The Apprentice Week 11 – Fast Food Firing

And so we reach the penultimate week of The Apprentice 2011. Last week I predicted that Jim, Natasha and Helen couldn’t win. After this week’s task I have revised my opinion of one of those 3, another only just survived and the third got fired.

This week’s task involved setting up a new “fast food” franchise. Tom and Helen were paired, and Helen volunteered to be PM, no doubt to ensure she could lead from the front rather than be the back seat driver she apeared to be last week. Tom was happy to be led by the most successful candidate this series. Over in Venture, Jim took the lead, despite Nat having told us several times that she has a degree in Hotel and Management.

Both teams had 2 days to set up a franchise from idea to shop design to menu, ultimately serving to a group of industry experts who would assess their idea.

The difference between the 2 teams was evident from the start. Its arguable that Logic even needed a PM with only 2 members, but they divided the task evenly; Tom doing the creativity and branding and Helen the recipe., and having the final say. Not surprisingly, Helen went for pies (is it Greggs that she worked for?) and a british food theme. Helen was nervous about giving some control to Tom, but let him have his own space.

Over in Venture, Jim went off to do research  and design recipes for a “new” Mexican franchise (is there need or room for one?) and left the bickering Nat and Susan to work on the branding. Jim learned that “the system is key”. Its all about getting people through as quickly as possible (as many as 85 orders per hour). Having learned this, he then went on to forget it.

Logic went with My-Py as the name and a British theme Drake, Nightingale and er Colombus who apparently discovered potatoes). Venture went with Caracas  because it sounded Mexican, but they thought they had invented it (Its a place in Venezuela).

Day 1 ended with trial runs and learnings. Logic got good feedback; they had a system for 3 minute turnaround of orders and that eating out of a box is hard. Venture learned that they had no system, poor quality food (cold) and some people left without being served. Enter Susan, who identified that changes were needed. Jim agreed.

Onto Day 2, and the expert panel. The teams were asessed against 4 criteria: customer service; quality of food; restaurant branding; demonstrating a long term plan. At the pitch, Jim got his sums wrong, and failed to demonstrate any clear business plan. Logic had a tight analysis of figures and calaculated margins on each item, as well as profits based on expected throughput.

In the Boardroom, it was no surprise that Logic won, scoring 7/10 against 4/10  for Venture. Tom and Helen are through to the final, and Helen had redeemed herself. She and Tom were a good team, complementing each other’s skills set and working well together. Venture was described as having no business plan (Logic had even produced a document).

For Venture, let the fighting begin. We knew that Jim wouldn’t give in without a fight, as he has shown himself to be a  real street fighter in these situations. Susan emerged last week as having real backbone.  The girls ganged up on Jim and he blamed both of the girls, but gave a bit more emphasis to Nat. Susan blamed Jim’s poor research. Natasha looked vulnerable. In truth Natasha had done very little on this task, one that she should have taken a leading role on. I think she was still bruised from last week.  In the end it was no surprise she got fired. Natasha has become the weakest candidate.

So, the final will be between Tom, Helen, Jim and Susan. Tom continued his late strong performances and contributed at least as much as Helen, who put herself back in contention. Susan may not be popular, bur Sugar likes something about her, especially her strong character, which has come to the fore in recent weeks. Jim got through by the skin on his teeth, but again, Sugar likes his “spirit”.

Next week we have the interviews and possibly something else? Will Jim be found out for the manipulator he is? Will Helen be able to break out of the “corporate” image she has? Can Susan avoid annoying the interviewers? Will Tom show he is more than a nodding dog? Remember, we have yet to hear their business ideas.

My money is still on Tom or Susan. Who do you think will win?