So last night we had a bit of an apprentice catch up. Having been away for a couple of weeks we had the last two weeks stored up, plus another episode going out last night.
First off we had the week three â€œPub Grubâ€? task. The idea was that each team was given a pub, neither of which had offered food, and the teams had to set up and deliver a food service. For the first time this series Sir Alan picked the project managers – in the case of the boys picking Ian who having been brought up in a pub would reasonably be expected to have an advantage.
The first problem however was the distinct lack of cooking experience on either team. For the girls, project manager Sara took on the cooking duties, over with the boys, Kevin – a bank manager by profession – volunteered primarily because he ate at a lot of Italian restaurants, Italian being the chosen food style for the boys. Over with the girls, the chosen style was â€œBollywoodâ€? where they basically ripped off the menu from the local Indian Takeaway. This perhaps highlights the most fundamental flaw for both teams – the over-ambitiousness of their menu. Neither team opted for traditional pub grub which probably would have been a lot easier to cook. Instead both teams struggled with the cooking, forgetting key ingredients and in the case of the girls totally failing to deliver any service at all during lunchtime.
The winners and losers eventually came down to costs. Whilst the boys spent a small fortune on professionally printed menu sheets and flyers, and bought their ingredients (and frozen pizza’s) from the local Tesco, the girls got all their printing for free in exchange for advertising on the tickets and menu sheets, and sourced their ingredients cheaply from local suppliers. The ticket idea was another deft move on the part of the girls – they sold tickets for the evening service at Â£5 per head offering a Â£5 discount on the food bill – since half of the fifty people who bought tickets failed to turn up that produced a significant boost in profits. Ultimately it was the boys that were up for the chop, and despite a valiant effort to blame Kevin in the kitchen – even lying to try and escape (Tip: Don’t put on your CV that you value honesty in business and then be filmed being totally dishonest) it was project manager Ian who took the taxi ride home.
The next episode sadly marked the demise of popular candidate Simon Smith. Through the preceding weeks he had shown himself to be one of the better organised and enthusiastic of the boys, always keen to turn his hand to anything. However, in the pub grub task he had attracted attention by trying to point out the problems within the team – in particular issues like setting the menu prices before costing out the meals – and then felt he had something to prove. When the task came up as running a photography stall in Bluewater, photography being an interest of his, against the reluctance of the other members of his team (now mixed around to avoid personality clashes) he put himself forward as team leader.
The reluctance to have Simon as leader translated into some of the strong people in his team – in particular Claire – making the management job all the more difficult. Since he was also acting as photographer, someone needed permanently on the stand, things became impossible. Since both teams also had problems with the technology – one weren’t able to correctly identify the pictures to be printed, and the other only managed to print out on normal A4 paper – his project management was highlighted as the weak link. Even a valiant effort by Claire to annoy Sir Alan in the boardroom (he threw her out of the room rather than the whole competition) failed to save loveable Simon. However if the audience reaction in the studio of The Apprentice: You’re Fired is anything to go by I’m sure he’ll have a good career in the media if he wants it.
That brings us to the ice cream making last night. Both teams were under the leadership of people on trial. On one side was Claire, who Sir Alan had thrown out of the boardroom the week before. The other side was led by Lucinda who had again been set up to fail the previous week when she had been put in charge of picture processing by Helene despite possessing no technical skill whatsoever. Lucinda proved to be a revelation though – after grumbling in the previous tasks that she was being put into roles that she did not have the skills for, she proved to be a good manager, quietly and efficiently planning the task, allocating roles and so on. Perhaps her only failing was that she stepped back from an idea to mix the production and sales teams on the second day to avoid a confrontation and bad feeling amongst the sales team.
Over on the other side it was chaos. Most of the work on the first day was done by the production team whilst Claire and the sales team disappeared off and failed to get many confirmed sales calls or ingredients that were needed in good time because they wasted a load of time sampling cider. They even failed to make it on time to their taste test, instead opting to pick two blokes at random from the local pub. So whilst Lucinda’s team were working through a list of confirmed appointments Claire and co ended up going door to door. That made it all the more frustrating when thanks to one big deal, Claire’s team put in a flukey and narrow win.
Whilst Sir Alan would have had a vast choice of potential sacking targets and reasons amongst Claire’s team, it was difficult to pin down a reason for the loss for Lucinda as they only lost by a small margin. Ultimately, when it was discovered that the sales team had achieved at least two sales by offering exclusivity deals without consulting either the project manager, nor the farmer whose produce the teams were selling it came down to being one of the two salespeople who offered the exclusive deals – the chosen victim being Lindi who was supposed to be in charge of the sales team so should have stopped Jenny (the self proclaimed best salesperson in Europe) when she first mentioned exclusivity, and certainly shouldn’t have subsequently agreed to a similar deal herself.
The boardroom debate though highlighted an interesting feature of the Apprentice. Jenny, the other one of the final three alongside Lindi and Lucinda, at one point put forward that she was the best candidate, and highlighted what a good salesperson he was. More often than not a large number of the contestants in the programme are vocal sales types who maintain they are the best candidate due to their sales volume. However, Sir Alan doesn’t ever seem to go for that. Certainly he likes people who can sell, but they need to posses other skills as well. Indeed if you look at last years winner, he definitely wasn’t the best salesperson, even in the final two.
Ironically because Lucinda seems to have proved herself to be a well organised manager, she could be much more of the kind of person that he goes for – although in her case she perhaps doesn’t stick up for herself as much as she should in the boardroom. We’ll have to see exactly the kind of person he is looking for this time around – certainly after this week it will be interesting to see how far she goes, as before I was expecting her to be gone pretty quickly.
So now we have got into the series a bit, who are the people who are starting to stand out? Interestingly at the moment it is Alex, someone all the ladies seem to love. Whilst I can’t really comment on his attractiveness he does seem to be finding his feet and is coming over as trustworthy and efficient, and without the level of antagonism that seems to surround certain of the other candidates. Having said that, there is still a lot to go – I totally failed to agree with the choice Sir Alan made last year, so I could be surprised again by the end of it this year too.