Plymouth State University (PSU) has launched the Common Man Apprentice, a tasty competition among business students who have been challenged to create a new dessert for the Common Man family of restaurants in New Hampshire.
Modeled after the popular Donald Trump reality TV show, The Apprentice, the Common Man restaurants will host PSU business students as apprentices during the semester-long initiative. In November, head chefs from the restaurants will select one recipe to go head-to-head on the menu with another dessert created by students enrolled in a similar program at St. Anselm College in Manchester. After one month on the menus in five Common Man restaurants, diners will ultimately decide the final winner, which will be determined by total sales.
Dr. Bonnie Bechard, PSU professor of business, designed the program to give students in her management course, Organizational Behavior, the opportunity to develop teamwork skills and build real-life business experience. To add an ingredient of friendly competition, Bechard enlisted her husband, Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, a professor at St. Anselm College, to implement the same apprentice program with his students.
“My husband worked with Toys R Us last year to create an apprentice program, and is actually the one who inspired me to try out a similar learning experience for my students,” says Bechard. “The whole experience was a tremendous success and we decided to build on that success by giving a team of students from PSU a chance to compete with students from St. Anselm’s.”
Bechard said the idea to work with a restaurant on a competition involving food came when she watched an episode of The Apprentice, where contestants worked with Burger King to help market a product. She immediately chose The Common Man and asked her former student and 1994 PSU alum Jason Lyon, CEO of The Common Man, to participate.
“We are looking forward to working with college students on this innovative program,” said Lyon. “It’s a great way for our chefs and members of our staff to serve as mentors, and for our guests to get involved in the competition by simply trying out some new desserts.”
Students are equally excited about this hands-on learning opportunity and are eager to test their creativity, leadership, and decision making skills in a collaborative environment. Says Forrest Letarte, a junior marketing major, “It will be a great way to learn more about implementing organizational behavior and combine it with marketing to gain real world experience. We’ll be doing something where we’ll get to see the fruits of our efforts.”
Gina Pageot, a junior business finance major agrees, stating, “It will be interesting to see how the whole process works out.”
The PSU apprentice teams began their assignment with a presentation by Lyon which covered the history of the Common Man, a review of the current dessert menu and parameters for the dessert recipes. Students will work together for one month, going through the stages of team and product development. Desserts from each team will be judged by a panel of five Common Man chefs and the finalists will then compete with “Common Man Apprentices” from St. Anselm’s College.
The final competition will involve actually placing the desserts from the finalists on the menu at each of the five Common Man restaurants and letting the market decide the winning dessert based on sales. Everyone agree that regardless of the final outcome, all students will come out winners, having learned invaluable lessons about team dynamics and management.