More “Undercover Boss”

After yesterday’s post I watched another episode of “Undercover Boss”, this one featuring Coby Brooks, President and CEO of Hooters.  As you might imagine, Brooks finds both good and bad in his company and gets a hard time from some folks on the street who don’t appreciate the Hooters concept.

I’m no prude and I’ve enjoyed wings and beer at a couple of the Hooters locations (including one that’s featured on the program) but it is a little difficult to reconcile the company’s public profile with some of Brooks’ comments during the show.  He says he’d have no problem with his daughters joining the family business and that everything about the chain is wholesome and family-friendly, but early in the show one of the company’s ads flashes by on the screen:  “Hooters-More than a Mouthful”.

Be that as it may,the most telling episode in the show is probably when Brooks visits the company’s manufacturing plant (They make their own wing sauces and dressings.) in Atlanta.  The corporate office is also located in the Georgia city.

First, he says that morale in the factory was high when Dad was still alive (he died in 2006).  The elder Brooks would often visit the plant and talk to the people.  The current CEO admits that he hasn’t been in the plant since he was a teenager.  Don’t forget that the plant and the corporate office are in the same city and that Robert Brooks has been gone for four years!  Patti, the Business Manager at the plant tells Brooks that she has some concerns about morale.

The real enlightenment comes when Brooks asks one of the employees about the owner.  To make a long story short he says that the elder Brooks was a great guy and everybody loved working for him.  When our hero asks “What about the son?” what he hears is far from complimentary.

Of course, there is a happy ending with the newly enlightened CEO promising to do better.

Here’s the thing, this isn’t that unusual a story.  Almost without exception second-generation ownership is never like the first and third-generation owners are even less effective.  The founder had a dream and it was the focus of everything he did.  Charter employees shared in the dream and gave 110% to help achieve it.  It was usually a win-win for everyone.

Generation II comes along.  They knew about Dad’s (or Mom’s) dream but chances are that the business was already successful by the time they were old enough to really understand what was going on.  They’ve always enjoyed the fruits of the successful company but never experienced the struggles it took to get there.  Generation III has grown up around a successful business and have little or no idea of what it took to get there.

Coby Brooks didn’t aspire to join the family business so maybe we can give him a bit of a pass, but it took him four years to find his way to the factory.  No wonder the workers have no loyalty to him!

But he seems like a sincere enough guy, at least as sincere as you can be running a chain of restaurants named after a female body part.  Hopefully for his sake, he learned some valuable lessons.

Postscript:  According to several sources, the chain is for sale.   One reason given is “sagging sales”.

Silver Dollar City Grand Opening AdAnother Postscript:  This weekend’s episode of Undercover Boss will feature Herschend Family Entertainment, one of my favorite companies.  The Herschend family literally started with  nothing but a hole in the ground 50 years ago this year and now owns and operates theme parks and other entertainment properties all over the Midwest and Southeast.  If you watch you’ll see an organization that’s about as much opposite of Hooters as a company could possibly be.  It airs on CBS Sunday evening.  Don’t miss it if you can.

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They’re Still Spending Money

Silver Dollar City

Christmas Lights at Silver Dollar City

I spent an extended weekend in Branson, MO, injecting myself with a megadose of Christmas spirit.  For those who don’t know, Branson is one of the few places in the world where belief in God and country isn’t just a good thing, it’s the only thing.

Branson is also a shopper’s paradise.  Three outlet malls, a high-end shopping promenade along the lake front, and hundreds of small retail establishments  mean that you can shop ’til you drop and still not get it all in.  Naturally, you would expect the crowds to be small what with the recession and all.  WRONG!

We stayed in our second-choice motel because our first choice was full.  “No Vacancy” signs were visible all over town.  There was a long traffic backup just to get on the parking lot of the largest of the three outlet malls on Saturday morning.  The stores were full and people were carrying packages.

Maybe people were spending less than usual.  Maybe they were attracted to the outlets for their lower prices.  I can’t say.  But the non-outlet stores were just as busy.

One amazing sight was the Coach outlet store.  For the men in the crowd, Coach sells purses at outrageously high prices.  For most people, buying a Coach purse will mean that you won’t have any money left to put in it.  But, I digress.

Again, maybe it’s the discount prices.  But even at an outlet store, a Coach purse is definitely a luxury purchase.  But there was a line outside waiting to get into the  store!  There was a “bouncer” at the door, only admitting a customer when one left.  It looked more like an upscale nightclub in a big city than an outlet store in the Missouri Ozarks.  Amazing!

Make no mistake, people are spending money.  How much money remains to be seen.  But it’s out there.