What began as a noble quest to create the best cinnamon roll in the world has resulted in thousands of customers a day forgoing calorie counts for a Cinnabon in over 1300 locations in the U.S. and abroad. And more than 30 years later, not many can resist the siren smell of a cinnamon roll fresh from the oven.
1. The first Cinnabon location was, naturally, in a mall.
After hearing about the popularity of cinnamon rolls being sold from carts in shopping malls on the East Coast, company founder Rich Komen decided to bring the idea across the country. He hired chef Jerilyn Brusseau (who is now nicknamed the “CinnaMom”) to create the perfect cinnamon roll recipe, and after nine months of testing more than 200 recipes, the first Cinnabon location opened at Sea-Tac Mall in Seattle in 1985.
2. Focus brands, the owner of Cinnabon, runs several other mall food court favorites.
Cinnabon’s parent company Focus Brands also owns Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, McAlister’s Deli, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Jamba, and Schlotzsky’s. In total, the company is the franchisor and operator of over 6000 shops in more than 50 countries.
3. Cinnabon's classic cinnamon roll totals 816 calories.
But that doesn’t stop the company from selling over 100 million rolls each year. Every batch of cinnamon rolls starts as dough that is stretched into a rectangle, then slathered with margarine (which executives say holds up better in the oven than butter) and sprinkled with a pound of brown sugar and cinnamon.
4. Cinnabon uses its own secret blend of cinnamon in all of its baked goods.
When it comes to making the best cinnamon roll, every detail counts, and regular baking-aisle spices won’t cut it. Every Cinnabon cinnamon roll is made with a trademarked version of Korintje cinnamon called Makara. The cinnamon comes from West Sumatra province in Indonesia and is more flavorful and robust than ordinary cinnamon.
5. Kat Cole became president of Cinnabon when she was 32 years old.
Cole impressed the top brass at her college job at Hooters so much, they began sending the 19-year-old around the world to open new franchises. Cole eventually dropped out of college to take a corporate job with Hooters, and rose to executive vice president by age 26. She graduated from Georgia State with an MBA (still without her undergraduate degree) and then found sweet success as president of Cinnabon. She now serves as president and COO of Athletic Greens, a nutritional supplement company.
6. They know the smell of a Cinnabon is hard to resist.
In addition to putting most locations in malls or airports where the scent can linger (rather than as stand-alone stores), Cinnabon locations also have the ovens near the front so the scent of baking cinnamon and sugar can lure customers every time the oven is opened. Cinnamon rolls are baked at least every 30 minutes, but employees can also heat sheets of brown sugar and cinnamon just in case the smell isn’t enticing enough.
7. Cinnabon sales spike so much during the holidays, the company refers to that time of year as “Jollybon.”
Blame it on all the airline travel, but from Black Friday to January 2, national sales at Cinnabon can increase 50 percent compared to the average day. In 2014, during the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, Cinnabon expected to sell nearly 1 million rolls, which works out to roughly 8300 cinnamon rolls an hour. But the absolute busiest day of the year for the company is Christmas Eve, when some stores receive 500 preorders for sweet treats on Christmas morning.
8. One Cinnabon location has an employee with a pretty shady past.
The opening scene of Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul features lovably shady lawyer Saul Goodman managing a Cinnabon franchise in Omaha, Nebraska, which is exactly what his character foreshadows he could be doing, best-case scenario, in his final moments on Breaking Bad. “There was something so darkly delightful and so much fun about actually seeing his words realized,” Better Call Saul co-creator Peter Gould told USA Today, “that we found it hard to resist.”
9. Cinnabon was just as surprised about the shoutout as everyone else.
When starting production on Better Call Saul, Gould called up Cinnabon. The company had been pleasantly surprised by the mention in Breaking Bad and agreed to filming the new show's opening scene in an Albuquerque location. Actor Bob Odenkirk was given a crash course in all things Cinnabon and has boasted that he is still able to make a cinnamon roll exactly to the company’s specifications.
A version of this story ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2022.