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.