Monday April 20, 2009
Helen Flint - Business Development Director
The Apprentice always makes for compelling viewing, great entertainment value and an insight into the vagaries of human (or not so human) behaviour. Having worked in hospitality for a number of years, I was very much looking forward to the episode about catering services. I was more than intrigued to see how the new apprentices would deal with the challenge set; which, on the face of it, turned out to be rather badly!
Hopefully the challenge demonstrated that throwing an event and producing a few sandwiches or canapes, isn't quite as easy you might think. Both teams certainly made a meal of it (no pun intended).
Although as a norm we like to use best practice examples from real life, sometimes it's useful to look how not to do it! Firstly, the sales pitches were cringe-worthy. There were a few team members who had 'some' (I use the word sparingly) experience of the hospitality industry and even though this was limited, I failed to understand why those candidates were not utilised more effectively in the sales pitch.
In the real world when pitching to such corporate clients, they wouldn't have had a chance of even getting through the door, let alone winning the business. This is meant to be a 'reality' TV programme. It certainly provided us with some classic lines: 'Umm I think I've heard of belinis. We will be able to produce them, we have the expertise to produce them.' Sounds like the rebuilding of the bionic man. And I don't know whether you've made them but it's not as easy as it sounds (try chilling the glasses and all ingredients really well first). Then when asked whether the mozzarella and tomato would be served hot or cold, the reply was: 'umm, I'm guessing hot' and then: 'cold bruschetta is always a favourite' - really? In the event the bruschetta were huge and almost impossible to eat with bits of tomato falling off all over the place.
Neither team identified and clarified their clients' requirements and expectations. How could they possibly achieve their clients' desired outcomes if they weren't aware of them in the first place? Instead, they just offered them an extremely limited choice. For example, in answer to a question regarding the type of sandwiches that they could offer, the reply was, 'We can do chicken tikka and peanut butter'. Very uninspiring to say the least and what happened to the jelly for the peanut butter sandwiches for the American theme? Never mind the fact the client didn't ask for or want this theme in the first place.
This episode certainly provided some great examples of how not to manage people too; which was brilliantly demonstrated by Jasmina's bullying tactics, providing us with yet more priceless quotes, 'The most important thing when managing a team, is you have to cut the crap' in other words: talk over people and 'I want you to call me chef!' (She did have a team talk at the same time though - rallying the girls round, so some success was had, although she's clearly a bit of a control freak).
It would be really refreshing if for once they had some truly talented, dynamic and intelligent apprentices, who possessed great communication and influencing skills but then this wouldn't be so entertaining would it?
In the real world, there is no way on earth that a client would have paid for either of the functions delivered, not even half the amount agreed. Neither team would have gained any repeat business. In fact in the real world, especially in the current economic climate, the damage that could be caused from delivering such an event in that way could be catastrophic to a business. People are more likely to talk about a bad experience they've had than a good one. Think about the ripple effects of that amongst the prospective clients you might be wishing to reach? The chances of you being able to achieve that successfully, with that type of bad publicity and track record could be difficult. Bad PR might be OK in the world of celebrity but it doesn't get you very far in the hospitality industry.
Then we have the egos. Having worked as management recruitment consultant for several years, you soon learn that often those people, who are the most forthcoming about telling you how wonderful they are, usually aren't that great! When you start to drill down to find the evidence, sometimes it's a little thin on the ground, if not non-existent. It's often those people who don't necessarily come across so well at interview, who with some exploration, can prove to be better than those busily blowing their own trumpets - hard evidence and real results are what count. I can't imagine actually seeing a CV stating: 'When I wake up in the morning you can taste success in my spit'. How did he ever get entertained for any job, or more importantly what kind of organisation would employ some one like that? (One that has to consider the ratings..!?)
Come on Sir Alan; let's see some real talent in the next series!