmingham, AL; Harlem and Brooklyn, NY; and Dallas, TX. 

In 2022, Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer backed Slutty Vegan in a financing round, which will help the chain keep expanding. “I got the Michael Jordan of food on my team,” Cole Hayes told For[bes] the Culture at the time. “I had never seen vegan food presented in such a fun way. Leaders are often defined by the degree to which people want to follow them, and I saw people following the leader,” Meyer added. 

Vegan food at Slutty Vegan

For a taste of Cole Hayes’ food, you can buy Slutty Vegan’s Slut Dust straight from the restaurant’s website. You can also order her cookbook, Eat Plants, B*tch. Or you can, of course, head straight to one of her restaurants. And when you get there, here’s what you can order. 

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1 Loaded plant-based patties

Slutty Vegan is best known for its burgers for a reason. We’re not talking about standard vegan cheeseburgers here, oh no. Prepare to get really messy. We’re talking sauce all over your face and hands, but it’s going to be worth it. Each burger option comes with a Beyond Meat patty, and then it’s loaded up with toppings like guacamole, caramelized onions, vegan bacon, cheese, vegan shrimp, salad, and the brand’s own signature Slut Sauce.

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2 Vegan shrimp

If you want to indulge in Slutty Vegan’s crispy vegan shrimp, which is cooked in a New Orleans-inspired batter, opt for the Ménage à Trois burger. The tasty handheld is loaded up with a beefy Beyond patty, vegan bacon, cheese, onions, lettuce, tomato, and Slut Sauce.

3 Plant-based bratwurst

There are two ways to enjoy Slutty Vegan’s super meaty answer to plant-based bratwurst. The first is in the Big Dawg, which is loaded up with sauerkraut and Slut Sauce. Or one of its best-sellers is its Sneaky Link, which is the same plant-based bratwurst, only this time it’s topped with beans, peppers, onions, and spices in the form of Hawt Toddy Chili.

4 Sweet jerk plantain

Plantains are a popular part of cuisine in Jamaica, where both of Cole Hayes’ parents are from. So, paying homage to her heritage, as well as vegan meats and cheese on the Slutty Vegan menu, you can also find sweet jerk plantain. For something a little sweet and savory, opt for the Dancehall Queen, which is a plant-based patty loaded with plantains, as well as onions, tomato, lettuce, vegan cheese, and sauce.

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5 Vegan chicken

If you’ve got a craving for fried chicken, don’t worry about heading down to KFC. Slutty Vegan has you covered with the Chik’n Head sandwich, which features Incogmeato vegan chicken tossed in buffalo sauce and served with pickles, ranch, and coleslaw. For the kids, you can also grab four Beyond Chik’n Tenders with fries or fruit and a carton of juice.

6 Philly cheesesteak

Traditionally, a Philly cheesesteak sandwich is slices of beefsteak loaded with melted cheese in a long, flat, hoagie roll. But Slutty Vegan has taken this concept and sluttified it, making it better than ever. The Hollywood Hooker is a deliciously messy combination of vegan steak, jalapeños, bell peppers, onions, vegan provolone, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mayo.


7 Sides

And, of course, a meal isn’t really complete without a side. And again, Slutty Vegan does not disappoint. For classic fries, order the Slutty Fries, which are regular fries covered with the chain’s signature “slut dust.” For something a little more robust, the chain’s Hawt Toddy chili—made with beans, peppers, onions, and a medley of spices—will cure any hunger pains. 

8 Sweet treats

If you’ve still got room, then Slutty Vegan also has a few options to satisfy your sweet tooth. Select locations offer slushies, sweet potato pie, dairy-free ice cream, and the brand’s own take on banana pudding, which features, wait for it, sea moss. But don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, we’ve heard it’s absolutely delicious.

For more on Slutty Vegan, read:

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