'Undercover Boss:' Buffets, Inc., CEO Anthony Wedo Invites Struggling Dishwasher To A Second Serving

Skye is kept on even after a bad performance and attitude

A worker must be given the proper job training if he or she is expected to succeed. But when that doesn't happen, and a worker flounders, who's to blame? The perennial workplace dilemma was on display on the most recent episode of "Undercover Boss," which featured Anthony Wedo, the CEO of Buffets, Inc., the largest buffet provider in the country. Buffets, Inc., serves 100 million guests a year at brands including Ryan's Buffet, HomeTown Buffet and Country Buffet.

Poorly trained, poorly behaved
During the episode, Wedo posed as "Mike Davis," a construction worker competing for funding to launch a new business on a separate second chances reality show. And on his first site visit he stopped in at a Ryan's Buffet in Lake Charles, LA, and was assigned to work with the restaurant's manager, Ernest. But his attention was soon commanded by Skye, a dishwasher who represented a two-fold failure -- dirty dishes were stacked as far as the eye could see and Skye had a terrible attitude to boot. Indeed, in training "Mike," Skye said the work "sucks," suggested fellow employees can be treated like "slaves," and, finally, "Mike" shouldn't gripe about not receiving more than one minute of training, as can be seen in the clip above. After all, it was the very same introduction Skye had received to the job, he said.

For Wedo, the encounter was, not surprisingly, quite frustrating. After growing up in modest circumstances with a father who worked as much as three jobs at a time, he too had put in time working as a busboy among other restaurant jobs. But he was able to climb the ranks in the hospitality sector to become an executive at companies including Boston Market and gained recognition for helping turn around companies, he said. Since taking over Buffets, Inc., he's at it again. Sales at the company have been growing in the last 12 months after a six-year span in which it filed for bankruptcy twice.

Crucial to his turnaround strategy at Buffets, Inc., Wedo told the camera, was confronting the culture of "despair." So witnessing Skye at work was like a slap in the face; Wedo even told the camera the whole situation was driving him "crazy." As a result, Wedo decided to take bold action. He approached site supervisor Ernest and asked to speak to him outside. He proceeded to out himself as company CEO and told his manager, "it's a mess back here." Why aren't we training people? What's stopping you from doing the right thing, he asked Ernest.

The managerial response
It wasn't the first time a boss grew so frustrated on the show he moved to out himself on the hit CBS series, now in the middle of its fifth season. Back in season three, for instance, Diamond Resorts CEO Stephen Cloobeck was so angry that one of his workers failed to apply a company policy of never saying "no" when dealing with a customer on the telephone that he told her who he really was. But he then told her the blame lay at the feet of her manager and that her position was safe.

Another highly memorable incident from the series came later in season three when Rick Silva, the CEO of the fast food burger chain, Checkers and Rally's, visited a site whose performance was utterly incompetent -- the speaker at the drive-through station was broken, there's been a lack of training, and the manager is seen barking orders. Silva shut down the site on the spot.

Which path was Wedo to take? "I don't want to do this anymore, I am done," he told the camera shortly after pulling Wedo aside. But he chose to defer any decision until the show's reveal. His restraint foreshadowed the moderate approach he took with Skye. He did make clear his disappointment, telling Skye, "You don't embody any of the culture that I want in our restaurants, frankly." But in deciding his response, Wedo took aim at the culture of the workplace, and not at the worker himself. He said the restaurant and its training processes needed to be overhauled and Skye could be given a second chance to prove himself.

Moderation, however, was not Wedo's approach with all the workers he met on the episode. And with good reason, too. Wedo, much like many of the bosses who appear on the show, came across workers on his site visits who were soldiering on in the face of serious adversity. There was, for instance, Michelle, who works as a cashier for HomeTown Buffet in Fresno, Calif. Michelle understands that good cheer is vital for such a frontline position and proceeded to urge Mike he needed to handle problems at the register "with a smile."

The energetic approach was all the more impressive when considering that Michelle was forced to leave high school early to help care for her mother as a result of her cancer. And to top it off Michelle said she had no safety net to rely on. In the reveal, Wedo told her he was going to give her a total of $30,000 in rewards, half of which would be reserved for her education. Michelle had told "Mike" she would one day like to work as a criminal profiler.

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I am a native of Decatur, Illinois and moved to Florida twelve yrs. ago and every time we go home we go to the Home Town Buffet in Forsyth, Illinois. We went there on Aug. 9th to celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary and what a disappointment. The service was terrible and the food horrible. The ice cream machine hadn't been working for quite some time, few desserts, and overall, such a disappointment. Our friends that live there say that it has been deteriorating for quite some time. Management is the key and I sure would be sad if it closed. There aren't many places you can go around there where you can take a group and fellowship and it is important that this establishment stay open and offer top service. Thank you for hearing me out and I sure hope things change for the better.
I didn't know how to contact you until I saw Undercover Boss this evening and your CEO cared about the different places and had a compassion for these and their employees. Bless you bunches and thanks again.

August 30 2015 at 9:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Phala Nelson

Just watched "Undercover Boss" rerun with Anthony Wedo. Please come to Meridian, Ms. to Ryan's there. The ladies bathroom is always filthy! Dirty bathrooms-dirty kitchen?? I talked to a manager a couple of years ago about the bathrooms and he assured me improvements would be made. It would take some time and they were trying to improve one thing at a time. I was there a few months back and the bathrooms are still waiting their turn. This restaurant is definitely not one that we frequent.

June 02 2015 at 1:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Please do something with the Paducah, Ky Ryan's Restaurant. Some areas such as service and food have improved. The bldg. is in dire need of renovation. It is beyond needing decor changes. This is the only buffet of this type in town. If it is not renovated and another restaurant that is similar comes to town this Ryan's will not survive.

January 24 2015 at 3:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Anthony F. Angelic

Horrible, San Luis Obispo hometown buffet

September 04 2014 at 5:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Thecos Cats

Palm Desert Home Town Buffet. Something need to be done about this place. It is in need of some updating and a trained cook would be nice. My wife and I had been eating there for years and we understand business has fallen off because the food wasn't that great. The chicken which most people go there for has had a lo6t to be desired. It is almost overcooked all the time and has so much coating on it, it like eating a piece of bread. Then the flavor has also need to have something done. They have a habit of only putting wings and legs out most of the time. We live only a few blocks away and most of our retired friends have stopped going there. It really needs corporate to come out and take a look at it and fix it.

June 08 2014 at 5:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jo Jo

I just watched an Undercover Boss rerun on Anthony Wedo of Buffets, Inc., and I feel a need to respond. My husband and I always dined at Country Buffet in Cheyenne, WY (until they were closed down). The food wasn't the best five-star fare, but we liked the fact that there was a full salad bar available as well as multiple appetizer, entrée, drink, and dessert choices. And the dining areas and restrooms were always clean. We also always experienced the best service ... professional, friendly, accommodating staff ... they treated us like family invited to their home for dinner. And it wasn't just the cashier taking our money when we entered the door; it was the wait staff, the line staff, and the dishwasher restocking the dinner plates and silverware. Corporate America, you really need to start paying attention to your over-worked, under-benefited workers, especially the Skyes in your organization. If you want a successful, long-term, profitable business, then you must pay your employees a livable wage, provide adequate training, and offer benefits such as health care plans, opportunities for advancement, and paid time off. As a customer, I would rather pay more for my meal (that helps pay an insurance premium) than have a waiter sick with strep, too poor to take an unpaid day off or see a doctor (because they have no insurance or vacation or leave benefits), coughing on my food while preparing it. Stop paying the Wedo CEO's these obscene salary/benefit packages and golden parachute retirements, and instead invest in your potential lifetime employees (the ones who start at the bottom). I promise you, your potential lifetime customers will take notice and reward your business multiple times over.

June 06 2014 at 10:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

P.s. #2 invest a few bucks and install a longer dishwashing area...

January 25 2014 at 3:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

P.s. I wouldn't have fired him either. Looked pretty busy, and I didn't see anyone complain about a dirty dish. The Bellys of america have grown exponentially, Serve More Salads......and teach the dishwasher to cook...

January 25 2014 at 3:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

To get angry at an overworked underpaid worker is a waste of time. Teach that worker to do His "Job" as Best he can, Teach him Excellence". Anthony Wedo and hometown buffet have their work cut out for them. Though not impossible, Hometown buffet must or at least (I think) should, learn how to keep the brand updated, without digging unnecessarily deeper financially. I won't get into details here, but let's just say I've walked the lane, for bout hmmmmm" 6 trips. Long enough to see the layout and the ridiculous spending that goes into what I think for the $$$$$ is sub par decor. Its amazing (I'm termed old) in the marketplace, yet was just riding a skateboard.... lol. Do you think everyone overlooks the dirt and grime of many of Americas restaurants? Certain types tolerate it. Like some backwoods greasy spoon that has grease stuck to the fryer wheels. Being Responsible fiscally doesn't mean, tossing your patrons toxins while you treat the "People whom actually run business like dogs. Corporate america provides a Great service to those of us who choose to patronize their business. Stockholders Care". I Care. Provide Xlnt Customer Service. Keep it Clean" and let the lazy ones go. Find people that are motivated to Provide excellent service, whatch your profits grow. Profit share. And Become a part of the solution. Rather than taking advantage of the massive labor pool. Signed: The elephant man, that America won't hire....

January 25 2014 at 2:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is why restaurants who need dishwashers prefer Hispanics because no job is menial as long as they have a job. It's not true that Hispanics working in the restaurant industry are undocumented because their work ethics is to work and any job that pays wages is better than nothing. Dishwashing jobs and bus boys are not jobs that the majority of American citizens prefer not to work at but if you really need to work then something is better than nothing.

October 28 2013 at 11:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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