Dishing Up a Winner at PSU

November 7th, 2006 by Adam

In a tasty combination of classroom lessons and entrepreneurship, a dozen Plymouth State University student teams are competing to win a contest to create a new dessert for New Hampshire’s Common Man family of restaurants.

First launched last year, the Common Man Apprentice competition is modeled after the reality TV show, ‘The Apprentice,’ featuring Donald Trump. Business students from PSU and St. Anselm College in Manchester are serving as apprentices for Common Man restaurants during the semester-long contest. Head chefs from the restaurant chain select the three best desserts from contests at each school. Those six winning entries are then put on the menu for one month at each of the five Common Man restaurants in a head-to-head competition, with the winner decided by total sales.

Dr. Bonnie Bechard, PSU business professor, designed the program to give students in her management course, Organizational Behavior, the opportunity to develop teamwork skills and
real-life business experience.

“We’re trying to give students as much value as possible by bringing the business world directly into the classroom,” Bechard said. “Students work for one month going through the stages of team and product development. The competitive nature of the project motivates students to do their best and to strive to accomplish as much as they can in a short period of time. Team dynamics are critical to the success of each team and their ability to manage the project and develop their product.”

Bechard’s husband, Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, is a business professor at St. Anselm and oversees that teams effort. The couple devised the Apprentice competition last year, drawing rave reviews from students and Common Man management, who agree the contest is a beneficial learning experience.

“Working with a smaller group, communication is a key, just like it is in a real-life business situation,” said PSU student Patrick Sutton.

Amanda Labrie believes the competition is honing her management and entrepreneurship skills, saying, “It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun, we’re very happy with how our dessert turned out.”

1994 PSU alum Jason Lyon is now CEO of the Common Man and a strong supporter of the unique classroom-kitchen dynamic.

“It’s been a great time working with the students, to see their interest and listen to their day-to-day questions, it’s been good for us and them,” Lyon said. “As a PSU alum, it feels great to be able to give back some of my knowledge, but also have a great time seeing these projects come together successfully.”

Among the requirements for a successful entry, the dessert can take no longer than an hour of preparation time and should take less than three minutes to assemble and serve.

The team creating the winning recipe receives a $500 prize and a place on the Common Man menu.

Questions about this release?
Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr.