26th Apr 2012
Interior designer Kelly Hoppen reviews the latest episode of The Apprentice.
I'm thrilled to be reviewing another episode of The Apprentice for BusinessZone! Last year I reviewed episode 11 and made my prediction for the winner. This year I'm commenting on the halfway point of the competition and while I can't choose one as the front runner at this stage we're certainty sorting the wheat from the chaff in this episode.
The challenge last night picked up on a key global trend; Street Food. I was recently in the New York and the street food movement has really taken the US by storm offering high quality food in mobile locations. I've also experienced the amazing street food culture in China and look forward to returning in my new role as an Ambassador for UK Trade and Investment in China.
But back to the show.
During episode four I tweeted how important margin is in pricing your products and it was obvious that was at the forefront of team Phoenix's mind last night as Adam took on the role of project manager. They chose the cheapest possible ingredients to make their meatballs and it sure showed. They shrank nearly in half during the cooking process!
My daughter Natasha runs her own food business, Honestly Healthy. She prides herself in top quality produce to ensure her product is delicious and giving the most benefit to her customers. Selling a product at £5.99 that cost 47p to produce was certainly a great margin but Phoenix's customers would have been feeling hungry and a bit light in the wallet after purchasing one of their meals!
Margin is important but so too is quality. Katie made some key mistakes in this task but she did question how they could have gotten the produce so cheap and the shrinking size during the cooking process but was quickly dismissed in both instances. Keen not to loose one ounce of possible profit Adam was keeping a watchful eye on the portion sizes as well. Normally I'd commend him on ensuring consistency of product but this was really about giving as little as possible to the customer.
As a creative person I take inspiration from cultures all over the world in my own range of products but tweak them so they are 100% Kelly Hoppen Design.
Sterling made the risky decision of selling Scottish stew to the Scots (complete with bagpipe serenade!) but their insistence on the best produce at the outset meant they couldn't possible be questioned by punters on quality. The responses certainly were a lot more favourable then those received by Phoenix despite the risky choice of dish.
Sterling also got the location right finding foreign holidaymakers who would have been looking for a taste of Scotland. They seemed to understand their audience much more than Phoenix who were targeting price conscious football fans with food not normally on a match day menu.
I’m not sure if Phoenix was riding high after their big win last week when they beat Sterling by nearly double in their total sales but whatever caused them (re: Adam and Katie) to make the decisions they did this week they certainly took a big step back in my estimation.
Katie and Adam certainly deserved to be in the elimination through their decision making and shirking of all responsibility when their choices failed. Didn't Katie say on the train journey up to Edinburgh that she was happy to have the blame fall on her head if the football didn't location didn’t work? And how quickly did Adam try and back peddle when Lord Sugar asked him about the quality of ingredients! Lord Sugar's reference to a leopard changing it’s spots could have been more fitting.
While it could have been his strategy to make it into the later rounds by not rocking the boat Azhar's lack of initiative certainly didn't go unnoticed by Lord Sugar. Lucky for him Azhar had a strong recovery in the boardroom when questioned about his qualifications. Hopefully this experience will make him see that speaking up is a source of strength not weakness in the competition…provided you have the right information!
In the end Adam got a lifeline and it was Katie who was fired by Lord Sugar. Adam and Azhar did not escape unscathed and both have a lot to address if they want to continue in the competition.
On paper Phoenix had a £1.07 advantage in margin over Sterling but a margin based on low quality produce coupled with poor strategy on pricing and location meant they put themselves at a real disadvantage from the outset. Even though they only beat Phoenix by £22, I think Sterling won a bit of a moral victory and demonstrated that taking a calculated risk, delivering quality product and adapting your sales technique will set your team apart.
It will be an interesting race to the finish as the contestants' trengths and weaknesses come to the fore in the challenges set by Lord Sugar. I’ll be keeping my eye on the quieter contestants who by strategy or even a lack of confidence have yet to show us what they've got.