In the second episode of CBS’s “Undercover Boss,” Hooters CEO Coby Brooks’ experience was comparable to that of the Waste Management CEO week one. But he didn’t have to clean toilets.
The Atlanta-based company got an hour of primetime exposure, ceding editorial control to CBS producers. As a woman told an undercover Brooks that she thinks the chain is “degrading to women,” I can’t imagine this will change their minds.
But I don’t think it made Hooters look any worse. In fact, it may help Hooters short term by getting people to think about the chain and consider eating there.
Brooks comes across as humble and calm. Nobody detects him. He shaves his goatee, wears glasses and pretends to be part of a documentary about entry-level jobs. Day one, he tries to be a busboy and fails miserably before a former Marine/cop Dave who mocks him incessantly (but amusingly.)
On day two, he hangs with Ashley and Brittney on the streets of Dallas doing promotions. There, he hears first hand the positive and negative feelings people have about the chain. He eventually puts the girls on a PR campaign that Hooters girls are… people! And Hooters gives to the community. Again, as long as the Hooters girls wear what they wear, no PR campaign is going to cause certain feminists to suddenly want to become patrons.
Day three is the most interesting because Brooks meets store manager Jimbo (yes, they call the guy Jimbo), a burly guy who likes to fling rubber bands and spin trays on his finger. He seems a bit immature. And he treats the gals without a great deal of respect. He “inspects” them every day in an uncomfortably leering way. When he holds a contest for girls to leave early, he has them eat a plate of beans without using their hands.
Brooks watches, embarrassed. “The things I saw today,” he told the show, “were inappropriate. They were wrong and I don’t want any part of it… the way he approached the girls was not acceptable.”
Jimbo does not get fired. He gets reprimanded. The show says he has changed his management style.
On day four, Brooks plays assistant manager to another store manager Marcee, a single mom struggling to balance work with home life. She comes across as stern but respectful and nurturing. It helps she used to be a Hooters girl. He eventually gives her a paid vacation and she takes a less stressful job.
Day five, he hangs in Atlanta at the Naturally Fresh factory, where his dad used to have an office. (His father, who helped build the operation, died in 2006.). One employee, who got there after Coby’s dad died, tells Coby that employee morale is down and that people “hate” the son. Ouch! For some reason, the show does not really address how Brooks is going to help improve morale there. Oddly, he admits not having visited the factory since he was 16. I suspect he delegated that operation and didn’t pay any attention.