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Taco Bueno’s Michael Roper Fills FE&S in on his “Undercover Boss” Experience

The president and CEO provides insight on the back of the house, food prep and kitchen detail.

TacoBueno BeforeAfterTaco Bueno's Michael Roper downgrades his executive apparel during his transformation for "Undercover Boss" on CBS. Photo courtesy of Studio Lambert C2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc.Michael Roper, president and CEO of Tex-Mex chain Taco Bueno, will appear on “Undercover Boss” on CBS this Friday. Here Roper shares with the readers of FE&S the inside scoop about his experience trading his executive title for a rank-and-file role, specifically his takeaways regarding foodservice equipment and working in the kitchen.

FE&S: What was your view on the back of the house?

MR: There is more equipment and technology in our restaurants than I had realized. From kettles to POS systems, it’s an integrated layout of equipment and tools that when running smoothly makes everything hum. However, as I learned very quickly, when you don’t have the proper tools or equipment breaks down it creates havoc in the restaurant and you become very inefficient.

FE&S: What do you think is the most challenging aspect of getting the food out after an order reaches the kitchen?

MR: It’s all about the layout of the equipment, proper tools and work space. Being a chain that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, we have a lot of different kitchen layouts and sizes. Because of this, not every one of our restaurants is set up in the most optimal way. This can cause efficiency and speed issues in various locations. Technology and state-of-the art equipment can help alleviate some of these issues. For example, we are in the process of completing a system-wide rollout of blast chillers in all our restaurants. This equipment saves time, reduces space issues and improves food safety — it’s a win-win-win scenario.

IMG 6409bTaco Bueno President and CEO Mike Roper works a food station while undercover as an hourly employee. Photo courtesy of Studio Lambert C2017, CBS Broadcasting Inc.FE&S: How was it working the line doing food prep?

MR: As part of the show, I had to work multiple positions throughout the restaurant. Specifically, I spent time as a cashier, drive-thru attendant and also worked the line. The line is the heart and soul of the restaurant where you prepare the various food items — tacos, burritos, platters, nachos, etc. I had the full experience. What was interesting to me was the speed in which you had to work, the coordination required between the various people on the line, knowing the recipes (thank goodness I have eaten everything on the menu already to know what was on most items) and finally working with the various pieces of equipment and their usages. It’s critical that you have the proper tools to do these jobs, as well as plenty of workspace. Very quickly I learned about the proper tools to keep the line moving fast and the product made correctly.

FE&S: Did you realize the kind of prep and effort that goes into making multiple fresh salsas?

MR: Knowing that we prepare fresh salsas in our restaurants, I wasn’t necessarily surprised in the effort it takes to make this versus bringing in premade items. What I didn’t realize is the pre-preparation of various ingredients that you have to do even before you start to make the various salsas. It’s a complicated process!

FE&S: Did staff have any good ideas while you were undercover in terms of how to make life behind the scenes better?

MR: We always get great ideas from the field on how to make things better in the restaurants — we actually created an email called This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. that comes directly to the executive team for review. What I experienced firsthand and the interactions with the team help explain where we have some deficiencies that need to be addressed — from technology, POS systems, facilities and space planning.