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Recognizing 100 CEOs & C-level Executives

Cheryl Whiting Kish

Chief People Officer

HOA Brands

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Founded: 1983

Industry: Hospitality - Restaurants

As the chief people officer of Hooters of America (HOA Brands), Cheryl Whiting-Kish wants people to know who Hooters Girls are, what they have contributed while working for the brand, what they’ve learned, and how strongly they feel about their connection to the brand and the opportunities it has provided. She is uniquely qualified to share this message because she was a Hooters Girl.

Whiting-Kish began her career with HOA Brands in 1987, working as a Hooters Girl at a West Palm Beach restaurant. She worked her way through operations management and, in 1993, became vice president of HR and training, the first female vice president in the company’s history. In 2002, Whiting-Kish founded Define Consulting, a firm she ran for 17 years before returning to HOA in 2019 as senior vice president of organizational effectiveness. She was promoted to chief people officer in 2022.

As a leader at HOA, Whiting-Kish strives to make a difference in the world by improving the lives Hooters serves, including team members, guests and communities. “We are in the people business,” she says, “and our people are our priority.” This is accomplished by actively providing a beneficial workplace environment for all team members. HOA translates its commitment to upward mobility into action through competitive compensation, leadership training, tuition reimbursement and more.

Inherent talent in the industry and determination helped Whiting-Kish climb the HOA leadership ranks, and she is well aware of her position as a role model. As such, Whiting-Kish is passionate about lifting up the women in her organization, especially those who have “worn the orange shorts.” Internally, the brand recognizes that more than 400,000 women have come through the brand and that each one has shaped its nearly 40-year history. Whiting-Kish is determined to inform vendors, franchisees, customers and onlookers about the true meaning of these powerful women. Knowing there’s more to a Hooters employee than meets the public eye, she seeks to share these stories through a passion project called HER Story. On International Women’s Day, she formally launched the Hooters Women in Leadership Forum series.

More than a decade of experience as an executive coach gave Whiting-Kish the expertise and confidence to navigate uncharted territory. “I remember being so nervous negotiating a very robust consulting contract with the CEO of a very large organization,” she reflects, “but during the process, I summoned the confidence needed to recognize that we were the experts and that he needed the services we could provide.” Ultimately, she won the contract, and the results of the engagement exceeded expectations.

At HOA, Whiting-Kish remains dedicated to empowering the people around her, no matter who they are. Her advice to Hooter Girls looking to move up the ranks? “Be willing to look in the mirror, own who you are, and show up in accordance with your personal and professional brand as you want others to believe it to be.”

In other words, she says, “Determine what you want your legacy to be and then show up!”

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Did you know?

Cheryl Whiting-Kish greatly enjoys going outdoors. She and her husband love to take weekend getaways anywhere near water. Her heartstrings are pulled by animal advocacy and animal welfare.


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