As Rick Silva’s turn on “Undercover Boss” began this past Friday, he spent time singing the praises of his company’s high standards. The CEO of the Checkers and Rally’s fast-food burger chain demands “perfection,” he said, and makes regular use of focus groups to test the chain’s burgers.
But on his in-disguise visits to three restaurants, he heard an entirely different story. His company’s infrastructure is lacking, and you can’t hear orders on the speaker system at the drive-through. Buttons are mislabeled at the preparation stations. Some of his floor managers have barely received any training. But the real eye-opener came from working alongside three rank-and-file employees. The trio of crew members who found themselves training a man named “Alex Garcia” taught him what perfection is really about.
Take Todd, a member of the grill and fry station at a branch in Homestead, Florida. He needs his job not just for his own livelihood but also for his mom’s. And so he endures the abuse of the store manager, who threatens his employees with physical beatings to get them into line. But when questioned outside by a man whom he presumed to be a random contestant on a reality show — Silva in disguise — about the situation, Todd overcame any fear about standing out and stands up. The treatment makes him feel “worthless,” he told Alex.
And so it’s exactly in that spirit that he approached Stevens, the manager in Homestead who bullied Todd and threatened the other crew members. “He’s barking orders,” was how Silva described Stevens’s conduct. Silva called him out for being disrespectful, and when challenged over his own alleged lack of experience in fast food management, Silva can’t help but identify himself. He comes out as company CEO. “Do our advertisements say we serve lukewarm burgers?” he added as a dig.
Then Silva took the extraordinary measure of closing down the branch on the spot. He assured the workers no jobs were going to be in jeopardy, a claim that would be a bit hard to believe were it not for the CBS cameras following him. But he nevertheless gave Stevens more chances to explain himself, and goes on to learn his manager was working without full training. “If the rest of my journey continues like this, all of our amazing results could be at risk,” he observed.
Indeed, Silva’s time on “Undercover Boss” was a true chance to see the chinks in the armor of the fast food empire with 20,000 employees in more than 800 restaurants. He used the reveal to champion the trio of workers, but also make use of the insights he gleaned. Johanna, who ran circles around him in Mobile, had also told him about a lack of incentives for crew members. She found this particularly frustrating given the rewards program for managers, who wouldn’t be anything were it not for their workers, she noted. And so Silva announced a new program for all team members. And as for Johanna, he told her he will be personally taking her on as his protege as part of a new training program. She’s also to be promoted, which will come with a 25 percent raise. And to boot, a $20,000 reward, which elicits a singular heartwarming shriek.
Joyce will be getting a new speaker system, Silva notified her in her reveal. He also handed over $20,000 with the requirement she spend half on herself. She responded by saying she’ll use the funds to buy an urn for her brother. And in her honor, a new council will be created at the company where employees can share ideas. Silva was particularly impressed by her suggestion that desserts be selected with regional interests in mind, as opposed to a blanket offering for all 30 states the chains appear in.
Todd received $15,000 for expenses to help his mom, as well as the guarantee that all costs will be covered so he can finish his culinary training. And Silva also confirmed to Todd that Stevens is being retrained before announcing a new training program in which respect and values will be receiving greater emphasis.