Management Professor Uncovers Fast-Food Business Lessons

By Jacqueline Ghosen

Release Date: January 17, 2007

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Jerry Newman's latest book, "My Secret Life on the McJob," took him behind the counter at seven fast-food restaurants to research management style.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- 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).

Unlike the cultural overview of Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation," or the dietary condemnation of Morgan Spurlock's "SuperSize Me," Newman's book reveals what molds employees working for the country's fast food producers. In spite of the high turnover and repetitive tasks, the workers consistently produce, aren't afraid of hard work and thrive under pressure. And the super-sized mega-burger companies boast steady profits in return. How do fast-food managers tease success out of employees to boost the bottom line?

"My Secret Life on the McJob" takes readers behind the scenes at Burger King, Wendy's, Arby's, Krystal and McDonald's -- and serves up, with keen insights into management techniques, wise lessons that can be applied to companies with 6,000 locations, or just six employees.

Between his recollections of sweeping floors and toasting buns, Newman provides a first-hand view of how "McJobs are anything but McEasy." He details his experiences reporting to both compelling -- and tyrannical -- managers, and demonstrates how the ultimate key to creating a positive and high-performing workplace is a great leader, even if the team is putting pickles on burgers.

Newman is the consummate people watcher. He inspects reactions, emotions, management styles, behavior modifications and the power of praise. He gets to know his fellow workers, and reminds us that we all make a unique contribution to our employers. He writes of workers who are chided for their

supposedly easy jobs, managers who cultivate positive images and encourage friendships and enthusiasms, bosses who are unfeeling; hierarchies that are rigid, and the vast corporate and day-to-day differences between competitors serving up nearly identical meals.

Newman's stories and anecdotes are often funny, occasionally alarming, the employees fascinating and human. He shows how corporate edicts and rules play out on the burger assembly line and translates this to the larger picture: how management demands translate into employee behavior. This is a management book written in a style light years away from the jargony language of business school texts, with Whoppers and McNuggets as the backdrop.

Newman is the co-author of Compensation (McGraw-Hill), which has been the bestselling book in its category for 21 years. He is a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, which recognizes outstanding teaching ability through superb classroom performance. He is also a Fortune 500 consultant with firms including AT&T, Hewlett-Packard and Nabisco.

Barnes & Noble will host Newman for a reading, Q&A and book signing at noon on Jan. 27 at 1565 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst.

The Wall Street Journal ranks the UB School of Management 10th in the nation among schools with strong regional recruiting bases. In addition, BusinessWeek ranks the school as one of the country's Top 5 business schools for the fastest return on MBA investment, and Forbes cites it as one of the best business schools in the U.S. for the return on investment it provides MBA graduates. For more information about the UB School of Management, visit

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