Mary Portas was back with a bang on the eponymous Secret Shopper (C4, 9pm, 24 February) this week, and wasted no time demonstrating why the government’s decision to commandeer her for the High Street cause - then completely ignore her subsequent review - says more about the posturing of politicians than it does about Portas.
She quickly identified the problems at Hallmark Foods, a family-owned Slough-based Nisa, owned by nice guy Keshu and run by hapless supervisor Dean. Not that they were tricky to spot. But no matter, I loved this show even before Portas dragged the staff for a lesson in teamwork to my favourite French restaurant, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, which produces stunning service from a seamless kitchen. “Do your staff ever pop out for a fag?” enquired Portas. “Non,” replied the perplexed maître d.
Like all the best fixer shows, this episode mixed raw emotion with business savvy as Portas drilled efficient stock rotation, ordered a severe range review, and wiped away tears. She also took them to Eat 17, a sensational Spar that could be a Whole Foods Market, to inspire them further.
And, unlike the government, the family listened. It dropped Nisa (which won’t have enjoyed this) and transformed itself into a gorgeous independent village store. A happy ending, then?
Not before a twist in the tale. A Tesco opened up nearby, casting a cloud over the grand reopening. “We’ll fight back,” vowed an energised Keshu, joined by Ash, his daughter and newly promoted manager. I wonder what will happen next?