By Max Clarke

The latest episode of The Apprentice saw the hopefuls vying for the top spot by opening fast food popup outlets.

Eric Partaker, co-founder and manager of the budding Chilango chain of Mexican restaurants evaluated the efforts of the two teams, feeding back to Lord sugar.

Speaking to Fresh Business Thinking, Eric highlights his experiences on the popular BBC programme, before discussing the key role that good human resources management has played in helping his own business achieve success.

“It was really interesting to see what the candidates put together given the limited timeframe and resources, and the fact that many of them had never experienced the food industry, let alone the evolving pop-up trend. While I wasn’t blown away by what the team attempting to create a successful Mexican restaurant did given the limited timeframe and resources — they had a clichéd concept, flawed design, a bad name and poor customer service— the task was attacked with gusto and a real ‘can-do’ attitude.”

“This is exactly what Chilango, as an employer, is all about — our whole brand is about vibrancy, from the food, to the décor, to the staff. We are interested in people who want to have a stab at something new and always encourage new ideas. A great example is Shannon McKenzie, who started off on the floor wrapping burritos and had some fantastic ideas about what we should be doing with our marketing. She mentioned this to her general manager, who suggested that she present her ideas to Dan and me. We were impressed not only by her suggestions as but also by her initiative — Shannon got promoted to Marketing Manager and has been awarded stock options in the business.”

“Other employers can also benefit by looking to their employees for skills that could help to grow the business and encourage staff motivation and personal development.”

“The job market is tough at the moment so opportunities need to be created rather than left to chance. Employees should take their career paths in their own hands: it makes sense to be proactive, upsell yourself, create and negotiate new roles within your existing organisation. It’s not always necessary to quit and find a new job if you’re not satisfied with your current role–see if you can work with your employers to create something that keeps everyone happy.”

“Although obviously I’m a model of hardworking professionalism these days, many years ago as a teenager I heard those dreaded words “You’re Fired” once or twice. The most memorable occasion was when I was working at a well-known fast food restaurant chain, got frustrated and threw a burger patty at my manager. I didn’t last long there.”

“Being an entrepreneur is about believing in your product and having passion. You don’t need a degree — you need enthusiasm, guts and common sense. The most important thing is to invest in providing a quality product that keeps your customers happy. Don’t focus on the competition. Focus on blowing away your customers and the competition will take care of itself.”

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