Slutty Vegan, the Atlanta-based chain founded and led by Pinky Cole has raised the funding she needs to expand beyond her home market with $25 million in Series A funding from Danny Meyer’s Enlightened Hospitality Investments and Richelieu Dennis’ New Voices Fund, Cole told Forbes, which reported that the deal valued Cole’s company at $100 million.
Cole had hinted last fall that such a deal was in the works, when she told Nation’s Restaurant News of her expansion plans, including opening 10 units this year. She told Forbes that potential targets for expansion were Brooklyn, N.Y., and her hometown of Baltimore.
The New Voices Fund has a mission of supporting Black women as entrepreneurs and Enlightened Hospitality Investments, which raised an additional $332 million in January, seeks to take minority ownership of between $10 million and $30 million in companies with which it shares an employee-first management approach in the technology and “fine casual” restaurant segments.
“Fine Casual” is Meyer’s term for restaurants such as Shake Shack, the burger chain which he founded and ultimately took public in 2015, that serves food made from premium ingredients in a casual setting.
Twice last year Shake Shack offered a limited-time collab sandwich with Slutty Vegan, available for one day at one “shack” in Atlanta and one in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem. The SluttyShack featured Shake Shack’s vegetarian patty with Cole’s secret “Slut Dust,” plus lemon ginger kale, caramelized onions, vegan ranch dressing and vegan mayonnaise on Slutty Vegan’s signature toasted Hawaiian bun.
That was what brought Slutty Vegan to Meyer’s attention, he told Forbes, which also reported that the funding would be used to hire a chief operating officer and chief marketing officer.
Cole opened the first Slutty Vegan in Atlanta in 2018 and has since expanded it to five locations with a mission of not only introducing vegan food to a broader audience but also to help the communities she operates in by hiring people in areas of high unemployment and buying the buildings where Slutty Vegan locations operate to raise property values.
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