'Undercover Boss': Boston Market's Sara Bittorf Fires A Worker On The Spot
Most workers feel frustrated at one point or another. But not many of us have the bad judgment -- and misfortune -- to let it rip in the office -- in front of a top exec. That's what happened to Ronnie, a shift supervisor at a branch of the Boston Market Corp. in Duluth, Ga., when he indulged his anger during his appearance on "Undercover Boss" this past Friday.
Of course, Ronnie had no way of knowing that the person he was unloading to was Sara Bittorf, the chief brand officer of Boston Market who was starring in an episode of the CBS series. Bittorf had claimed to be "Rachel Rand," a diner waitress appearing on a second chances reality show, who was hoping to open her own restaurant.
But Ronnie's behavior was so over the top that it was understandable when Bittorf -- assigned to work with him -- fired him on camera -- making him the first worker to be fired on the air in the four seasons of "Undercover Boss," CBS has confirmed. It was an understandable decision. After all, Ronnie complained nonstop in the episode about how Boston Market workers are instructed to put "customers on a pedestal" and of the company's "ridiculous standards," which included the mandate that food be prepared well.
Ronnie spoke of how he "hates the customers" and joked about spreading leprosy in the kitchen. "I'm the Kim Kardashian of Boston Market," he added, an acknowledgement of his diva-like behavior. Bittorf, the marketing boss for the $500-million-a-year company, was so beside herself that she fled to the branch's parking lot to collect her thoughts.
It's understandable that any top corporate executive would lose her patience. But those at Boston Market are under extra pressure -- the company that was previously known as Boston Chicken declared bankruptcy in 1998 before re-branding itself.
And so Bittorf decided immediately to fire Ronnie. It's unclear how the chain of events might have actually unfolded but, in the episode, Bittorf says that she "can't stand by" before calling Ronnie outside.
When Bittorf revealed herself to be a Boston Market executive, Ronnie knew immediately that he was in deep trouble. "You got me," he said.
"I don't know if this is the business for you," Bittorf told him, explaining how customer service is at the core of Boston Market's approach.
In a memorable instance last season, Rick Silva, the CEO of the Checkers and Rally's fast-food burger chain, came across a branch in Homestead, Fla., where the speaker system at the drive-through window was broken and floor managers who had barely received any training still felt confident enough to bark at underlings. Silva promptly shut down the branch
But in that case, Silva assured the workers that no one's job was in jeopardy.
Luckily for Boston Market's Bittorf, that was the worst of her experiences undercover. The other employees who "Rachel" trained with were in fact the type of employees who C-level executives likely dream about.
There was Sash, an assistant general manager in Tampa, Fla. "Rachel" worked with her at the carving station. And while another worker could be heard saying how "Rachel" was "taking an eternity," Sash patiently guided her through the process, instructing her that carving takes "finesse," even as "Rachel" massacred a few of the birds.
There was also AJ, a worker at a drive-thru in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Although he had only been on the job for three months at that point, he had no problem completing an order under a minute's time, as the company mandates, and as demonstrated by a timer that the Denver-based company installs in each location.
"Rachel," for her part, couldn't keep up. "There were moments when I wished the beeping could stop beeping," she said of the timer. AJ's good conduct was all the more impressive after it came out that his time with Boston Market followed a two-year period during which he was out of work, and followed a stint in the county jail.
These two workers were taken care of in the reveal. AJ was given a gift of $20,000. And Sash was told that she will oversee a program that makes sure all Boston Market employee take full advantage of their break times, which was previously not occurring. She was also given a check of $20,000 so that she can quit her second job, a move which Bittorf said she hopes will allow her to devote time to the nursing degree that she seeks. "When i think about the future," Sash said, "it feels so much easier."
Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to the Florida city as Tampa Bay.
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Dan Fastenberg has more than a decade of experience working as a journalist. Most recently he was a reporter with TIME Magazine covering politics with analyst Mark Halperin. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America. Follow Dan on Twitter. Email Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Add Dan to your Google+ circles.more...