Undercover Boss is one of my favorite TV shows; I don’t usually waste a lot of time in front of the TV so it takes something really good to spark an interest for me. This week’s episode was of particular interest because the show involved Steve Joyce, CEO of Choice Hotels. Comfort Inns fall under the Choice Hotels brand umbrella.
The guest experience at a hotel is a sum total of all of the individual parts of the hotel working together and working well. Friendly people at the front desk, immaculately clean guest rooms and grounds, a well maintained building, good food, the list goes on and on. We are expected to be area experts and be able to make recommendations for even the strangest things at the drop of a hat. The hospitality business has to be in your blood to be able to wake up every day and do it. It is a fun job with a new challenge everyday but you won’t get rich doing it especially on the line level.
It’s always nice to see the big head honcho step down from the “Ivory Office Building” and into the trenches on the property level. It can seem easy to designate policy and procedure from afar, but sometimes it just logistically does not work or is inefficient.
Choice Hotels is a purely franchised hotel company meaning they don’t actually own any of the hotels. They oversee 6,000 hotels throughout the world. The show begins with Steve (Jack) making a visit to the largest hotel in the Choice System, an Econo Lodge with 672 rooms. He is paired up with Ricardo, the Maintenance Engineer and spends the day arranging pool furniture and washing the pool tiles in 98 degree heat. They also had the pleasure of unclogging a stopped up toilet and walking from need to need in a very large hotel. Steve (Jack) is not happy with the overall condition of the hotel and wants it to be improved to be a flagship of the brand that it used to be.
The next day Steve (Jack) moves on to the Comfort Suites and prepares to work the day in Housekeeping with Christina. Housekeepers are typically on the lowest pay scale and Steve (Jack) gets to experience firsthand
just how hard a housekeeper has to work. All within 27 minutes he had to strip and re-make two beds, vacuum, clean the bathroom including shower, toilet and sink. Christina is an outstanding Housekeeping Manager and aspires to be a GM and all she had to say was that Jack needed to go to “housekeeping boot camp”.
For his day in the sales department Steve heads over to the Cambria Suites, one of the newest brands in the hotel system. He meets up with John, a brand new DOS with a lot of energy and an eye for a good suit. Steve (Jack) makes some cold calls over the phone and went out on client calls with John. He gets to see how well received John and that particular hotel are.
On the way to the final hotel John overnights in a Suburban Inn because there have been brand complaints and he wants to experience a stay to assess the issues. He is astounded to find that he must purchase coffee at the front desk and notes that he would be angry in the morning if there was none in the room.
The final stop for Steve (Jack) is at another Comfort Suites where he works a shift at the Front Desk with Brandalyn. They count the drawer, do security rounds, some light cleaning, take care of the guest needs, answer the phone etc. He gets to learn a lot about Brandalyn who very much wants to be a front desk manager and has worked very hard for everything she has in life.
In the end, Steve Joyce introduces himself to all of the folks he interacted with during his time in their respective hotels. He wants them all to feel appreciated and bring about the changes they had discussed in their brief meetings. For Ricardo at the Econo Lodge, he purchases a golf cart to make it easier for him to be more efficient and awards an undisclosed amount of money in a scholarship for Ricardo’s son who is attending medical school. He also brought the General Manager in to tell him know his expectations on the upkeep on the hotel. For Christina, he will be footing the bill for her GM Training class and provided tickets to the amusements parks in Orlando.
John is given $5,000 for a new wardrobe to wear to his new job in the Global Sales Department of Choice Hotels. The Suburban brand standards state that coffee must be available to the guests, not that it is free. Steve meets with his Executive team and they will work to get that changed. Finally for Brandalyn, he sends her for a week’s vacation in San Antonio and pays her rent for the next six months so she can get a home of her own. He also recommends to her management that she be shown Choice University and takes the Front Office Manager classes.
Watch the full episode here
What did you think of this Undercover Boss episode? What challenges do you face in your place of employment? I think most people really feed off of appreciation for the hard work they put in. What kind of incentives does your company have for a job well done? We’re always looking for fresh ideas and would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave them in the comments below.