Paul Goddard shares his experiences of getting his hands doughy for the new Canadian edition of Undercover Boss.
Undercover Boss, the reality show in which CEOs disguise themselves and work at the entry-level positions of their company (much to the amusement of viewers), is introducing a Canadian version next week.
Among the 10 who signed up: TTC Chair Karen Stintz; CEOs from Second Cup, Molson, the Toronto Zoo and Cineplex; and the head of the Toronto-based Pizza Pizza, Paul Goddard, who took over the company less than two years ago after founder (and Goddard’s father-in-law) Michael Overs passed away. We spoke with Goddard about his Undercover experience.
Why did you decide to do the show?
I received an email from the show back in June or July out of the blue. It was a strange request, but I thought it was a great opportunity to show what goes on inside the company and feature some of our people and what we do. On a personal level, it’s an excuse to literally get out there—albeit in disguise—and see what goes on at the frontlines. I’ve only been in the CEO position for a little less than two years, and not everyone knew what I looked like, so it was nice to go out there and see what it’s like. Sometimes, there’s a bit of a filtered view in the head office, so it’s nice to get a view of this as well.
Why not just do internal audits where there aren’t any cameras?
We do quite a bit of this already, but this gives another level of insight. We do secret shoppers and customer feedback and have district managers. The difference in this is that I can get input with my own eyes and decide how to make improvements.
And I assume another benefit is that there’s an hour-long show on prime-time about the company.
Well, there are some trepidations involved prior to filming. The show chose which store locations to visit, so there’s a bit of risk there, but I had confidence we were doing it right. I don’t think there was anything really negative to begin with.
So what was the most challenging part of the experience?
Remembering that I was supposed to be someone else and staying in character. My story is that I was an unemployed oil worker looking for a career change named Gavin Hamilton. There’s an entire back-story, but Gavin had some parallels with my real life. Both of us are married with two kids, and I have worked in the oil industry before, so I could speak knowledgably on that stuff.
And what did Gavin have to do?
I was a delivery driver at one of our brands, Pizza 73 in Alberta, so I went with one of the drivers delivering pizzas and learned how he felt about customer service. The customers liked him and he was friendly, so I was happy to see that. I also worked the counter at a Pizza Pizza in Markham where I was making the pizzas. It’s tougher than it looks. I understood what was involved, but to make it with your own hands during a busy day something else.
Was that the hardest job?
The most demanding was probably accompanying one of our truck drivers to the central warehouse in Toronto and fill up an entire trailer with supplies like pizza dough, pepperoni, cheese and pop. They go all over Toronto delivering them from 2 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Any other revelations?
It’s amazing how critical and tough these roles are. People might see some of these jobs as entry level, but these are the people who are reaching our customers, and the number of ideas they had was really inspiring. I didn’t necessarily appreciate how many good ideas they had, so we made the level of communication more open between the head office and the stores. One man at the Markham store had ideas for new products and operational improvement to serve the food quicker without hurting the quality. Also, one of the people I was following around was studying marketing and I thought she would have the potential to do great work in other areas of the company as well.
Being a Toronto-based pizza chain, surely you have noticed people’s taste buds evolve with the popularity of places like Pizzeria Libretto and Terroni. What’s Pizza Pizza doing to stay current?
Well, Libretto has a different business model than us. There’s great pizza out there, but we also have to deliver, so the pizzas have to stand-up to being in a car for 30 minutes. New companies certainly raise everyone’s game and force everyone to be better. We’re a big player, a national chain and we just emphasize the quality we always have. We introduce new pizzas, made an iPhone app, redid our gluten-free dough to improve the taste, introduced poutine and Italian sandwiches, and we’re looking at different crusts and premium toppings.
But with all these changes, how can you make sure a New Coke-type situation doesn’t happen?
Make sure you don’t sacrifice your core offering, but you can always test out new things on the fringe. We’ve done tests on things like poutine in Quebec to make sure it works before taking it to a larger audience.
How often do you eat pizza?
About once or twice a week, but it’s not always an entire meat lover’s pizza. There’s always pizza around the office because we do a lot of testing. There’s a training centre and we also have to test out pizzas at a new franchisee to know that they were properly trained.
Do you know any of the other people who went undercover for the show?
I know the CEO of the zoo, John Tracogna and the CEO of the Cineplex, Ellis Jacob, through work. I think everyone that has been involved enjoyed it and glad they took the leap of faith.
Undercover Boss Canada premieres on Feb. 2 at 9 p.m. on the W Network. Goddard’s episode premieres Feb. 9.