Moe’s Southwest Grill president Paul Damico said being on CBS’ "Undercover Boss" provided him with an invaluable experience to observe the company’s functions at the store level — and it gave Moe's a sales and traffic boost to boot.
"Undercover Boss" is an hour-long show on CBS during which a top-level executive disguises himself and works at the company's restaurants with the intention of learning more about its operations and its workers. Moe’s was featured on the episode that aired Jan. 18.
“I’m going undercover because Moe’s is growing extremely fast,” Damico said during the show. “I want to make sure our franchisees are not falling short of the standards of our brand.”
For his disguise, Damico was given a head of hair and tattoos. The managers and workers he met with in Ft. Myers, Fla.; Charleston, S.C.; and Nashville, Tenn., were led to believe Damico, or “Mark Richards,” was competing for the opportunity to own his own business.
“It’s national exposure for your brand, but you have to be willing to put yourself out there,” he noted, adding that another reason for being on the show was to get national exposure for his mostly regional brand.
After Moe’s Southwest Grill was featured on "Undercover Boss," the company saw increases in sales, foot traffic and average check, according to Damico.
10.4 million people tuned in to watch the show, the best performance of Undercover Boss since March 2012, he noted. “We had unbelievable reach,” Damico said.
On Jan. 19, the company received 170 leads from people wanting to buy franchises.
In addition, same-store sales rose 4 percent to 5 percent, traffic increased 5 percent, and average check rose 5 percent since the show aired, he said.
Anecdotally, Damico added, some franchisees reported that their sales jumped 30 to 50 percent on the day following the show’s airing. Many franchisees also reported seeing 25 or more non-regular guests come into their locations in the days following the show.
Damico said the show also helped draw a new demographic into Moe’s stores: people ages 55-70.
Social media metrics were also high, with 5,000 people “talking” about Moe’s on Facebook. And the Moe’s website saw its traffic increase from about 12,000 hits per day to 78,000 hits on the day the Undercover Boss aired. The day after the show aired the website had 45,000 hits, Damico said.
All of these numbers — plus the national exposure — are significant to Moe’s as it explores expansion. “We’re growing west,” Damico said. “We’re going to open up in Dallas this year, and we’re going to open up in Las Vegas this year.” He added that he can’t wait to open and develop the concept in California, Arizona, and Utah, as well.
And the company is growing quickly. A new Moe’s opens every five days, he said, adding to the company’s nearly 500 locations.
Previously, the brand had focused on more local advertising, but now it's planning to take its message to the national stage, Damico noted. “We’re going to be on national television in March with our new commercials,” he said. “That’s the first time the brand is going to be [advertising] on national TV.”
Many other foodservice brands, including Cinnabon , Baja Fresh Mexican Grill , Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery , and Checker’s Drive-in Restaurants  have also used "Undercover Boss" to gain exposure for their brands.
Moe’s is part of Atlanta-based Focus Brands Inc., the parent company of Carvel, Cinnabon, Schlotzsky’s, Auntie Anne’s and Seattle’s Best Coffee.
Contact Erin Dostal at [email protected] .
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