There is a new show on CBS called Undercover Boss. CEO's from top companies go undercover within their organizations to see how their companies are being run and to see if there are improvements that can be made to make them better. Tonight's segment was on Hooters, a worldwide restaurant chain. It was interesting to watch this episode, having spent thirty plus years in the food industry. I've never stepped foot in a Hooters restaurant because I think it is degrading to women and based on the lawsuits over the years, they have discriminatory hiring practices.
The CEO, Coby Brooks went undercover at several of their restaurants in Texas. Mr. Brooks stepped into the role of CEO when his father appointed him to the position (having not discussed it with him prior to the announcement). The assignments that he took on, over the one week that he was undercover, was that of assistant manager, entry level kitchen worker, worker in the processing plant and marketing team member. As part of the marketing team, he went out on the street with the marketing team to find out what people thought of Hooters. Two women told him that they felt the restaurant was degrading to women and they'd never bring their daughters into a place like that. Ya think ? And he seemed very surprised by those revelations. When the "Hooter girls" are given t-shirts as their uniform, they are available in sizes from extra small to small. Hmmmm.... The manager at one of the stores was trying to decide what waitresses to send home, due to business slowing down on their shift. The manager held "reindeer games", which involved a contest to determine which one of the waitresses could eat a plate of baked beans the fastest with their hands behind their backs. How degrading ! The CEO, Mr. Brooks was really upset by this manager's action and at the end of the show admonished the manager and told him that he needed to publicly apologize to his staff for his actions. What do you think the patrons of that restaurant thought as the contest took place in that restaurant ? Probably the same as I feel about this restaurant chain. Nothing I saw tonight changed my mind.
The last place the CEO visited was to the processing plant where the sauces and dressings are made for the chain. He had worked there as a young man but had not visited there much since his father's death. His father's office was at the processing facility and his father was often seen walking throughout the plant, talking to the employees about their families and their jobs. This CEO, heavily disguised with a beard cover, safety glasses and a hat over his hair, worked with a young man who was filling buckets with wing sauce. While chatting with the employee, he discovered that morale had declined in the plant due to the boss's lack of interaction with the employees. The employees didn't feel that he cared about them and it had affected morale. I found out, firsthand as a supervisor, how important morale and keeping a connection with all of your employees is to having a cohesive, productive work environment. When I first started as a food service director, and had only one unit to oversee, I made it a point to walk through the facility every morning and talk to the workers. As our operations grew and more and more units were added to our department, I did not always have the time to walk around to talk to everyone in the units on a daily basis. This bothered the workers to the point that they called Human Resources and told them about it. Back then I found it frustrating that I had to discuss this with HR but in looking back on it, I realize that my discussions with my employees made a real connection with them and that they missed that interaction and direct contact with me. It truly makes a difference in your staff and I once again made it a point to get out to all the units, at least weekly, to talk to the people who were "the face of our business". I think that Mr. Brooks learned how important that interaction is when he visited the processing plant and hopefully he'll try to visit there more often.
While he's at it, with positive changes and all...he might want to have a sanitation course for his employees. I found it really disgusting that the kitchen workers, who were prepping chicken wings one minute, took out the garbage the next minute and never removed their aprons as they slung the yucky bags of garbage into the compactor. Ewwwww....And if you could have seen how gross those kitchen floors were after a busy spell....Oh My... I think a little more emphasis should be placed on clean, sanitary facilities than on making sure the "Hooter Girls" have their make-up on, hair styled, nice tight shirt in place, etc. And as far as helping your sagging sales in a slow economy....sadly I'm sure there will always be a steady stream of testosterone driven young (and old) men at their door to buy wings and beer. Such was a week at Hooter's....next week it's 7-Eleven. Wonder what wonderful things we'll learn about Slurpies....