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Undercover Boss

Undercover Boss: President and CEO of Choice Hotels: Where are They Now?

Steve Joyce, the president and CEO of Choice Hotels, gets stuck in an elevator in one of the establishments he oversees — but that’s not the only thing making this boss sweat!

Season: 2
Episode: 1
Company Name: Choice Hotels 
Undercover Boss: Steve Joyce
Are They Still There?: No 

As company CEO and president Steve Joyce says, the hotels owned by Choice Hotels International aren’t necessarily the most luxurious, but they do make some good waffles! You’ve likely stayed in a Choice Hotels establishment yourself, as this big chain owns over 6,000 value-oriented hotels, with recognizable brands like Comfort Suites, Quality Suites, Econo Lodge, and Rodeway Inn. On this episode of “Undercover Boss,” this CEO is trading in his luxury sedan and golf club membership for a housekeeping cart and plunger to see what really goes on inside his hotels. 

However, this episode of “Undercover Boss” is extra special. Not only will Steve be going undercover as a trainee competing for a job at Choice Hotels, but he will also be staying in his hotels as an undercover guest. So, he assumes the name Jack Parker and gets excited to learn a lot and eat lots of waffles during his stay. 

Job #1- Econo Lodge in Orlando, FL 

Steve’s first job takes place at the world’s largest Econo Lodge, which is also the largest hotel owned by Choice Hotels. As a 25-year-old hotel, Steve is curious to see how maintenance keeps up with the demands of the aging establishment. During his shift with maintenance worker Ricardo, Steve learns that the job is physically taxing and rather grueling. This boss in disguise has to clean the pool area in nearly 100-degree weather, run all over the property, and unclog gross toilets. 

During his shift, Steve becomes increasingly impressed by Ricardo. The man has worked two jobs, 7 days a week for years in order to put his children through college. One of his sons has plans to become a doctor. Despite the long hours and hard manual labor, Ricardo has a great attitude. 

However, Steve is less impressed by the Econo Lodge itself. The hotel is run-down and falling apart in ways that are obvious to guests, which can hurt business. The buildings are discolored and the roofs need to be replaced. Employees like Ricardo are also not given the tools they need to do their jobs efficiently, such as golf carts to navigate the expansive property. 
Of course, when Steve returns to his other Choice Hotel at the end of his long shift with a lot on his mind, he gets stuck in an elevator on the way to his room. It takes more than ten minutes for a maintenance worker to get him out. This would be a horrible experience for a real hotel guest to have, and leaves Steve with even more to worry about.

Job #2: Comfort Suites in Orlando, Florida 

It’s a new day, and it’s time for this boss to try his hand at housekeeping — another job that ends up being much harder than it looks! For this shift, Steve is working with housekeeping manager Christina at Comfort Suites in Orlando, Florida. This hotel is particularly important because it’s located next to a hospital. The people who stay there may be undergoing personal trauma, so it’s important the rooms are hospital-level clean and that the staff are willing to go above and beyond to provide the extra support these people need. 

As he sweats his way through cleaning rooms and stocking housekeeping carts, it becomes clear to Steve that Christina is someone who will go above and beyond for the hotel guests. She’s worked in housekeeping for 5 years, pays close attention to detail, and told Steve how she’d sometimes organize cards for guests going through a hard time. She also tells Steve that she wants to become a general manager for a Choice Hotel one day, but that she can’t undergo training unless she pays for it out of her own pocket. This is unfortunately something she cannot do because she is already struggling to support her two children. 

Job #3: Cambria Suites in Indianapolis 

For his third job, Steve visits Cambria Suites, the newest Choice Hotels brand at the time. Steve is curious to see how the hotel sales guys are doing, since they are crucial to bringing in new business and helping to create lifelong customers. But any anxiety he has about the sales guys’ performances is quickly alleviated by John, a new director of sales who got the job 2.5 months prior to filming this episode of “Undercover Boss.” John is excellent at his job and fostering relationships with customers. Steve also got an opportunity to hear feedback from the customers, and was happy to hear they like John and the hotel. 

After his shift, Steve decides to check into a nearby Suburban Extended Stay. He was in the area, and the company president had heard bad things about it. So, he wanted to see if there was any truth to the complaints. Unfortunately, all the bad reviews were true. The hotel even made guests pay for their own coffee instead of providing it in the rooms. 

Job #4: Comfort Suites in Fishers, IN

Last but not least, it’s time for Steve to work a shift at the front desk of Comfort Suites in Fishers, IN. The CEO has a lot of respect for the front desk role, describing it as the brain of the hotel. He quickly learns that the front desk clerk has to wear many hats, especially at night when they are the only employee in the hotel, because they have to help guests check in and oversee hotel maintenance all at once. 

Helping him through his shift is a wonderful front desk clerk named Brandalyn. This employee has a great attitude and is a hard and dedicated worker. She tells Steve that she had her first son when she was 16 years old and is proud of the life she’s built for herself and her son without any support from her family. She is now engaged and has another child, but her family is living with a relative and trying to make ends meet on a single income because her fiancé is unemployed. Her story resonated with Steve because his mother was a community activist who had a particular interest in helping teen moms in their area. He felt like she and his mother would have been great friends if his mom was still alive. 

Always ambitious, Brandalyn has a great attitude and wants to become a hotel manager. However, she says her management hasn’t given her any training to achieve her goals. Steve has to bite his tongue because his organization does offer the training she needs through a program called Choice University. He is frustrated because no one has told Brandalyn about it. 

The Big Reveal: 

During his week in disguise on “Undercover Boss,” Steve was amazed by the stories and caliber of the people he met at his hotels. That said, he knew some company policies needed to be reviewed and addressed immediately. However, he was grateful for his undercover experience, or else he never would have known what needed to be improved. But first, it was time to summon the employees he met to headquarters to change their lives for the better! 

Ricardo
Before Steve could talk to Ricardo, he needed to have a word with his general manager. Steve wanted a commitment that the general manager would work to restore the Econo Lodge to its former glory. Once he has a yes from the hotel GM, Steve brings in Ricardo to tell him the good news! In addition, Steve is buying a golf cart to make Ricardo’s job easier and is awarding his son a new Choice Hotels Scholarship to put toward medical school. 

Christina
Steve tells Christina that she’s the strongest housekeeping manager he’s ever met and that she has too much potential to stay in housekeeping forever. Steve informs Christina that Choice Hotels will be paying for her general manager training at their cost so that she can move up the ranks because Steve needs people like her running his hotels. He also thanks her for the work she’s already done by sending Christina and her kids on a free vacation to Orlando. 

John
This CEO wanted John to know how incredible he is. Steve says all the customers like John and he is exactly what the company needs. Steve told John that after he has a bit more experience in his current role, he wanted John to be promoted to the Choice Hotels’ Global Sales Force, which would be a big title and pay bump. Steve also said he’d give him $5,000 to buy a new suit when the time came. It looks like John’s promotion really did happen, too! According to his Linkedin, John is still working for Choice Hotels today as a National Account Manager. 

Brandalyn 
Steve’s meeting with Brandalyn began with him telling her she is an inspiration and ended with the employee crying tears of joy. He told her he was going to help her achieve her goals of becoming a hotel manager. Additionally, he would be sending her family on a free vacation and would be paying her rent for 6 months to help Brendalyn’s family get a home of their own. 

Where is Steve Joyce, President and CEO of Choice Hotels, now?

According to Wikipedia, Steve Joyce served as the president and chief executive officer of Choice Hotels until 2017. At this point, it appears Mr. Joyce decided to pivot from the hotel industry to the food industry. He became the CEO of Dine Brands Global, which is the company responsible for famous family restaurants like IHOP and Applebee's. He stayed in that role until 2021, when he was replaced by franchise veteran John Peyton. Nothing has been reported about Steve Joyce’s career after this point, implying he may now be enjoying his well-deserved retirement. 

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