'Undercover Boss': Tilted Kilt CEO Ron Lynch Sees His Pubs Skirting Company's Standards

'Undercover Boss' Clip: Waitress Goes Too Far?
Undercover Boss
Everyone knows that sex sells, but where do you draw the line when you're trying to run a respectable business? CEO Ron Lynch of the Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery says that his Tempe, Ariz.-based chain of 70 restaurants aims for a PG-13 experience by featuring female servers in skimpy costumes. But in Friday's premiere of the fourth season of "Undercover Boss," some of what was revealed appeared to leave Lynch shocked and embarrassed.

"Some people think our servers are X-rated," he said during his appearance on the CBS series, referring to the uniforms worn by his servers, aka "Kilt Girls," who help the Gaelic-themed company bring in $250 million each year. Maybe that's no surprise: Servers' midriff-baring costumes -- with low-cut tops and short plaid skirts -- are designed to be sexy.

But Tilted Kilt's "guiding principle is portraying class," Lynch maintained in an interview and during the episode. The costumes may be a way to draw in customers, he said, but customers come back to Tilted Kilt for offerings that set it apart from rivals like Hooters. Those include a full kitchen and bar, and a menu that includes items like "Gaelic chicken," which is two chicken breasts on bed of a pasta with a whiskey cream sauce. It's "to die for," he told AOL Jobs.

"We have a classy brand," he went on to say. "We're in the entertainment business, and if we don't portray class, we look bad. These girls are proud to wear the costume. If you work as a Kilt Girl, you can go on and do great things." (He said that even his two daughters have worn the outfits during their careers at the company, though not while working the floor and only in training videos.)

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But "great" is hardly the way he rated things that one Kilt Girl, Kaliane, did at a Tilted Kilt franchise in San Diego. Lynch went undercover for Friday's episode as "Ryan Good": a failed sporting goods store owner appearing on a reality show to win money to launch a new business. He initially noted how Kaliane embodies the bubbliness he expects from his servers, such as when she carries drinks on her head. She "is having fun," and is "playful," he said.

Then Lynch saw more of Kaliane's routine with customers, which was about as PG-13 as the writing in "Penthouse Forum." It included telling jokes like one about jelly, jam and sexual intercourse. And she also made use of a pile of straws and whipped cream in a display that might delight a middle-schooler.

Lynch was not amused. Speaking into the camera, he appeared to earnestly come to terms with what his business might stand for outside the corporate office. He said that he wasn't sure his "classiness" standard is being upheld and feared that this employee is "putting herself too far out there." (Watch in the video above.)

For her part, Kaliane saw herself as fulfilling the company's mission. "It's Tilted Kilt. It's a little tilted," she said.

And not all Tilted Kilt employees seemed thrilled with the atmosphere at some of its pubs. Spencer, who works security at a Tilted Kilt franchise in Alpharetta, Ga., told Lynch (as "Ryan Good") that customers "like to think it's a strip club." Spencer said there was skirt-grabbing that regularly goes on at that location, and during the episode one waitress sought Spencer's help after a customer told her that she was exciting him.

Lynch later acknowledged his disappointment, saying that he didn't feel a positive energy at the pub, saw very few smiling customers and admitted that the culture "raised a red flag" with him on the trip.

The potential to see a flabbergasted CEO is a regular element of "Undercover Boss." But the vast majority of last season's most dramatic moments came when a boss confronted individual incompetence, either his own or from one of his workers. There was, for instance, Philly Pretzel CEO Dan Dizio encountering two of his franchise owners -- whom he'd simply forgotten having personally met before -- while trying to help boost their sales. He got teary after meeting them again.

But Lynch's experience was different -- he saw a workplace that seemed dramatically astray from his company's mission, and had to admit, for instance, that he was "appalled and embarrassed" by Kaliane's behavior. And Spencer told him he thinks it's likely strip clubs protect their workers from sexual harassment better than Tilted Kilt does.

Lynch's company has also made news recently for alleged discrimination. In October, AOL Jobs reported on the case of Jennifer Rogers, who sued the company that month after she was rejected as a "Kilt Girl" position because, she alleged, she couldn't fit into a "Kilt Girl" skirt. (Litigation is ongoing.) There is no federal law against rejecting job applicants based on body type, as long as one gender isn't targeted. In explaining his company's policy, Lynch told AOL Jobs if a girl "didn't fit in, yes," she might not be hired.

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But in Friday's episode Tilted Kilt was also shown to be home to good-natured inclusiveness and warmth. Shayna, who works as a bartender at a Tilted Kilt in Atlanta, simply "brings people in the door" through her charisma, Lynch said. Shayna bounced around behind the bar like a professional, referring to the regular customers as her "friends," while slyly making menu suggestions. ("Can I get you an Irish nachos?")

Her one-woman show at the pub turned out to be a respite from a stressful family life. Shayna is raising two kids on her own, one of whom has autism. And her father is currently battling bladder cancer, which continues to spread in spite of treatments. "I am dying inside," she said, "but I am trying to have fun at work."

And then there was James, a cook at a Titled Kilt in Joliet, Ill. The father of four, including triplets, puts in 16-hour days that include a second job. But he said that he nevertheless thinks of Tilted Kilt, through no prompting, as "family."

In the episode's reveal, Lynch tried to address the lapses in his company's culture.

He told Spencer that proper training will be instituted throughout the Tilted Kilt company so that all workers know when and how to handle over-the-line conduct, and how to deal with unruly customers. He also gave Spencer $14,000 to help with student loans.

He ponied up another $10,000 in scholarship funds for both of Shayna's kids, in addition to two grants of $20,000 for her autistic son and for medical fees for her sick father. Scholarships for James' children were also offered, in the form of a $20,000 fund, in addition to another $20,000 so that the chef can drop the second job.

Lynch further demonstrated a desire to breathe new life into the company's culture by telling Kaliane that he will be selecting a mentor for her to work with, provided she finishes her GED equivalency. "You need to mature," he told her.

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I would say you draw the line at managers secretly filming women changing clothes in the women's locker room


February 12 2014 at 8:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

call her a dumb blonde, but I bet the "dumb blonde" is making better money(tips) than her contemporaries! She has figured out how to get larger tips from these stupid fools- they will pay more when they think she is actually flirting with them!

November 09 2013 at 12:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

These kinds of places are where OLD MEN go to WISH....LOL!!!
It figures a MAN started it and he makes MILLIONS off of old fools who keep coming back.

November 09 2013 at 12:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"These girls are proud to wear the costume. If you work as a Kilt Girl, you can go on and do great things." He said that even his two daughters have worn the outfits during their careers at the company, though not while working the floor and only in training videos." If the costumes are so wonderful and his establishment so "classy", why didn't the CEO let his daughters work the floor in them ??? Seems the term hypocrite would fit him well. OK for someone else's daughter to be treated as a sexual object, but not his.

November 09 2013 at 8:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

LHe says classy to save face for the fact that this is a lumberjack bar. Hell the CEO looks like a lumberjack. Just admit your using sexuality to sell orders. No need to lie, these types of establishments are a thing now. But don't EVER call them classy. At least to those who are too ignorant to get over classy only means french/UK standards. Maybe this is classy in old Ireland but not America bro.

September 25 2013 at 2:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

He's the boss. He gets to decide what " CLASSY" means for him and his restaurant. But the for the REST of America classy means something other than what you will find at TK. The man is delusional, and unfortunately, millions of American men looking for something other than "classy" hope he stays that way.

June 18 2013 at 10:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Anne Charles Siperek

I watched Undercover Boss and I have to say, that bubble headed blonde made me laugh so hard!! what a dope!!

I was glad she was busted by the owner of the company. She definitely needs to grow up before she is given a job like this. You can be cute and sexy without acting like you are going to do the entire room!! She reminded me of a porn actress acting stupid!! I sincerely hope she learned a lesson.

March 15 2013 at 9:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Andrew Ellis

It amazes me that the president of this company says that he is going to provide a young waitress with training with a "classy" person. Are you serious? Your female staff are dressed like ******. You want class and a wholesome environment, go to Applebee's. This owner Ron Lynch is clearly delusional. Class does not include breast and vagina hanging out of the female waitress uniform.

March 15 2013 at 8:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Martha Gunnells

I am watching a rerun of this show, 3/15/13, right now....back in January 2013 my family was vacationing in the Orlando area & pulled in there because we had never eaten at one. I have to say the service sucked, the food sucked, the girls were really tooooo not dressed & we will not eat there again....I would have forgotten about making this comment had I not seen this rerun so thanks for that....

March 15 2013 at 8:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The CEO complains about a worker named Kaliane for telling improper jokes he was appalled and embarrassed? Then why in the hell do you make the girls dress like school girl *****? Huh Ron? Sex sells right? I thought that girl did a damn good job. Famillies are for helping one another??? Then get some class yourself and change the womens uniforms. That waitress is someone's daughter......you jerk!! Your nothing but a hypocrite and you should learn to practice what you preach!

March 15 2013 at 8:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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