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What’s in a name

Search for “job titles” on Google, and within the Top 3 hits, you’ll trip over a link for the Job Title Generator at bullshitjob.com—really. Not that I’m looking to redo my business card any time soon, but if I were, a click of the button on the website tells me that “dynamic accountability liaison” should reside next to my name. Nice, but “dynamic problem solver/latte lover” might be more accurate. Restaurant companies have done pretty well generating their own unconventional job titles, even without such a tool. Usually these creative labels appear near the very top of the org chart, where founders and CEOs can dub themselves “emperor” or “queen cake baker” or Sir-Mix-a-Lot, if that’s what they like. George Michel, CEO of Boston Market is known throughout the company as “The Big Chicken,” and that’s the official title listed on his Linkedin profile. And, of course, McDonald’s famous mascot (and frankly, is there a more senior-level position in any corporation?) earned a high-profile promotion to Chief Happiness Officer a decade ago.

Adopting creative, fun and often more-descriptive positions is hardly new. While researching the “Shared Traits of the Power 20” chart, we poured through the bios of every person on our list, and found this little nugget of information about Ed Rensi, interim CEO of Famous Dave’s and longtime McDonald’s head honcho (not his real title):

“At one point, Rensi had business cards printed up that identified his position as ‘Chief Hamburger Griller, French Fryer, Shakemaker and Cheerleader.’ He believed that those were his responsibilities, because ‘our business is to operate great restaurants … we manage restaurants for the benefit of the customer.”

Rensi’s real title at the time was president and CEO of McDonald’s. But this anecdote highlights why such moves can be valuable. For one, people notice—not only fellow employees (who no doubt get a kick out of introducing their boss as the chief smile officer, head hamburger handler or whatever the case may be) but also customers who will immediately register the meaning of a chief french fryer—and the company’s focus on that small but critical menu item—while they probably couldn’t care less how the chief operating officer spends his or her days (no offense).

Creating a unique title for a job candidate who’s very special can also be the move that shows the company values the skills he or she brings. Check out a roundup of our favorite restaurant-industry positions in the “Star Search” story and share your own with us on Twitter via @RB_Magazine.

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