Hospitality Paddl Skills Challenge marks a 77% hiring rate for the Melbourne Cup!

October 22, 2018
By Chris Girardi

The “Race That Stops A Nation” is the event of the year for top catering companies in Victoria. Blakes Feast Catering was very aware that they needed top talent to execute a flawless Cup Carnival so they partnered up with Paddl Co. to identify amazing catering staff to join their team. Paddl Co. developed the Paddl x Blakes Feast Skills Challenge - a set of engaging challenges that tested practical hospitality skills in a variety of situations. The Challenge was so effective, Blakes Feast were able to hire 37 skilled Paddlrs on the spot!

The Day

With the Victorian Spring Racing Carnival fast approaching, and Blakes Feast Catering seeking to bolster their crew for the coming events, they partnered with Paddl Co. to find a solution that would deliver the very best new hires. The Paddl x Blakes Feast Skills Challenge applied the existing Paddl Games model of fast-paced, group-based challenges, as seen most recently in the COSBOA Innovation Games (Victoria) 2018, to hospitality - challenging participants in a unique skills assessment experience.  

The Paddl x Blakes Feast Skills Challenge brought together 48 shortlisted Paddlrs (selected from 117 applicants via, 12 members of the Blakes Feast crew and 5 members of the Paddl Crew to the Royal Botanic Gardens on Tuesday 2nd October. We were thrilled to have Andrew Blake, co-owner of Blakes Feast and Chef leading Blakes Feast, join us on the day as part of the judging panel of Blakes Feast senior staff.

Participating Paddlrs came from a range of different backgrounds and were all keen to gain experience and ideally employment from the world of premium hospitality with an awesome employer - Blakes Feast!

The Challenges

The 48 shortlisted participants, ready to perform in requested uniform (white shirts, black pants and black shoes), had previously selected a preferred time session for their Skills Challenge (5 sessions were offered during the course of the day). Each session took the participants (in two groups) through the Skills Challenges with the judging panel observing and judging pairs of participants at a time through the course of the session.

 The Skills Challenge commenced with words of encouragement from Dominique Fisher - CEO | Paddl Co., Kasey Thompson - General Manager | Blakes Feast Catering and Sophie Crittenden, Senior Event Manager | Blakes Feast Catering. Paddlrs sat outside the Challenge rooms waiting for their turn (eager for hints on what to expect from the previous pair!) One session had the fun of performing these Skills Challenges in a marquee in the Botanic Gardens.

Each challenge was preceded by a 10-minute briefing session, led by a Blakes Feast Captain. This was a fantastic opportunity for participants to ask lots of questions demonstrating they knew what was expected of them, hone their skills and consider what was required for the challenges ahead.

Skills Challenges for the day included:

Clearing the Cocktail Party

Participants found themselves in a simulated cocktail party environment, with scrunched napkins and empty glasses around the room. They had to weave through guests and furniture with speed and efficiency, as they moved a tray of glasses to the clearing station. Being professional, personable and engaging as they went.  Judges were looking for ease and confidence of movement through a crowd with a tray full of glasses; observation skills - collections, top-ups, new offers; friendly demeanour; first class service.

Serving food at a Cocktail Party

In a similar cocktail party environment, participants moved between rooms and around guests and furniture serving food to attendees. In serving each food item, participants also had to be aware of dietary requirements and ensure they politely engaged with guests. Judges were looking for ease and confidence in explaining food selection and confirming preferences in an unobtrusive manner; crowd management with a tray of food; friendly and first class service; and ability to deal with unexpected questions from ‘guests’ on the spot in an appropriate manner.

Resetting the Table

The final challenge had participants service a table of five, with three guests present in a ‘wedding’ style event.  Participants had to demonstrate an understanding of a formal table setting by selecting the right cutlery, pour wine and water and or remove plates and glasses. There were a couple of unexpected requirements mimicking a usual table service and issues at an event. Judges were looking for an understanding of a formal setting, cutlery queues for plate service, wine and water pouring etiquette and friendly and helpful demeanour and engagement. Participants were then asked to reset the table for dessert as guests were finishing their main course and clear the tables to an outside kitchen station.

The Results

Our participating Paddlrs blew the Blakes Feast crew away with their tenacity, skills and teamwork, leading to 77% of participants being hired after the challenge - a phenomenal result for Blakes Feast!

"We are so thrilled with the results from the Paddl Skills Challenge for Blakes Feast. We recruited over 75% of the applicants on the spot and the quality of the applicants was excellent and it was a fun day as well." - Kasey Thompson | General Manager, Blakes Feast Catering.

The success of the Skills Challenge was also particularly exciting for us at Paddl Co.

"Having the opportunity to assess talent for hospitality in a practical demonstration of skills is infinitely more valuable than an interview. We were incredibly excited by Blakes Feast’s willingness to work with us in applying the Paddl Games model to our new skills challenge offering, and are delighted by the success they had with a 77% hire rate.” - Dominique Fisher | CEO, Paddl Co.

While we’re ecstatic to have seen so many of our awesome Paddlrs successfully hired, we’re also delighted that all of the days’ participants left having grown their experience - something we at Paddl Co. are incredibly passionate about. Whether it be through honing their skills or networking with industry professionals, the Paddl x Blakes Feast Skills Challenge gave all participants the opportunity to learn more about the hospitality industry and where it may take them! (PS: Quick update: the Paddlrs were superstars at the Spring Carnival - despite the rain and thunder on Cup Day!)

This was something unique. I’ve always undergone an interview and then they’ve tested some skills. But the challenges presented by Paddl Co. and Blakes Feast were totally different. I also loved the support that Paddl gave the candidates. The fact that the CEO herself came down to encourage the candidates, and was helping out in the hiring process really made a difference.” - Sukanya Kusugal, Graduate Master of International Business, The University of Melbourne

Want to participate in future challenges?

We have more incredible opportunities to be part of a Paddl Games challenge coming later in 2018, and we want YOU to be involved. To apply, all you’ll need to do is create and complete your Paddl Profile and keep your eyes on your jobs feed to see when new opportunities open up!  

You can also follow us on Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram or Twitter to be the first to know about upcoming events!