Rick Silva, chief executive of Checkers Drive-in Restaurants Inc., appears Feb. 17 on the CBS reality television program “Undercover Boss.”
While the show features Silva working in restaurants in disguise and revealing himself at the end, he flips the script on what viewers typically see on the show when he temporarily closes one of the restaurants after finding the location’s general manager to be running his shift below operational standards.
Aside from that instance, he said the rest of his time as a team member was a positive, enlightening experience.
“I was incredibly motivated by the people we saw in the eight days I [filmed the episode],” Silva said. “One of the employees who trained me at a brand new prototype in Mobile, Ala., named Johanna has all the capacity to become a great manager. As a result of my learnings there, we’re trying to find more people like her. As we grow at the pace we have, the ability to find people like her is key.”
The Tampa, Fla.-based Checkers Drive-in Restaurants Inc. operates or franchises 800 Checkers and Rally’s quick-service restaurants in the United States.
Chief development officer Jennifer Durham said the national reach of “Undercover Boss,” as well as the social media activity it generates, gives Checkers more legitimacy and awareness to customers and potential franchisees.
“Since commercials for Rick’s episode started airing last Sunday [Feb. 12], we’ve had double the normal numbers of franchise inquiries,” she said.
Silva spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about how his experience has inspired new corporate programs from the unit level.
Why did you go undercover?
We are very excited to tell our story about growing revenues, profits and unit counts. The success we’ve had the past five years has come in large part from a dramatic change in our operations standards and in our menu. I was incredibly proud to see these employees train me flawlessly and to see the changes we’ve made absolutely are driving results.
What happened with the unit you had to close?
This one restaurant had a brand new general manager, just put in the position, and he wasn’t running the restaurants to the standards we expect. There was nothing posing a danger to our employees or guests, but his tone with his team members was different, too terse. I came to the conclusion that he wasn’t prepared to run that shift and wasn’t convinced that when I walked away the restaurant would provide the level of service we need. Employees need to hear the kind of leadership I expect, and general managers need to provide support and coaching. We closed the unit down during that Sunday night shift temporarily. The next morning, it reopened with a new manager, and it’s been running fantastic since then.