Mangement Professor Works In Fast Food To Learn About Management



What really happens after you place an order for a Big Mac or a Whopper with Cheese?

Jerry M. Newman, Ph.D., SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor in the University at Buffalo School of Management, knows because he worked undercover in seven fast food restaurants across the country, observing operations from the top down — from the biggest management whoppers to the smallest fries at the fry station.

Newman has chronicled his experiences in a new book, "My Secret Life on the McJob: Lessons from Behind the Counter Guaranteed to Supersize Any Management Style" (January 2007, McGraw-Hill).

I'm torn between admiration and the desire to point out the irony of this story. Is this evidence of a brave and sincere desire to learn, or evidence that PhDs are way out of touch?

  • Rob,

    I think it’s more a testament to the power of the “publish or perish” mentality than anything else.


  • I guess you have to ask yourself one important question.

    Would I buy a burger from that man?

  • The real question is “Who’s Listening?”

    Every manager at a fast food joint has a complete training manual that covers almost every situation that they could come in contact with.

    The problem isn’t a lack of guidance. The problem is expecting a $10/hr ($12.50 if they’re desperate!) manager to act like a $150,000 executive.

    It will happen periodically because someone with character is in a management position. But as soon as they find out s/he’s a hard worker, s/he’ll be promoted out of there.

    Leaving us with whatever is left.

    And they ain’t reading materials by Jerry N. Newman, PhD

  • It seems less irony than simply great marketing of an idea — a good “hook,” as we used to say in journalism. Catchy title, clever concept. Good book? Anyone read it?

    And Daniel — true nuf, and I agree with what you say. But it seems like the book was intended for a general business management audience, not fast food managers specifically. Again, haven’t read it… but that was my take.

  • I agree with Ann. I do not see any wrong in this. If the guy wants to write a book on about management, he needs some fast hand experience. What’s the big deal???

  • The guy’s clearly not a spring chicken, so even if he had worked in fast food at some point, it was doubtless long ago. And it’s definitely an interesting thing for a management prof to study from the “inside”.