'Undercover Boss': Fatburger CEO Andy Wiederhorn Finds Franchise Half-Cooked

Andrew "Andy" Wiederhorn knows a thing or two about second chances. After becoming a millionaire before the age of 30, Wiederhorn pleaded guilty to tax return fraud charges and spent 14 months in jail. Since then, he became CEO of Fatburger, the Los Angeles-based fast food chain and turned it into a sizzling enterprise, with 150 restaurants worldwide.

So perhaps it's not surprising that as the latest CEO to appear on "Undercover Boss," Wiederhorn took to heart the troubles that an employee reported at a Mesa, Ariz., franchise. Posing as "Myron Leeds," a former real estate agent appearing on a "second chances" reality show, Wiederhorn visited the Fatburger restaurant and found that the franchise was a mess.

Angelica, an assistant manager, showed that the faucets in the kitchen couldn't be turned off. Sales were at an all-time low too, Wiederhorn conceded on-camera. And to top it off, the franchise -- which is part of a company that brings in $100 million in revenue a year and is looking to expand to 200 more locations -- has failed to pay its workers. "By the time we get our paychecks, there's no money in the bank," Angelica reported to "Leeds." (As seen in the video above.)

More: 'Undercover Boss': 5 Most Gripping Moments From Season 3


While speaking to "Leeds" during a break outside the franchise, Angelica also described in detail the problematic culture at her workplace. "The only time we see the owner is when something is broken," she told him. There's no positive reinforcement: The manager "doesn't come around see how we're doing." And then the ultimate blow in Angelica's list of grievances: "It's like I am working for you -- but why?"

Wiederhorn, for his part, seemed to take the criticism seriously. So in the reveal at the end of the show, he took the extraordinary step of inviting Angelica's manager, franchise owner Marcus, onto the set. And Marcus didn't put up a fight. "I don't want to let you down anymore," he told the assistant manager.

As a way of helping to boost the franchise, Wiederhorn told Marcus that he'd forgive a debt of around $50,000 that he owed him. And then he also told Angelica that he would pay for her tuition so that she could attend nursing school, as well as give her a $10,000 bonus toward a honeymoon. (She's barely been able to take a vacation in the two-plus years she's been with Fatburger, which is about the same time that she's been married.)

Such showdowns between workers and managers are central to of the DNA of "Undercover Boss," now well into its fourth season. But most of the time they are between the workers and the CEO. Sometimes they are initiated by the boss, as when Checkers and Rally's CEO Rick Silva decided on the spot to shut down a poor-performing branch in Florida, then gave its workers a stern lecture. At other times, the showdowns are initiated by the workers themselves, as when Philly Pretzel CEO Dan DiZio forgot that he already had met with one husband-and-wife team of franchise owners, and they had to remind him of the meeting.

More: 'Undercover Boss': Cinnabon CEO Gives Sweet Surprise to Franchise Manager


Wiederhorn's choice to side with and advocate for his worker against middle management was a rare moment on the show. Less rare was what happened during Wiederhorn's other site visits on the episode.

As was the case with DiZio of Philly Pretzel, Wiederhorn was outed during his first site visit to a franchise in Sherman Oaks, Calif., close to the company's headquarters. Val, who's worked in the business of making hamburgers for 29 years, put it bluntly: "You look like the president of Fatburger ... like a brother." Wiederhorn couldn't help but out himself.

And the generosity of the boss, which some critics of the show deride as a public relations ploy, was also on display. During one site visit, Wiederhorn worked with Ramon as a baker technician in Carson, Calif., which basically involves assessing the quality of buns at a company warehouse.

"Leeds" learned that Ramon had worked for 25 years for the company and, as the father of four, had a life that he felt grateful for. Yet on a recent family trip to Mexico, Ramon's wife was refused re-entry to the U.S. over her immigration status. (The show did not go into detail about her status.) So in the reveal, Wiederhorn told Ramon that he would give him $50,000 so that he could hire a lawyer to handle her case.

"This is like a family," Ramon said.
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aldo ferretti

impressed about andy wiederhorn's actions

December 23 2013 at 3:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
aldo ferretti

impressed about what andy wiederhorn achieved

December 23 2013 at 3:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
HEIDIFIDO

we also like the Show but it would be better that instead of giving just 1 Person to much Money to devide that Money more equaly , it does not have to be Money it could be another benefits ,for instance has anyone noticed how bad some Employees Teeth look and some of them have severe Skinproblems ( I am talking about all of the Boss shows :) so how about
getting a Dentist to fix there Teeth ?or send them to a Dermatologist !!
I am sure the Employees dont have the Money to pay for Dentalwork or expensive Acnecream , since they have such a small hourly Pay .
Why give 250.000 for a House would 100.000 have done it ? Think of the yearly Homeowners and Insurancecost that have to be paid for . The Bosses should look at all there employess not just a couple of them because many Employees in those lowpaying Jobs are in dire straights .
Here is hoping that some of the CEO'S READ THE comments put on this site

June 11 2013 at 11:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
havanasilkdogs

I need to watch the actual story.....the way it's reported doesn't make much sense.....according to the assistant manager, the Manager/Franchisee is NEVER there unless or until something breaks and the employees are not being paid on time. Rather than hold this IDIOT Franchisee to a higher standard as required by his Franchise agreement, the CEO GIVES him $50,000???? I would've fired the Franchisee, made the Assistant manager the new Franchisee, give HER the $50,000 plus the vacay etc. Any Franchisee who is NOT THERE is ALWAYS the reason there are poor sales and problems. You do NOT buy a franchise so you can go sit on your tail and spend the income. You buy it because you ENJOY that type of work and ENJOY being part of your business. From a former Franchisee who loved the job....

April 09 2013 at 5:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tiwi

I wish they would do this at Lowe's. Those in corporate have no clue how to run a store or what it really takes.

April 09 2013 at 8:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Tiwi's comment
Margie Becker

YOU are so right about Lowes , I wonder why it even stays in business,,,,Well they got some mighty folks working there ,, But still....

April 09 2013 at 9:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Queen Cersei

Dear Lauren Zima.. please stop using your hands excessively to get a point across. Thank you. ;)

April 09 2013 at 3:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Glen

Yes we all like (And need), that occasional "pat on the back" but was as stated in the article, often times all we hear is what we are doing wrong. I feel a lot of companies today simply don't care about the worker. With all the unemployed persons today that are standing in the soup line any worker can be replaced in a matter of days. It's an employers market and they know it. I think many workers feel they have to just accept what's going or they may lose their piddly little job. It's almost like hey, that's part of the job!

April 09 2013 at 1:59 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Glen's comment
Jo

Companies never DID care about the worker (unless you worked in a very small family-owned shop and even THAT was minimal). Companies care about profit margins and nothing else. The larger the company, the less they care about their workers. You are expendable. If you fall ill, die, or leave for better things, you are easily replaced by another clone, regardless of where you fall in the corporate food chain.

April 09 2013 at 6:02 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jo's comment
Bruce

And YOU take a job to make MONEY! If you find a job that pays more, you will drop your old job in an instant, sometimes without the courtesy of any notice to your old employer. If you demand time off all the time or call in "sick" every Monday, others have to fill in for you. See? everything is about self-interest. The company has its wants and needs, and you have yours. And if your job sucks, train yourself to qualify for a better job. And leave your "I'm being crapped on" attitude at home; nobody owes you a damn thing.

April 09 2013 at 8:37 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
potmind

There are some nice people around. Too bad that the useful information does not get to them, until they walk the walk. Until then, they are seen by the workers as detached and cold. And the middle management covers its behind by filtering the data.

April 09 2013 at 1:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
christobolb

This CEO needs to come rum the pit I work at. He is a visionary.

April 09 2013 at 1:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jill

Question??? Why did the owner of that Fat Burger get rewarded for doing a shi**y job???

April 08 2013 at 11:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jill's comment
potmind

It sounded counterproductive to me too.

April 09 2013 at 1:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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