LOS ANGELES--For California Pizza Kitchen co-founder and co-CEO Rick Rosenfield, the two hours he spent scrubbing pans and dishes in one of his chain's restaurants taught him some lessons about operations.
According to the Los Angeles Times, utensils at the 168-restaurant chain now are sorted before they hit the sink area to protect dishwashers' hands.
"It's the forks that get you," Rosenfield said.
Rosenfield and co-CEO Larry Flax recently took turns pulling dish duty, waiting tables and making pizzas for a new, upcoming reality TV series on the Learning Channel, called "Now Who's Boss?" The shows place CEOs from various companies into entry-level service positions at their firms for a week to give them a taste of what their employees endure.
"People like to see people at the top getting kicked around at the bottom," said Flax, whose TV debut is scheduled for March 29. In the show, his and Rosenfield's work quality is judged by the senior waiters, hostesses and kitchen managers at CPK.
The segments were filmed at two CPK restaurants in Manhattan Beach and Hollywood because, as Flax put it, he didn't want to "overwhelm [one location] with incompetence."
Flax and Rosenfield were attorneys when they started the gourmet pizza chain in 1985.
Prior to the show, neither had worked in operations--and their inexperience shows.
In one dishwashing scene, Rosenfield stares down at a mound of mushy food debris in a trough to the side of the sink.
"Where does this go?" he asks kitchen manager Roberto Castro, before being told to scoop it out with his hands into the trash. Then, after scrubbing 500 dishes during the lunch rush, Rosenfield stares through the cloudy water at skillets left to be cleaned
"Oh my God, there's another 10 in there at least," he moans.
Flax's biggest struggle comes while waiting tables. His confidence breaks down when he gets slammed in his four-table station. He forgets to card a young woman who orders a beer and then gets flustered by a group of women's special orders.
Still, CPK trainer Pauline Yasuda rates him a C-plus or B-minus.
"He handled it well. He didn't really have a breakdown or anything," she said, laughing.
Flax said the show made him proud of the chain's service and training programs. And, he said, it would be a real "morale booster" for company employees.
"I don't know what the national audience will be" for the show, Flax said. "But everyone who works for CPK who sees it is rolling on the floor."
Read related CPK stories here.