When the producers of "Undercover Boss Canada" first called Wild Wing CEO Rick Smiciklas about appearing on the show, it was the absolute worst day in the company's history. Smiciklas had just caught one of his trusted longtime employees stealing from the company, and Revenue Canada was combing through the head office performing a thorough audit.
Smiciklas thought he was on the brink of losing the company he'd spent over a decade building, yet, amazingly, he still agreed to appear on the show. He's glad that he did. "The show has been a complete blessing for us," says Smiciklas. "It just gives you a clear snapshot of what really is going on in the stores."
Smiciklas wound up going undercover as "Angelo," a rough-around-the-edges guy from Chicago inspired by one of his real-life friends. He sported a bad wig, schlumpy jeans and transformed his pearly whites into a mangled yellow smile. He headed out to Wild Wing locations in Ottawa and Oshawa, and did everything from wiping down tables to mixing drinks.
Huffington Post TV Canada caught up with the likable exec to chat about his experience, including what led him to lose his temper, blow his cover and scream at a franchisee.
I'm dying to know -- what did you do to your teeth?
They put a mold in there to make them all sharp and pointy.
It looked real!
Oh did it? Good. I had a chipped tooth at the time, so it was a perfect opportunity to do the mold, so it worked out great.
How did you decide what to wear for your disguise?
The disguise was pretty cool because I'm Croatian but everybody thinks that I'm Italian. We went after this character, Ang, some hoodlum from Chicago who's got a bad rap. I really didn't get into character that much. You forget the cameras are on you. I think I blew a gasket when I blew cover there.
How did the crew react when you broke your cover?
They told me to! There were a lot of circumstances that led me to that. I went for a Starbucks espresso and the producer called me and told me to get back here. [The franchisee] told the guys to get the cameras out of there, he said screw head office. I said I can't go in there, I have a crazy temper, I have a daughter, I don't need an assault charge. So now he can't get me back in there. I'm out in the parking lot, and the producer tells me [the owner] that he pays royalties, and he can do whatever he wants. And that's when I went crazy because he didn't pay me all year! So now he's lying. All my buttons were pushed. That's why I completely went crazy.
I was telling my daughter last night that the negative people are going to pounce on me and I'm not going to be able to explain my story. Those are the risks involved with the show. People always focus on negatives, so I think I might get a lot of negative feedback on the show because I exploded on this guy.
What was the most challenging part of the undercover experience?
There was really nothing challenging for me. I wanted more. For me, the more pressure the better. I missed my daughter, she's all I have. She's my life. Not seeing her for a week was the hardest part.
When you were getting to do some bartending did it make you miss your own bartending days?
There was a famous, famous place called Paparazzi. It was probably the most famous club in the history of Canada. I was a flare bartender back then. That's what my background was, bartending. I missed it.
You didn't seem as much of a fish out of water as some of the other bosses we've seen on the show...
They wanted me to. They want me to make mistakes, but everything was coming too easy for me. My problem was I want to do things the best I can and I was trying to show them up because I like to work hard. I love it. I love being in the restaurants. The passion is all I have. You could see how passionate I was with that guy, screaming at him. [Laughs]
What was your favourite part of the whole experience?
My favourite part was cracking jokes with the team and engaging with the customers eyeball to eyeball.
What has changed as a result of the show?
Our company has done a full [turnaround]. We're humming, we're doing well. The franchisees are positive, motivated. They're all in here hugging me, thanking me. We're all on the same page. It's been phenomenal. At one point I had 58 employees in our office, then I went down to 29, then I went down to about 15, then after the show I started bringing back all of the great employees that I had. Now when you come into this office it's just full of energy. It's all partly because that show came into our life at the right time. The show is a big, big positive. I can't emphasize it enough.
Is the pound and pint special now back on?
Yeah, yeah. [Laughs] It somehow came off, and the minute I found out it was back on. Have you seen the new menu? We've got "Undercover Boss" on the front page. We have all of those specials in there.
Season 3 of "Undercover Boss Canada" premieres on W Network on January 17 at 9 p.m. EST/ PST.