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During the March 2 episode of CBS' "Undercover Boss," Popeyes' Louisiana Kitchen's chief talent officer Lynne Zappone went undercover as "Pam Hawkins," a shift supervisor at a fine dining restaurant taking part in a fictional reality show called "Job Swap."
Zappone, who was hired by Atlanta-based Popeyes in April, was asked to step into the trenches on behalf of the company by Cheryl Batchelder, CEO of parent company AFC Enterprises. "I'm going undercover to have a great look at our long term investment, which is our people," Zappone said. "It's a simple equation – if you have happy team members they deliver a great experience to your guests and those guests keep coming back, and that equals profits."
Zappone then meets with Gina, a 27-year veteran of the company who works at a New Orleans unit and whose life was dramatically affected by Hurricane Katrina. Gina is tasked with training Zappone, from hand washing to greeting customers properly to working the cashier. During their time together, she tells Zappone about a broken pipe in the bathroom that has never been fixed, and that is causing customer complaints. They also don't have any cleaning supplies besides spray and paper towels. "It's our responsibility to make sure our crews have the tools to get the job done. And clearly they didn't have the tools to clean their restaurants according to our standards," Zappone said.
The company also is setting up an employee relief fund, inspired by Gina and her struggles through and after the hurricane. The program kicks off with a $10,000 donation to Gina, its inaugural recipient. "Spending time with crew members proved to me that they are so important to the success of our business. I've seen some challenges and opportunities for us to fix some things," Zappone said. "There's a lot more work to be done and a lot more to learn."