On 'Undercover Boss,' Generations Clash at Subway

undercover boss fertmanThis Sunday, Don Fertman, director of development at the Subway sandwich chain, will have a first-hand experience with his company's "Eat Fresh" philosophy as he gets chewed out on national TV. The latest guest on CBS's (CBS) popular Undercover Boss, the corporate exec from Connecticut tries his hand at making sandwiches, baking bread and many of the other jobs that keep a Subway franchise humming. In the process, he'll experience the tough side of working at Subway -- under the supervision of a stern trainer who takes her job very seriously.

Soft-palmed execs learning about the gritty realities of their businesses is a recurring theme on Undercover Boss, but Fertman's foray into tough training exposes an interesting generational shift. A 29-year veteran of the chain, he joined Subway while pursuing a degree in communications from the University of New Haven. By the time he graduated in 1982, he had already been working at the company for a year. Since then, he has worked his way up the ranks, including stints as a public relations manager, company photographer and franchise manager.

But a position in Subway's corporate suite wasn't always the exec's dream. In college, Don "Riff" Fertman was bassist for The Bats, a new-wave rock band. Their sole album, How Pop Can You Get?, came out in 1982 to considerable acclaim. At the time, Billboard magazine endorsed it as a "Recommended LP."

Yet, in spite of the positive feedback, the group never really gained mainstream popularity, and it broke up about a year after releasing their record. One member went on to win a Grammy as a record producer, and another became an Emmy-winning TV producer. Fertman moved to Subway, a small chain whose director of marketing at the time also happened to be The Bats' promoter.

Here's a version of their song Popgun:

Flash forward 27 years, and now Fertman finds himself being supervised by a trainer who appears to be roughly the same age that he was when he first started working at Subway. But while following a career at the restaurant chain was a second choice for Fertman, his trainer seems to approach her job with relentless ambition.

As the playful exec goes head-to-head with the serious, determined worker, the show will feature more than just a clash of generations: For the trainer, Subway isn't a dead-end job, but rather a path to a career. It will be interesting to see if Fertman's casual attitude rubs off on his co-worker or if her dogged determination to do great work will inspire him to take sandwich building to another level.

Undercover Boss will air on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

What is Short Selling?

Make a profit when stocks prices fall.

View Course »

Basics of Diversification

Learn one of the fundamental concepts of building a portfolio.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:
Ehsaanullah Zahid

It's ironic how much money is spent annually by subway on advertising and this recent effort by don Fertman to promote Subways image. I say ironic because here in Pakistan, we are being served everything from Caterpillars, Flies to Cockroaches in our Subs. The outlets have pathetic hygiene conditions with servers picking their nose in front of customers, clipping their nails on counters and cockroaches coming out of their kitchens if it wasnt enough to make you throw up in your mouth already.

There are no checks and balances because the Development Agents are the very people who own majority of the franchises. Convenient, because you cant get your complaint heard or an impartial resolution.

Customers come down with food borne illnesses such as food poisoning, hepatitis, typhoid. I loved Subway, I still do. But I'm a little repulsed now. I had been eating for 3 months straight at Subway store id 39526. There were flies and the insect killers didnt work. I politely filled out a suggestion card and also asked the server to tell the owner to do something about the insect killer.

Next visit, nothing had happened. So I decided to take snaps of the dead and alive flies on the premises and email them to him. As I did so, a server on the counter started clipping his nails since there were no customers to serve at the time. A few days earlier, a server had picked his nose oblivious to on looking customers. I reprimanded him, he apologized and I let it slide thinking it was a one off incident. Keep in mind, we are brain washed by the clever advertising into thinking regardless of geographical location. Subway would maintain its standards of hygiene at least. Not so.

As I was done finishing the email, a large cockroach came out of the kitchen making me want to throw up. I stopped going to Subway after that but it was already too late. I came down with Hepatitis A and was in the hospital for 2 weeks of what seemed like a near death experience.

2 months passed and the owner still didnt reply. I called Subway HQ and threatened a lawsuit. I was given nothing but lip service by their attorney "We will look into this but can't promise you a time frame for a resolution as we have never dealt with such a situation before'. Add insult to injury why dont you? The owner emailed me saying the workforce was to blame, and took no responsibility for the incident.

These are the kind of people you want representing Subway Don Fertman? The kind that play with peoples lives and safety? Why? Because its good for profits and business? Have you any idea how many customers you lose when this happens? I'm looking at a relapse of the Hepatitis A and Subway International just wants to drag its feet because business is good in this part of the world right now, even if it kills a few people.

June 09 2014 at 2:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Husband and I had to stop watching this show because Don is unfortunately a bit of a 'futzer' who didn't get the need for speed and efficiency at all. It was painful to watch. That slowness was either by design for entertainment purposes or Don really is not too swift. My husband (a middle manager) said he'd not let someone that slow to catch on manage anything in his company. I got a new job at age 58, and even though the pace was very quick, I never lag behind or complain about there being 'too many pieces' to the task at hand. This boss show was more annoying to watch than the usual show about a clueless chief executive. A nice guy, I'm sure, but give 'the old duffer' routine a break. And get your hearing checked - years before an amp set at 11 has obviously ruined Don's ability to hear certain sound frequencies.

July 02 2011 at 10:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think that the trainer has the right attitude. If you are going to do something, you might as well give it your all.

November 22 2010 at 8:07 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I live in Memphis Tn and I would LOVE to see FRED SMITH CEO Federal Express to work at his company on the ground floor. I know it's too late now but this would be the perfect time for him to train around the holiday time and see how much work it takes from his employees to make Fed Ex what it is today. Having work there you got to have speed and agility.

November 22 2010 at 5:42 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply


November 22 2010 at 4:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

First off, the delivery to the funeral home may have been a corperate lunch fund, where the boss has a running tab with Subways and in the end they will be rewarded? Just one way to look at deliveries to an organization or another company! How nice it would be if everyone, no matter the social status or race, would be generous to all those hardworking and polite delivery persons or those waiting on us. I know my child began working making deliveries, and I was generous to those whom may have delivered to my home, as I would want that for my child. I do know how hard it is to wait on people, and believe if the person is caring, gives good service and pleasant, they should get more than double the tax charged on the bill. I also believe in NOT leaving tips for those that feel they're entitled, want the money, but don't want to do the job and are arrogant should you ask for something! Just don't care for those boss' that want their servers to share the tips, sorry, some people do more than others, and are much more generous to their customers and have earned that tip, they shouldn't be shared with those that do nothing, and servers too, have to share tips with those busing tables for them, where is the justice?

November 22 2010 at 2:10 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Did anyone notice that when they were delivering sandwiches that not one black person tipped the delivery people? I have always been told that blacks do not tip and I guess it is true because I know what I saw with my own two eyes this evening on the show.

November 22 2010 at 12:36 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jay's comment

And because you see a few black on tv, this represents all black people. Base on your comment, a silly general statement can be made.

November 22 2010 at 5:48 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

The President chose the Tasty Sub Shop in Edison NJ over Subway there must be a reason!

November 22 2010 at 12:17 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Did he have to apply for section 8 and Food Stamps ?

November 22 2010 at 12:14 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Did he learn that low wages stink ?

November 22 2010 at 12:13 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply