A 2012 episode of CBS’ undercover boss revolving around Checkers and one of its restaurants is receiving renewed attention 10 years later because it resonates with those working in the fast food and service industry. The episode featured Checkers and Rally CEO Enrique “Rick” Silva shutting down the restaurant after learning how rude the establishment’s general manager was to his employees.
Silva went undercover as another Philadelphia restaurant employee, under the name Alex Garcia. He had quite a history as a failed pharmacy owner who took the job to earn some extra cash. Silva contacted an employee named Todd, who said he dropped out of school and worked at the restaurant to help his mother. The manager, identified only as Stevens, is heard barking orders at Todd and the other employees, threatening them even if they don’t instantly do the job he yelled at them to do.
After Stevens tells Silva and Todd to take out the trash, Silva asks Todd why he kept working there if the manager was yelling all the time. Todd again explained that he needed the job. After Silva tells Todd that he should stand up to Stevens, Todd begins to cry in fear of losing his job. So Silva asked to speak to Stevens outside.
“What excuse is there for talking to people without being respectful to them?” Silva asked. “Honestly, I don’t think I was being disrespectful,” Stevens replied, adding that he felt the need to raise his voice or the employees wouldn’t do what they were told. When Silva said he would refuse to work for Stevens if he spoke to him that way, Stevens said he would tell him he “couldn’t handle” the job.
After Stevens continued to strongly defend his reasoning for disrespecting his employees, Silva revealed his true identity as a 20-year veteran in the restaurant industry and CEO of Checkers and Rally’s. Silva told Stevens that he was not running the restaurant by company standards and that he planned to close it immediately.
In an interview with Nation Restaurant News after the episode aired, Silva explained that Stevens’ behavior did not pose a “danger” to employees or customers, but that his tone was “different, too terse”. The restaurant was only closed for a night shift and a new manager was in place the following day. The finished episode with Silva awarding Todd $15,000 to help his mother and finish culinary school.
“I came to the conclusion that he was not ready to lead this shift and was not confident that when I left the restaurant would provide the level of service that we need,” Silva told Restaurant News. “Employees need to hear the kind of leadership I expect, and GMs need to provide support and coaching. We temporarily closed the unit for that Sunday night shift. The next morning she reopened with a new manager, and it’s been running great ever since.”
Silva’s time undercover boss started trending on YouTube this month, as people working in the fast food industry a decade later understand the difficulties of working under demanding managers. “I’ve spent about 25 years in restaurants, and that general manager’s mentality matches the way so many people think the industry works. I’ve had managers say the exact same thing to me all the time. being unable to understand why staff keep quitting,” one person wrote. “Congratulations to the CEO…you never, ever disrespect the staff. You earn their trust and respect by acknowledging them and thanking them for all they do,” another commented.
Silva remained Checkers and Rally’s CEO through 2020, according to his LinkedIn Profile. In March 2021, he became President and CEO of Culver’s Franchising System. Prior to running Checkers, he rose through the ranks of the Burger King business, eventually becoming Senior Vice President of Franchise Operations in Canada and the Eastern United States.