The timing couldn't be better for Dan DiZio, CEO and Co-founder of Philly Pretzel Factory. His "Undercover Boss" episode runs on Friday, April 27, the day after National Pretzel Day (April 26) when everybody's stomachs should be full of the twisted snacks. Coincidence? I think not.
I'm betting that viewers will be primed to see just how and where those pretzels are made and sold at the 120 franchises of Philly Pretzel Factory. After all, there could well be a record number consumed on Thursday. While DiZio's company makes more than 100 million pretzels per year, they'll be giving a huge number away on National Pretzel Day, since everyone who comes up to the counter will get a freebie. The first hundred to arrive at any of the franchises will get a certificate good for one free pretzel per day in May.
DiZio thinks his customers deserve it. He's been selling Philly-style pretzels since his neighbor, who owned a bakery, asked DiZio to sell the pretzels on a street corner when he was just 11 years old. The young DiZio excelled at the job, and pretzels have been a big part of his life every since.
Because he is so familiar with every aspect his pretzel company, he had to force himself to dumb it down, so to speak, when shooting his "Undercover Boss" episode. If employees knew how good he was at twisting pretzels, it would have blown his cover, so he misshaped them on purpose.
But just because he was skilled at all aspects of pretzel production doesn't meant the DiZio didn't learn valuable information from his time on the popular CBS reality show. "I realized that I had lost touch with the franchisees in the stores," he told me. "I'd forgotten that they bought into my dream."
He elaborated on how upset he was when he found that one franchisee felt DiZio had let him down. "I sold him on the idea but didn't follow through. I felt bad, but now I'm trying to make things right." He says he's now making a personal effort to visit all 120 franchises, which are located in eight states, from North Carolina to Albany, New York, and as far west as Pittsburgh.
Of course, there were some lighter moments in DiZio's experience, as well, especially when he donned the company mascot suit. He said he had a great time in it, but noticed that it could get pretty hot and steamy inside, even in November and December when they were shooting the "Undercover Boss" episode. He is now making sure there are special ice vests for the mascots to wear inside the costume. Who knew that type of apparel even exists?
You'd think that, since DiZio has been in the pretzel business since he was just a kid, he might be sick of eating them by now, but not so. "I still have a passion for pretzels," he says. "I eat one per day," He adds that he likes them best slathered with cream cheese. That seems quite appropriate for a Philly boy.