A HomeTown Buffet cashier in Fresno is a star in Friday night's episode of the CBS reality show "Undercover Boss."
Cashier Michelle Villalobos, 20, was told to train a potential employee as cashier/server, unaware the person was Buffets Inc. CEO Anthony Wedo, who wore a fake mustache and shoulder-length wig.
"Undercover Boss," in its fifth season, is about bosses working in disguise alongside their employees and customers to learn and make changes that have a positive effect on the workplace. In September, the show earned its second Emmy in a row.
The episode involving Villalobos and Wedo airs at 8 p.m. on CBS47.
Buffets Inc., which specializes in buffet dining, owns 350 stores in 35 states, including HomeTown Buffet. The company has about 18,000 employees. Wedo says he was hired as CEO in December to lead a turnaround and a reinvention of its brands.
"I said, 'I've got to find out the truth -- what's going on,' " he remembered.
Then came the invitation from "Undercover Boss."
"I thought it was perfectly timed to go out in disguise and to learn what my employees are facing and what our customers are facing," he said.
Wedo showed up at the HomeTown Buffet at Shaw and Marty avenues, where Villalobos was cashier/server at the time. A graduate of Central High School in 2011, she went to work for HomeTown Buffet in February.
Despite the film crews, Villalobos said she didn't suspect anything.
"He looked like Fabio -- his hair was so long," she said. "He did not look like a hard worker at all with that long hair. It looked like he didn't care much about his appearance."
On the job, Wedo tasted reality when the transactions built up and he had to answer the phone and respond to customer questions.
"He had to multitask and it got overwhelming for him," Villalobos remembered. "He got red."
But there is a happy ending.
Villalobos calmly suggested ways for Wedo to handle each situation.
"She was able to point out to me, in a nice way, where I was making mistakes, but she also was able to give me a precise way to fix those mistakes," Wedo said.
"She was looking at a much older person, and she had the poise to train me as if I were her age," said Wedo, 53. "She is an example of exactly what I want in my company -- honesty and doing everything with a smile."
Wedo also took time to learn about Villalobos' personal life.
Her mother, Patricia Medina, passed away in October 2011. Things became difficult, and Villalobos dropped out of Fresno City College.
She now works at the HomeTown Buffet on North Blackstone Avenue. She will start a certified nurse's assistant program on Nov. 12. Her goal is to major in criminology at Fresno State to become a criminal profiler.
Wedo, in the show, recognized Villalobos for "never, ever giving up."
He also revealed the changes he is making at Buffets Inc., including a new cash register system and training video, as a result of his experiences with Villalobos.
She said, "I learned that there are awfully good people who want to do things for you."
"Undercover Boss," 8 p.m. Friday on CBS (Channel 47.1).
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