'Undercover Boss' CEOs Tell What Really Happened After The Show

Executives from Undercover Boss talk to AOL Jobs.It's not every day you'll see CEOs getting their hands dirty, working side-by-side with the rank-and-file. But for four years, the CBS show "Undercover Boss" has given viewers that chance, showing 60 top executives doing regular jobs, from flipping hamburgers to installing alarm systems. The show, however, has attracted a share of skepticism: How many of those encounters are real? Do things really change at the companies? What really happens after the lights and cameras are turned off?

AOL Jobs recently spoke to three bosses who appeared on the show to answer those questions and more. The three -- Rick Silva, the CEO of the Checkers and Rally's fast food hamburger chain, Paul Damico, the president of Moe's Southwest Grill, and Dan DiZio, the CEO of the Philly Pretzel Company -- all insisted that the show was unscripted, but they acknowledged that they saw the show as a great public relations opportunity -- though they each had regrets and admitted to some embarrassing moments. "The circumstances are weird, but going undercover gives you the chance to really connect with your workers," said Silva (pictured above on the show). "And you see that many have had very tough lives, so you walk away wanting to help the best."

More: 'Undercover Boss' Reveals The 'Most Generous' CEO Of All

Rick Silva, CEO of Checkers and Rally's Fast Food Chain

The Episode: In the middle of the third season, Silva visited one of his company's 325 stores in Homestead, Fla., to discover a dysfunctional branch -- workers weren't being trained properly, the speaker-system at the drive-through was broken and the manager barked orders at the workers. So Silva shut down the branch on the spot.

What he really felt: "'I will be honest -- 24, 48 hours after, I felt stupid. I second-guessed myself because I said, 'Maybe there was another answer? But I kept thinking: If one of the leaders in my organization left that restaurant the way it was, then it wouldn't be in line with our culture. The customers and the employees weren't being treated right. So I couldn't find another answer."

What really changed: "I am still mentoring Johanna [who worked at the Homestead branch], even though sometimes she doesn't return my calls. And I leave messages saying, 'This is the CEO calling. Can you at least call me back?' But that kind of relationship is so cool to have. I call [my good workers] 'Johannas' now. And I've got a lot of 'Johannas' out there and they don't feel confident enough for all the right reasons in talking to management. So we've set up a 'coach-to-grow' pilot program to help identify the best people in the company." These members are now picked to work directly with management. And Checkers now gives bonuses directly to team members, not just the branch managers.

More: 'Undercover Boss': What Really Happened To 'Epic Employees'

Dan DiZio, CEO OF Philly Pretzel Company

The Episode: During his appearance, DiZio, was embarrassed to learn that he'd become one of those "out of touch" CEOs. The owners of one franchise, a couple named Bill and Donna in Bridgeton, N.J., told DiZio that he had previously met with them to discuss their financial problems. But afterward he hadn't helped them out -- and so the couple created their own product -- a "pepperoni pretzel roll" -- and began selling it.

What he really felt: "I just didn't remember the couple. That was emotional for me to hear because I started selling pretzels on the street corner when I was 11 years old." But the couple's move angered him. "That's got to be one of the biggest no-nos you could ever have -- a completely rogue franchisee coming up with its own product, marketing it and selling it."

What really changed: Philly Pretzel ended up "rolling out that [pepperoni pretzel roll] product system-wide, and it's done phenomenally well."

What hasn't: The pay. "I would love to pay more for the work, but there is a point where the market confines us -- I can't start selling pretzels for $5 apiece. It's a tough place to be. So, yes, it is a little unfair when you see one person makes so much, but that's part of life."

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

Paul Damico, President of Moe's Southwest Grill

The Episode: Damico visited one of his company's branches in Fort Myers, Fla., during the fourth season and came across a haughty shift supervisor, Tito. Tasked with overseeing the day-to-day operation of the branch, Tito was simply nasty to his workers. He told them to "shut it" and called them "ding-dongs." He also thought that he didn't have to get involved with the actual preparation of the food. In the show's reveal, Damico invited Tito to the company's headquarters in Atlanta to undergo a second round of training before returning to work.

What he really felt: "It was a real shock interacting with this bad egg. And I was on the verge of doing what Rick Silva did [shutting down the restaurant]. But no one was being put in danger, and we were handling the food awesomely." So he decided to keep the branch open and give Tito a second chance. Silva also said that he had own " stupid moment" on the show. "I used my real name and they captured it on film. So I looked like a complete ass."

What's really changed: "I've realized it's OK for my employees to go slower. Especially if that means getting to know the customers' names and what's going on in their lives."

What hasn't: The pay. Workers' pay is a result of how "the market sees you and your value. We thought of doing something like 'Undercover Boss' to increase the value of the brand of our company. Do I think I am overpaid? No. I have done things to increase my personal brand and that's where I sit today."

New 'Boss' Clip: CEO Shocks Fast Food Manager

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Marcus Lenkner

interesting how 4 or 5 workers benefit from the ceo visit. if the company is doing well, you can bet most of the workers are the reason. you never see those folks benefit. just a new bunch of hoops to jump though. polish those jets up boys.

Sunday at 6:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joey Perrone

I just don't understand how these employees don't realize that something is up when an employee shows up "because of a reality show contest." You'd think they would have to change that story. Are you telling me that none of the employees of these companies have seen the show before?

May 31 2015 at 9:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The CEO and the company could care less about there workers, was an associate of Hudson News Joint Venture, better known as Hudson News Group for 12 years, and after 5 mistakes of $2.00 in 11 months, was fired, you call that caring, the general managers of the stores for Hudson Group in McCarron Airport could care less about there associates, and the whole of management don't care about you, all they want is for you to sell, sell, sell, the only reason I stayed was because I was close to retirement, and at 69 years old they took that away from me, 3 more months I would have been vested into the union, I lost everything, the worse company to work for. After 12 years I would have owed them $ 18.65 for my cash eras and fired I was. That's Hudson News Group for you.

May 06 2015 at 11:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Fr. Thomas

I see little value in the show. The CEO's really learn very little. They themselves get look at how hard and how skilled their employees really hard - certainly their attempts at the job merit being fired - a very few get lavished with reward for the sake of drama - while so many other employees also doing a better job than the CEO can do - are forgotten and ignored. The CEO's come away still feeling entitled to huge paychecks for whatever it is they do - a much better show would be a common worker taking over as CEO and doing his or her job. No doubt the CEO's do this show as a Public Relations Stunt - if only they knew how embarrassing it is.

January 04 2015 at 3:59 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Tina Pelot Manderfie

Show is great but really needs to visit Checkers by me! Want to see poor management and worker under 18 not able to clock out even within the 8 hours between work and high school. Child Labor Law Dept. will have a great investigation and Checkers will go DOWN. wishes the CEO can visit here

September 09 2014 at 11:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This Is A Great Show Showing Graitude & Appreciation 4 Employess & Education & Vacation Time
WOW.......One Must Experience It To Really Relate..
It would be nice to see One On Hospitals & Eldercare.... Once I Entered That Profession, I Found They Are Overworked Underpaid Short Staffed & not very Appreciated ...
In Other Professions I was paid better & treated Better, yet Healthcare Is A Needed Resource 4 Every Nation....&

Thank U For A Show..... That Encourages Kindness....

June 20 2014 at 9:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Your Show Is Great for Teaching Appreciation For Employees. With Welcoming & Education !
It Would Be Nice To On Hospitality For Health Care Workers Like Hospitals, Elder Care Ect...
In My Careers Most Were Great Until Entering the Healthcare Profession....
Overworked underpaid & short staffed in many areas....Yet Healthcare Is....

A Needed Resource In Any Nation Is Also Appreciation
....Thank U For A Show That Touches The Soul....With Grace & Gratitude & Joy !

June 20 2014 at 9:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No way this show is real. I have seen two or three episodes and EVERY single time, the CEO works for a few hours with someone, goes to lunch with them and over lunch the employee tells the most intimate details of their personal life with the CEO. Does anyone really buy that after working with someone for 4 hours you are going to tell them that your dad has cancer, you were abused as a child and your your son is disabled? People are so gullible.

May 05 2014 at 1:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to brooksbono's comment
Joey Perrone

Yeah, I find it a little hard to believe that every employee these CEO's come across are going to tell them their life story within four hours of meeting them. It's a good show but like any reality show, it's questionable at times as to whether it is actually "real".

May 31 2015 at 9:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The one lady who was living in a homeless shelter...had her NAILS and HAIR done....must cost a pretty penny to keep up with those. Just saying...

June 18 2013 at 5:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

On one UB episode, a CEO found out an employee was living in a homeless shelter so he gave $250,000 to buy a home. Wouldn't it have been better if he had increased her pay so that she could earn her home and have the money to KEEP IT? If she isn't earning enough to pay rent, how is she going to maintain a home?

June 18 2013 at 12:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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