Week Two: The Apprentice analysed…

Week two of The Apprentice and this week the teams are ‘treating’ City lawyers to a networking lunch. It all went horribly wrong and the canapés produced looked more like a five-year-old’s cooking project. Here four employment lawyers discuss the legal issues in this week’s episode.

This week The Apprentice gave us an insight into the world of corporate catering, with Sir Allan ordering the wannabes to deliver a corporate networking lunch.

Team Empire (the boys) messed it up with an Olympic ‘feast’ featuring Doritos, salami and tomato ketchup canapés as a symbol of the US and some sort of ploughman wrap symbolising the UK.

These were served up in the Gherkin to Kirkland & Ellis lawyers by toga-clad men. Very, ahem, sophisticated.

Kirkland wasn’t the only firm to sample the boys’ culinary delights – the team had already pitched to Reed Smith’s executive director Meirion Jones and catering supervisor Catherine Dixon, who let them come in and sell a few sandwiches.

According to a source at the firm the team’s efforts were “mediocre”.

Team Ignite (the girls) seemed to have taken Sir Alan’s advice on budgeting a little too far and opted to shop in Asda to deliver canned tuna on crisp bread to their hosts.

In these credit crunched times it’s the money that matters and in the end it was the elaborate affair and rubbish food that lost it for the boys.

To be fair, Ignite didn’t do much better, but the scrimping and saving meant they made £600 more than Empire, who made a loss.

It was 21-year-old sandwich shop owner Rocky Andrews who got the chop for failing to use his catering credentials. Had he been cooking up his CV?

Here four employment lawyers discuss Sir Alan’s tactics and the legal issues highlighted in The Apprentice.

Where there is blame, there is a claim

By Juliette Franklin, associate at Russell Jones & Walker

 Rocky was on the ropes and, in round two, he was knocked out of the interview from hell.

After suffering blatant age discrimination, the sandwich king could (peanut) butter Suralan up no longer.

I am increasingly concerned about Nick’s behaviour – surely this must now satisfy the Conntest under the Protection from Harassment Act!  After last week’s threat of a “spanking”, he displayed almost menacing tendencies when he told Noorul that he “made it my business to watch you”!  Coupled with his view that the “older ladies” were appreciative of the togas, Nick is on thin ice.

The lawyers fared better last night – hooray!  The ease with which they negotiated the price of the canapés from £60 to £15 per head, and then eventually only paying half the agreed price was negotiation our partners would have been proud of – I hope that not too many clients were picking up tips! 

There will be interesting weeks to come with Majid, who last night again displayed sexist tendencies, this time coupled with views about the disabled, and his comment about his toga making him look like he had escaped from a mental hospital.

And finally, the delightful James, who created some of the best television in a long time.  His boardroom fight for survival was pure comedy genius – tip for the future, when facing summary dismissal, it is not a wise move to insult the boss by telling him that you don’t want to be looking at him!!!

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen

By Adam Landy, associate in the employment team at Stevens & Bolton

Last night’s heavyweight catering contest had to result in someone’s head on a platter.  With the teams still divided by sex, they fought it out in the kitchen to satiate the appetite of some discerning city types. 

Rocky was quick to reveal his background in sandwiches and volunteered to lead the boys in the blue corner, while restauranteur Yasmina stepped up to the plate for the girls in the red corner.

The girls opted for cut price canapés including cold bruschetta (“which is always popular”) and wraps, which one customer noted “lacked innards”.  The boys’ masterplan was an Olympic theme offering an array of international cuisine such as peanut butter sandwiches and cheese on a stick.

However, the girls’ cunning cost cutting resulted in a 200 per cent profit margin, while the boys overspent on togas and tablecloths and ended up with a net loss.

Rocky brought teammates Howard and James ‘I can taste success in my spit’ back into the boardroom.  James’ unusual approach of telling Sir Alan that he didn’t want to “look at his face” seemed to work.  Sir Alan, ignoring age discrimination issues landed a knockout blow on baby-face Rocky for being “too inexperienced”.

Round 2 at the Tribunal?

Recipe for disaster

By Lisa Gillis, solicitor in the employment team at Withers

As The Apprentice aired last night, Jamie Oliver and his apprentices were catering for world leaders at No 10. Hopefully Jamie’s apprentices are better chefs than Sir Alan’s, whose dire catering skills led to a grilling in the boardroom and, ultimately, Sir Alan spat out team-leader Rocky Andrews.

At 21, Rocky was this year’s youngest candidate.  Linking youth to failure in job selection processes is potentially a recipe for legal disaster.  Described as ‘too young’, Rocky’s departure was linked to the fact that he ‘came to the process too early’.  Some of the basic ingredients for an age discrimination claim.

If Rocky were to seek legal advice, it seems that his lawyers would be better negotiators than the remaining candidates.  The farcical attempts by the boys’ team to negotiate prices with a law firm revealed that the aspiring apprentices’ negotiation skills were sorely lacking.

In real life, some performance management and/or training might be advisable.

However, training doesn’t feature in the world of The Apprentice – ‘if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen’ and, in the Apprentice, ‘if you can’t perform, get out of the boardroom…’

Haute cuisine?

By Alan Nicholson, associate at McGrigors

If you cast your eyes down to your keyboard for a moment, you might find a crumb or two from that ropey sandwich you had at your desk yesterday.  It wasn’t haute cuisine, but you were busy and it did the job.  But if you handed over a fiver to a man in boxing gloves for peanut butter on Hovis, please excuse yourself from the office immediately.  You are not well.

While Yasmina somehow made a 200 per cent margin on her Chicken Surprise wraps, Philip managed to make a US law firm gasp at a fee quote.

In the law firm’s office a toga-clad Maj carrying a fist full of Doritos was warned to keep his beard out of the salsa. This had echoes of one of the first religious discrimination cases, when Mohsin Mohmed tried unsuccessfully to sue West Coast Trains for comments made about the fist-length beard his religion required him to maintain.  But there was no grievance from Maj, who seemed to take it on the chin.

Age discrimination concerned us last series, and employment lawyers perked up again when Sir Alan knocked out “too young” Rocky.  He’ll learn, but last night Rocky was well and truly pickled at the Gherkin.