I don’t watch much television, but from time to time, there are programs that manage to capture my attention and keep it. Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares is one such show, and it’s one I enthusiastically recommend to small business owners. Ramsay is one of the world’s most renowned chefs, having earned a total of 13 Michelin stars—an extraordinary feat. While he is mainly known for his cuisine, 45-year old Ramsay is also a prolific entrepreneur with a track record that includes:
- Launching 19 successful restaurants.
- Producing and starring in 11 television programs five of which are currently on the air.
- Authoring 21 books.
- A healthy dose of humbling failure.
Kitchen Nightmares is a reality show where Ramsay tries to save failing restaurants across the country. The formulaic program is structured like a mini-business case, where the restaurant’s owners plead for assistance, Ramsay evaluates the operations, he finds the key problems, helps the owners make needed changes and prepares them for future success. After viewing a marathon session of episodes on Hulu and Fox, there are several important lessons that small business owners at risk of failing can learn from Ramsay.
Lesson 1: Work on fixing the people before fixing the business
Running a small business is a deeply personal matter. Who you are is often defined by the business you own: “I’m a restaurateur” or “I’m a wholesaler” are how owners describe themselves. Because of the close connection between a business owner and their business, when something goes wrong with one, then the other is sure to have problems. Typically on Kitchen Nightmares, the business problems create or exacerbate personal problems among the owners. This leads to depression, denial and anxiety. Before Ramsay even attempts to fix the business, he first zeroes in on the human problems and addresses them. It’s futile to focus on the quality of your ingredients or the strength of your recipes if the owner feels defeated and hopeless.
Lesson 2: When things go wrong, get back to the basics
Life can get very complicated in a short period of time and these complications can sometimes steer us down the wrong path. Many of the owners of failing restaurants profiled on Kitchen Nightmares have logical, well-rationalized explanations for how they arrived at such a low point in the lives of their businesses. These excuses all have one trait in common: they betray how the owners got away from the basics. A restaurant needs to serve good food at affordable prices. At its essence that’s what it’s supposed to do. Ramsay makes a point of helping owners got back to basics and works with chefs to reignite their passion for making fresh, high-quality food.
Lesson 3: Never, ever quit
Running a small business, especially a restaurant, is a daunting task with many opportunities to become frustrated with the rate of progress. A key message which Ramsay continually repeats is “never quit.” Despite his success, Ramsay has faced many challenges in his business life. His company Gordon Ramsay Holdings, Ltd. is currently under tremendous strain as Ramsay fired the CEO and another key executive under suspicion of embezzlement of funds. The executives also happen to be his father-in-law and brother-in-law. He has personally loaned the company over $10 million without guarantee. Despite these challenges, he pushes forward. We all must continually push our own businesses forward no matter what challenges may appear.
If all of this writing on Gordon Ramsay has piqued your curiosity regarding Kitchen Nightmares, you can see full length episodes on Fox.com.