Don Fertman, chief development officer for the Subway sandwich chain, has played a pivotal role in the growth of the Subway brand to become the largest quick service restaurant chain in the world.
But recently, while participating in the hit CBS television series Undercover Boss, Fertman was able to get a glimpse at a part of the business he rarely sees during his daily routine in his office at the Subway chain’s Milford, Conn., world headquarters.
Fertman, a 29 year veteran of the restaurant chain, was baking bread, stocking sandwich ingredients, slicing vegetables, taking inventories and serving customers. The air date for the episode will be this Sunday, Nov., 21, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
Fertman was sent on an undercover assignment by Subway president and co-Founder Fred DeLuca. Although DeLuca would have liked to participate, he was thought to be too recognizable for the mission.
“When Fred sent me undercover, I told him I wanted to catch people doing really good things,” Fertman said. “I was not disappointed. I worked alongside many great store employees and came back with some terrific best practices, which we will be sharing within the organization. After working with these folks, I can see why we continually are rated very high by consumers. This was a very valuable experience.”
To pull off his transition from corporate executive Don Fertman to his undercover identity of John Wilson, Fertman continually tapped into his experience as a performer, which he got from his days as a singer and bass player for a popular Connecticut band before working for Subway. In fact, when Fertman interviewed with Fred for a job almost 30 years ago, he still had orange hair and wore orange platform shoes-both remnants of his rock-and-roll days.
On his undercover assignment, “John Wilson” worked with: Rev. Duane, the store manager at the Subway restaurant located in the True Bethel Baptist Church, Buffalo, N.Y.; Sherri, store manager, who is also known as the “Subway Lady” in her Alabama community; Efrain, a store manager in Florida who is also one of the system’s youngest managers; and Jessi, a sandwich artist in Florida, who has proven to be one of the toughest employees and trainers anyone associated with the brand has ever seen.
“There are a few things I was hoping to see while in the stores,” Fertman said. “We launched a major breakfast program in 2010, and I wanted to see first-hand how that was working in the restaurants. We also have a lot of stores that run successful catering programs, and I wanted to find best practices on that or to see what the specific needs are to make it better in the field. Overall, Fertman said the experience was one he would never forget and looked forward to working with the participants in the future.
“We are the number one chain in the world, and we continually look for ways to deliver an exceptional experience to our customers each and every day,” Fertman said. “Taking advantage of a situation like the one presented on Undercover Boss not only gives us a glimpse of what is happening on the front lines in the stores, but it provides consumers a look at how we operate. We are proud of how our wonderful sandwich artists deliver a terrific product to every customer and the dedication and entrepreneurial spirit of our amazing team of franchisees is the foundation of our system. We believe this episode will shine a spotlight on how Subway has grown to be so successful.”