JOLIET — Ron Lynch abandoned his elite pleat and became one of the rank-and-flannel.
On Friday night, the CBS-TV show “Undercover Boss” will feature the sports-pub executive — disguised as a kitchen employee — at the Tilted Kilt in Joliet.
Lynch is president and chief executive officer of the Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, which has one of its Celtic-themed locations in the Louis Joliet Mall. For the TV show, Lynch goes undercover at the Joliet site, stepping into the shoes of his employees and observing the inner workings of the operation.
“‘Undercover Boss’ and CBS did a great job on this disguise,” Lynch told The Herald-News on Thursday. “I look like the dude on ‘The Big Lebowski.’ It’s hilarious. Jeff Bridges plays this part, and he’s this scroungy looking guy with long hair and a goatee. And that’s who I look like.”
The disguise was a difficult task: Lynch is 6 feet 6 inches tall, weighing 250 pounds, with white hair. When he walks into the pub, he is usually recognized immediately.
The disguise worked for Lynch’s shift in Joliet, and the show also followed Lynch to Tilted Kilt locations in Chicago, Atlanta and San Diego.
“It was very tiring. We were filming 12- to 14-hour days,” Lynch said.
The CEO worked in different roles at different sites — as a bartender, as a manager, busing tables, working security, taking out the garbage.
“In Joliet, I worked in the kitchen,” Lynch said. “I’m from the restaurant side, the kitchen side, of the business. So I was actually more comfortable in the kitchen than I was behind the bar. That’s for sure.”
“But I couldn’t portray any proficiency. I wasn’t supposed to really know anything,” he said of the essential plot ingredient. “My persona was Ryan Good. And Ryan is first-time in the restaurant business. He doesn’t know anything.”
Ryan’s co-workers are supposed to show him how the job is done. Lynch commended the staff he worked with in Joliet: His impression of the Joliet operation was very positive, he said Thursday.
Once in a lifetime
Lynch recalled his thoughts when he was approached about doing the show.
“I’m a huge fan of the show. I’ve probably seen every episode,” he said of “Undercover Boss.” “But then when it came to me doing it, I’m thinking, ‘Do I really want to do that?’ And I’m thinking, ‘OK, I’m never going to get this opportunity again.’”
Lynch said it was a chance to share his story and hopefully inspire other leaders to look deeper into the everyday experiences of their employees to create a better culture.
Lynch, whose company has corporate headquarters in Tempe, Ariz., will see the show for the first time Friday night at the Tilted Kilt in downtown Phoenix.
“We’re going to do a viewing in one of our pubs, and I’m going to be sitting right in front of our regular guests, and watching,” he said.
The network affiliate in Phoenix will film Lynch at the viewing and get his reactions.
The Tilted Kilt currently has 70 open locations in the United States and Canada, as well as 20 in development.
“Undercover Boss,” the Emmy Award-winning reality series, will be broadcast at 7 p.m. Friday on WBBM-TV (Channel 2) in the Chicago area.
Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery opened at Westfield Louis Joliet Mall in February. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media