Sunday, November 21, 2010 – Don Fertman, Chief Development Officer for Subway, goes undercover as John Wilson, an unemployed counselor competing for a job at Subway in the CBS show Undercover Boss.
Don, who has worked for Subway for 29 years, has never made a sandwich. He was originally in a band called The Crayons, and helped with some jingles for Subway; after the band broke up, he began selling franchises. Although during the day he posed as a desk jockey, he was still living a hard life, including indulging in drugs and alcohol. A meltdown led to rehab, and when Subway owner and founder Fred Deluca gave him a second chance, he straightened up and got his life in order. Married with two children, and still enjoying dabbling in music with some of his old band mates, Don is chosen to play Undercover Boss because he is less recognizable then Fred, the face of Subway, would be.
Don knows that the front line people at Subway are the important ones. He wants to make sure everything is being done to help Subway expand, particularly in unconventional markets, and is eager to see what works and what doesn’t. Accordingly, he transforms himself, via beard, glasses and darker hair color, in to an Undercover Boss and goes to Orlando, Florida for Job #1, learning what it takes to make a great sandwich.
Paired with Sandwich Artist Jessi, Don quickly finds that she is quite serious about her sandwich making and he better be too. She’s not impressed with his attempts at humor, gives him two minutes to learn the sandwich chart before she quizzes him on it, and tells him he has to be as good or better than her or she’s losing money. After observing him, she tells him there is no such thing as a five minute sandwich and demotes him to washing dishes, sweeping floors and taking out trash.
On a break, he learns that Jessi’s mother abandoned her family, and it is just Jessi and her Dad, whom she never gets to spend enough time with between work and college, which she is trying to figure out how to finance. She also reveals that her ultimate sandwich would be the Cuban sandwich, but says she’s never gotten a Subway big wig to let her bend their ear about that. “It’s on my list, though,” she says, not realizing she can now cross it off.
Don Fertman’s second job as an Undercover Boss is in Auburn, Alabama on Game Day for the nearby University. Here Don, posing undercover as John, hopes to home in on stellar customer service. He meets Sherri, the Store Manager. She tries to get him to focus on making the sandwiches more efficiently and talking while waving his hands around less, but he’s singing the ingredients to himself, treating the making of a sandwich like an art project, and chattering away to annoyed customers. She tells him that you can get to know your customers thoroughly while still getting their sandwiches in their hands in about one minute. After 19 years, she’s learned to love her customers and reveals that she’s got three kids working at Subway as well. Don, as John, observes that she either knows all her customers or at least makes them feel like she knows them. When he asks for a break, Sherri laughingly tells him, “You don’t get a break. That’s why we took your watch.”
Job #3 is back in Orlando, Florida, in a Children’s Science Center, where Don hopes to learn how they reduce costs and still do an efficient business. There are no customers when John arrives, but Efrain quickly shows him just how hectic it can be making dough, bread and cookies. Ignoring buzzing timers, smooshing dough and then apologizing to it, and at one point locking himself in the freezer accidentally, John does not impress Efrain, who says that John’s speed is similar to his Grandma… or maybe slower.
Efrain, 20, was the youngest Manager at Subway when he began. He rode his bike to the store, worked hard, and made Manager of the Month in just a few months. He was adopted, and feels it made all the difference in his life. He wants to take care of his adoptive mother, grow up well, and he also wants to help foster kids, to try to repay the blessings he’s received in his own life.
Job Four for Don, Undercover Boss posing as John, is a Subway in a church called True Bethel in Buffalo, New York. Since nontraditional development is his specialty, he is interested in how this unique idea has panned out. He works with Duane, the Store Manager. The store is beginning a new process of making deliveries. John finds that taking orders over the phone, trying to get all the myriad of details down, correctly and legibly, is a great deal of work. While driving to make the deliveries, John discovers that Duane has four adopted children, as his wife was unable to have kids. He’s working so much that Saturday night is designated family time. After making a delivery to a funeral home, Duane gets a call that the men at the barbershop want him to get a move on with their food. When they take the food in, John says, “Eat fresh!”
“Deliver fresh!” retorts an exasperated and hungry customer. Duane apologizes, gives the men a discount on their next meal, and restores good feelings as the men say they’ll call again tomorrow to use their discount.
Back at the Subway in a church, Pastor Darius takes John for a tour, showing him the podium and musical instruments, and explaining why they decided to have a Subway in their church. Everyone was always telling the Pastor that they needed jobs, and job training. Finally the church leaders decided to buy a franchise in order to train people who might have a hard time getting a job otherwise, while offering them a job in the Subway franchise. They began a special “franchise offering,” and when they had enough, they bought the Subway for a jobs program. Pastor Darius also revealed that Duane was a minister as well, who had come here to help out with training employees. “Smile, wash your hands, and you’re the Pastor’s brother,” Pastor Darius tells John in parting.
As John Wilson, Undercover Boss, turns him self back in to Don Fertman, he reflects on what he’s learned. He’s connected with people who’ve been through overwhelming odds, he’s learned that helping people have a better life is as important as making a profit in business, and he remembers Subway giving him a second chance when he needed it so badly.
Don Fertman meets with his board to tell them what he learned as an Undercover Boss at Subway. He says Jessi needs to be on a Sandwich Artist forum because she has great ideas. Sherri knows how to start with a sandwich and end with customer service and he wants to find out more about how she does it. The sandwich place in a church inspired him to reach out to communities.
As John’s Subway coworkers begin arriving at the headquarters in Milford, Connecticut, Don prepares to reveal that he is really a big wig after all. He tells Efrain that since he emphasized initiative, he wants him to join an Innovation Committee so he can speak his mind about company ideas. He also wants to give him $5,000 to donate to the Foster Care Organization of his choice. Furthermore, he wants to give Efrain $1,000 to do something nice for his Mom’s birthday, which is coming up soon. If his eleven year old son grows up to be like Efrain, he says, he’ll be very proud.
Sherri, he says, epitomizes a Subway Lady, since she’s good at all tasks, and helps the customer know Subway by knowing her. He asks her to star in a Subway video, for which she’ll be compensated $5,000. Also, Don asks her to come to the upcoming Subway convention and go on a spa day, shopping trip, and just treat herself to a special time. Sherri ends up with a closet full of new shoes after her shopping day.
Don tells Jessi that she is the boss that scared him the most – but also showed him the art of the sandwich. He then informs her that he wants to pay for the rest of her college education. Before she can pick herself up off the floor, figuratively speaking, he tells her he also wants to send her and her Dad on a vacation of her choice. She and her father eventually choose Hawaii, but at first Jessi is speechless. “The girl who never shuts up,” says Jessi, “has nothing to say.”
Don asks Duane to help build a program with Subway to build the community, and he will be compensated. Also, Don says they will waive the $15,000 franchise fee if Duane will help them expand across the country. Furthermore, he intends to put $20,000 towards Duane’s sons’ college education. Later Duane and Pastor Darius run a workshop at the convention about franchising in unusual places as a community work program.
Don reveals to the wider Subway family that he has been Undercover Boss for a week, and has realized how fortunate he is to be part of this Subway family. Those people serving sandwiches make the company great, concludes Don.
Source: watching Undercover Boss Subway Episode on CBS