UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School - MBA Leadership Immersion Kitchen Takeover Challenge

Too many cooks in the kitchen? Not for these MBAs

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School - MBA Leadership Immersion - Kitchen Takeover ChallengeSomeone alert Gordon Ramsay – we’ve got some serious “MasterChef” contenders at UNC Kenan-Flagler!

For the third time in the history of the course, students in our MBA Leadership Immersion capstone took over Café McColl for three days as part of a team challenge inspired by “The Apprentice.” The results were mouthwatering and record-setting.

Real-world leadership experience
The Leadership Immersion capstone is a seven-week course designed to significantly enhance leadership skills. Offered during the final mod (aka quarter) of our full-time MBA program, the course provides an immersive experience for students to practice and polish key leadership skills as they prepare to embark on their post-grad careers.

Students complete a series of “Apprentice”–style team competitions, real-life business simulations and community projects to hone critical leadership competencies: self-awareness, communication, conflict management, planning, empowerment and delegation, change management and teamwork. Seasoned business executives observe them throughout the course and provide feedback and personal coaching.

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School - MBA Leadership Immersion - Kitchen Takeover ChallengeCooking up a winner
The Café McColl competition is a two-part challenge that requires student teams to create their own pop-up restaurant concepts. Teams are assigned different leaders for each phase of the competition, making communication and collaboration essential for smooth transitions.

In the first part of the challenge, each team is given one week to conduct market research, decide on a menu – featuring one entrée and up to one side dish – set pricing and create a marketing plan.

During the second part of the challenge, teams market and execute their concepts in Café McColl during peak lunchtime hours. Each day, two teams face off against each another – as well as against Einstein Bagels and the Café McColl salad bar – to see who racks up the most sales in the three-hour period.

The challenge requires teams to:

  • Set goals and metrics
  • Delegate tasks
  • Conduct market research
  • Select a recipe and choose ingredients
  • Complete cost analyses
  • Participate in food safety and personal safety training
  • Build relationships with Café McColl staff
  • Create customer satisfaction surveys
  • Create promotional materials and market their pop-up restaurants
  • Determine and manage serving sizes
  • Manage costs
  • Prepare, serve and sell food during peak lunch hours
  • Encourage customers to complete customer satisfaction surveys
  • Clean up after food service ends
  • Assess and report results
  • Deliver performance feedback to team members

Each step of the challenge involves specific leadership skills – from delegating tasks and clearly communicating expectations to managing team members and staff, fostering engagement, delivering contemporaneous feedback and being good teammates. The challenge also provides students with opportunities to demonstrate UNC Kenan-Flagler’s special brand of leadership by delivering results while leading with character and integrity.

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School - MBA Leadership Immersion - Kitchen Takeover ChallengeOur 2016 contenders
With a delicious lineup of globally inspired signature dishes, our 2016 teams proved to be extremely talented leaders and chefs.

  • Team 1: Fried chicken and waffles
  • Team 2: Guatemalan shuco dog with yuca fries
  • Team 3: Pad Thai
  • Team 4: Hawaiian poké
  • Team 5: Fried chicken and waffles with bacon and ice cream
  • Team 6: Jambalaya

Teams are evaluated on the total number of meals served, as well as revenue, profitability, customer satisfaction and creativity.

The results:

Highest overall customer satisfaction rating:
Team 5 (chicken and waffles with bacon and ice cream)

Highest quantity sold:
Team 6 (jambalaya) – 229 meals sold

Highest gross profit:
Team 6 (jambalaya)

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School - MBA Leadership Immersion - Kitchen Takeover ChallengeA recipe for success
Although Team 6 was aware that Café McColl’s overall sales are highest on Mondays, they chose to sell on Wednesday so they could observe and learn from the other teams, as well as reduce their marketing expenses.

To gain insights on portion sizes and forecast appropriately, Team 6 did a trial run by preparing a meal for 16 two weeks prior to their pop-up restaurant date. They also took a calculated risk on the quantity of food they ordered, and it paid off. They sold 229 meals – 50 more than the next-closest team.

Our 2016 teams also set a new record for the highest sales day in Café McColl history! And on top of it all, Café McColl passed a health inspection on Monday with a 99 percent rating.

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School - MBA Leadership Immersion - Kitchen Takeover ChallengeTakeaways
The challenge was a success all-around. Customers enjoyed a nice change of pace with tasty new menu options. Café McColl picked up valuable customer research and gained a clearer sense of how different menu items would be received. Carolina Dining Services (CDS) staff demonstrated the intricacies and significance of their daily duties. And most importantly, our 2016 Leadership Immersion students gained valuable hands-on experience leading, managing and working in teams.

During the class debrief, students emphasized the value of their experiences – especially the opportunity to work alongside CDS staff. The students realized that it’s important for leaders to make everyone feel like part of a team. The Café McColl Challenge allowed students to experience the power of teamwork and inclusion firsthand as part of a real-world business challenge.

Insights contributed by executive coach Darryl K. Henderson, JD



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