Undercover Boss John Fuller of Johnny Rockets is No Dancing Machine

Retro diner Johnny Rockets may not be the biggest company ever featured on 'Undercover Boss,' but it probably has the best dancers. It also probably has the worst dancers, ever since President and CEO John Fuller took a crack at showing his moves on national television.

"It was definitely the most embarrassing thing I've ever done and it caused me a lot of mental anguish," Fuller laughs as he describes trying to master the signature Johnny Rockets dances performed by servers. "I'm a big guy. I'm athletic, but I just can't dance."

Still, he says his 'Undercover Boss' experience was worth the humiliation. Even though Johnny Rockets can be found in 15 different countries, on cruise ships, in airports and casinos, "We only have 300 locations in 32 states, so some people might not know about us," Fuller says. "Now they can see that Johnny Rockets is a great place to have All-American fun, to get away, and to have excellent food."


Better at cooking than dancing? Not so much

Unless, of course, Fuller is making your burger. As a line cook on New York's Upper East Side, Fuller worked in food prep for the first time in his life. He didn't do well at the fry station -- couldn't remember all the burger combinations, couldn't cook fast enough and couldn't cook well enough (his burgers were pink inside). AJay, his supervisor, a rapper outside of work who has made a number of menu suggestions to corporate but has been ignored, was patient, however, even though he tossed the meal Fuller cooked him in the trash.

When Fuller revealed his true CEO identity to AJay, he offered to put his menu suggestion, an appetizing concoction of cheese, fries and mushrooms, on the menu on a trial basis. He also offered to fly AJay out to attend the American Music Awards in Los Angeles. AJay made the most of his connections, and is now talking to record producers.


He is no dancing king

Failing at preparing food, Fuller moved on to serving food at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncansville, Conn., which is the busiest restaurant in the system and one of the few franchises that serves breakfast. This is where the fateful dancing fiasco took place. Let's just say Fuller won't be a contestant on 'So You Think You Can Dance' any time soon.

Janice, the incredibly peppy server he worked with, however, had a fabulous attitude and showed Fuller the dance she'd choreographed, telling him the corporate dances "stink." She also told him she has four children at home, that she is the main bread winner, and that that day was the 11-year anniversary of the loss of her father.

Coincidentally, it was also Foster's 11-year-old daughter's birthday. The single father of two was moved to tears when he called home to wish his daughter a happy birthday, realizing that family time is all too short, and that he was missing his girls like crazy while he was was away on 'Undercover Boss' business.

In order to help Janice spend more time with her family, he gave them an all-expenses paid trip to the Grand Canyon, where Janice said her father had always wanted to go with the family. He's also paying her extra to create new dances for the corporation. In addition, he's starting a scholarship fund for her children, donating $2,000 each for the four of them.


A sporting chance at bar tending

While most Johnny Rockets have a retro-diner theme, a few throw sports into the mix. And where there's a sports bar, there's always a bartender -- that was Fuller's next assignment. It was also where his cover was almost blown when he ran into the owner's in-laws. Fuller turned out to be better at handling that situation than he did at mixing drinks. "I don't drink that much, but when I do, I'm kind of a beer guy," he says. "I would have mixed drinks 50-50, but I found out that's not how you're supposed to do it if you want to stay in business."

AOL Jobs Asks
Undercover Boss John Fuller
5 Quick Questions

1. What was your first job? Newspaper boy in Ojai, Calif.

2. What inspires you? Trying to do the best I can with my ability to make a great life for me and my kids.

3. What is the most important trait needed to succeed? Passion for what you do.

4. What is your biggest challenge? Getting franchisees to all work the same way and have the same passion for the brand.

5. What is the best career advice you ever received? Watch the drama, don't be a part of it.

Fuller noticed that business was slow for a sports bar on a Monday night, but his supervisor, Claudia, was quick to reassure him that business does indeed pick up. Just the same, they went outdoors to pass out fliers to help drum up business. Fuller actually had a talk with that franchisee, when Claudia wasn't around, to tell him they needed to increase their efforts to find more business, or great workers like Claudia wouldn't hang around.

In order to get her to stay while they try to improve business, in the end, Fuller offered to pay her rent for a year.


Sobering moments

Fuller had what was probably his most sobering moment at the Atlantic City restaurant, where he worked with Tony, a food runner who had served three years in prison for assaulting the man allegedly responsible for his beloved daughter's death. Once he was released from prison, he lived underneath the Atlantic City boardwalk for three months until he landed the job at Johnny Rockets, which he says has given him a whole new outlook on life.

Fuller was overwhelmed by his story, and offered to give Tony $5,000 to keep a roof over his head, donate $5,000 in the name of Tony's daughter to a children's charity, and send him and his other children on an all expenses paid trip to the amusement park of their choice.


Back up again

"I met some incredible people with some incredible stories," Fuller says of his 'Undercover Boss' experience, adding that it was well worth coloring his hair, combing it back, growing a goatee and long sideburns, and looking like "10 miles of bad road," as one of his colleagues put it.

His cover story was that he was one of two failed entrepreneurs competing to win their own franchise.

"We're growing fast -- by about 20 percent each year," Fuller says. "I hope we make Johnny Rockets an even better place for our employees, and that we got the message out that we're a classic, American diner that's all about food, fun and friendliness." Just don't ask him to dance again.


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tom

Don't you wonder how some of these guys get to be the CEO's of those companies? Talk about falling i a pile of S--T.

December 13 2010 at 7:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David

John, they aren't allowed to cook the burger medium. It's a rule that they have to cook it well. I worked at the first Johnny Rockets right around when it first opened. It was a fun place, the food was really good and the employees were friendly. I'm very pleased I left before they started the mandatory dnacing. Alot of the employees don't like doing it. I've been to a couple other Johnnie's and when they had to break into their routine it was obvious more then one didn't like doing it. Workers doing thins they don't like makes for unhappy workers. Why the food went downhill I don't know. It was really good when I worked there. Last time I went I thought the burger was terrible. Overcooked, dry, no flavor and small. I guess when you expand too much you loose quality.

December 13 2010 at 7:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sick of the morels of this country

This show is a frigen joke !!!! Mr. or Mrs. Millionair goes out to see how the lower class work, then give a couple employee's a couple thousand dollars , sends the family to Disney Land and everything is all good? Bull crap ,what about the thousands of their other workers? THIS SHOW IS A JOKE !!

December 13 2010 at 6:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
derel

WHY do people care about these foolish OVERPAID, MORON CEO's getting down with "the little people".

December 13 2010 at 5:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gary

It must be nice to "play" the employee. I'd be more impressed with this BS if the CEO lived their lifestyle, assumed the bills etc. their employees have to face on a daily basis making the SH** wages they are being paid! Imagine a CEO finishing his workday and then having to go to the NEXT F'ING JOB JUST TO EXIST! I'M NOT AMUSED!!!

December 13 2010 at 4:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
waagtod

Johnny Rockets should be congratulated for their ingenuity in advertising with this hour long commercial. They would be better served by improving the food and cleaning up the restaurants. I travel often and have tried the Rocket on 3 or 4 occasions, every time the cleanliness leaves much to be desired. The food is comfort food that is poorly executed, little effort and cheap ingredients. One place, in the Hard Rock Hollywood the food took over 30 minutes to be started, no cook, only excuses. I tried to use the bathroom but it was locked. Finally the cook emerged, and went and hit on a girl at the counter. When I used the bathroom there was a chair in there and it smelled of some sort of smoke. I left and walked right out the door. That was the best meal I ever had there.

December 13 2010 at 3:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to waagtod's comment
jan

my 13 year old grandson and I were on Royal Carribean Freedom of the Seas and Sebastian would eat at Johnny's everyday as his first choice. Also he loved the dancing which he insisted I participate; that was a laughing matter, for sure. We are Jonny fans.

December 13 2010 at 4:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JohnBliss

There were a couple of things as I watched the show, 1. AJ, did you ever hear of cooking a burger medium! Pink would have been fine with me...I like them Mooing a little bit! Pink doesn't mean trash! I know, ppl are covering their butts for germs. 2. Many might have missed this, but when he got back into his office, he told his sec. that he wanted EACH of excutives to go what he just did, starting NOW, not down the road. He is the first CEO, to say that, that I'm aware of. In short (too late) I think he did a great job!

December 13 2010 at 3:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to JohnBliss's comment
ck

The whole issue of undercover boss in my eyes is a joke. If they really wanted to be undercover than use the technology we have to do undercover work. Do not walk around with cameras in your face, how else do you expect people to react. I could show them a thing or two and for sure increase their ratings. Do they really think people believe their story. The show will soon flop (if not already)if not changed. Show the world how things really operate when people are not watching. I have worked undercover for many years. Trust me when I say it does not work that way.

December 13 2010 at 4:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
liguy

I watched the show as there was nothing else on TV. I thought it was nice that the CEO recognized those workers at the end of the show, but I think he could have done better with the "rewards" he gave them. Offering them a job in management or corporate would have been nice.

December 13 2010 at 3:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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