As CEO of Buffalo Wings & Rings, "Undercover Boss" gave Nader Masadeh a chance to experience the ups and downs of the business from the ground floor.
There’s something you should know about Nader Masadeh, the president and CEO of Buffalo Wings & Rings. For more than 40 years, he’s been the guy with the mustache.
When he was presented with an opportunity to explore the inner-workings of Buffalo Wings & Rings by participating in the hit CBS show Undercover Boss, he was tasked to do so under the guise of “Pete.” But here’s the thing, “Pete is an older guy—maybe by nearly 20 years—and he’s balding. He has gray, wispy eyebrows. He wears thick glasses. And he doesn’t have a mustache.
You probably know where this is going. To truly embed himself in the day-to-day operations of the company, not as the CEO and co-founder but as a regular employee, Masadeh’s nearly life-long mustache had to go. He shaved his head and his face, stripped the dark color from his hair and dyed it gray. For Masadeh to really understand what makes his company work—and not work—he had to fully commit to this strange and new persona.
For nearly 11 years, Masadeh has been with Buffalo Wings & Rings as its co-owner. But as the company’s CEO, he’s still pretty new to the game. Taking part in Undercover Boss presented itself as an incredible opportunity—this was his chance to see firsthand how the company executes at their franchise locations.
“Pete” became his alter-ego for a week. He worked alongside employees to complete those understated routine tasks that are paramount to keeping the business in working order. From washing dishes in Cincinnati to serving tables in Chicago, “Pete” was on the ground floor of it all.
“Going undercover was exhilarating. I was able to share laughs with dozens of employees who work hard to keep our customers smiling. I saw where we were excelling and thriving. But I also saw where we struggled,” Masadeh said. “And while those rough moments aren’t always easy to swallow, they serve as a lesson: There is always room to improve your business.”
1851 Franchise talked to Masadeh to hear what he learned from the experience.
1851: What were your key takeaways from this experience?
Masadeh: I learned that nobody is perfect, and Buffalo Wings & Rings is no exception. At the end of the experience, there were two key lessons learned, and they both came down to the company’s employees—the people who take care of the daily operations that we don’t usually see. It’s important to first select the right employees who share the same values as your company. Once you have the right employees, foster them. Make sure they stick around so that they can really impact the business.
1851: Did you find that certain employees didn’t fit into the company’s mission?
Masadeh: I realized that a lot of times, the things we hope to see in our employees—like passion, charisma, loyalty and hospitality—sometimes get lost in translation as they trickle down the management ladder. It was hard to see employees not always offering the VIP experience to customers and giving respect to each other that we expect to see across the system. I saw certain employees being rude to customers, reading from emotionless script and making it clear that their patronage wasn’t appreciated. Just as worse, I saw disrespect between employees. That’s not who we are—and that’s not how I want to see our brand represented to the people who keep us in business.
1851: So what can a boss do to change that?
Masadeh: When you’re interviewing your next potential franchisee, make sure they believe in the same things that you do. Make sure they’re thinking with their head and their heart. And make sure they embody kindness. From there, the rest falls into place. When you select the right franchisee, their zeal for the company will become contagious. It’ll spread down and creep into the thoughts and actions of every other employee who comes along.
1851: Is it hard to maintain that kind of message amongst the company’s hundreds of employees?
Masadeh: It is. The problem is that in our line of business, there’s often a high turnover rate. When you’re constantly training and retraining, those certain intangible elements—like value and pride—can slip through the cracks. So maybe your new employee knows how to run the cash register, but do they know how to personalize service to the guest to be able to make them feel special? These things aren’t always easy, but when you do find the people who fit that mold, it’s so important to keep them on board.
1851: What’s the answer to reducing the high turnover right and ensuring consistency?
Masadeh: It all comes down to nurturing your employees. When you have someone who truly lives and breathes what the company stands for, make sure you hang on to them. It’s important to focus on longevity and a low turnover rate. Do this by creating a safe environment and a culture that inspires personal and professional growth. Treat them fairly, and reward them for a good day’s work. Let them know they’re valued.
1851: How do you plan to utilize this experience in the years to come?