On 'Undercover Boss,' Generations Clash at Subway

undercover boss fertman
undercover boss fertman

This 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.