By way of Netflix streaming, we just completed Season 1 (2007) of the original Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares from Channel 4. Throughout, the chef traveled to restaurants throughout the UK that were failing for various reasons, attempted to identify and correct the failures in one week, then returned a month later to see how the proprietor fared.
The concept continued on BBC America and later on the FOX network. The formula is transparent and the editing dramatized. Still, it’s both entertaining and informative.
Beyond obvious takeaways like “the restaurant business is challenging,” “the UK is quite lush and beautiful,” and “they allow incredibly coarse language to be broadcast over there,” several marketing tips, ideas, and reminders are present. I’ve run down 7 of them.
1. Maintain Some Distance
This is the forest-for-trees dynamic. So many of these restauranteurs little distance from the day-to-day operations and therefore no broader perspective. They’ve often got their noses down to the grindstone 6 or 7 days a week. Worse, some are completely oblivious and simply wander through the dream of running a restaurant. In both extremes, they fail to maintain a realistic perspective of their business situation.
2. Know Your Competition
When assessing the situation and before driving changes, Ramsay typically cruises the neighborhood, reviews competing menus, and occasionally dines at a nearby competitor. Whether small UK town or bustling London suburb, the restauranteur needs to understand his or her relative position in the local scene and in the minds of local citizens.
3. Review Your Supply Chain
In nearly every episode, Ramsay calls for a menu built of fresh, local produce. In nearly every episode, the head chef relies on trucked-in ingredients. Some even stock supplies from grocery stores! Not only does this produce a product of lower performance quality, it’s also more expensive. Right under their noses, Ramsay finds fresh, local beef, fish, vegetables, and more. In the episodes, buying immediately local often improves the restaurant’s relationships and supply chain while reducing cost.
4. Reduce Variety for the Customer
When calling for fresh, local produce, Ramsay also uses the word “simple.” Lose the 12-page menu. Focus, specialize, and deliver value. Provide choice for the customer, but limit it reasonably to eliminate choice paralysis. You can go deep on this topic. Here’s a starter.
5. Reduce Variety for the Operation
How many things can you do remarkably well? Not as many as you think. Reduce variety in the menu and reduce complexity in the operation. A handful of simple dishes comprised of fresh, local produce is ALWAYS Ramsay’s recommendation. You’ll be much more likely to deliver on the value you promise the customer (live the brand). You can go deep here, too. Here’s a starter.
Note: the variety reduction lessons remind me of this excellent quote from legendary bassist and composer Charles Mingus: “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”
6. Know Your Competition
When assessing the situation and before driving changes, Ramsay typically cruises the neighborhood, reviews competing menus, and occasionally dines at a nearby competitor. Whether small UK town or bustling London suburb, the restauranteur needs to understand where he or she fits in the local scene and in the minds of local citizens.
7. Don’t Wait To Seek Counsel
Obviously, the restaurants featured are failing. Most are tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds in debt and losing several thousand pounds per week. Connecting back to tip 1, maintaining a realistic and current perspective of your entire business is critical. Rather than wait until bankruptcy is imminent to call in the cavalry, seek and maintain counsel from trusted (and brutally honest) friends and advisors.
There’s much more there than these simple 7. Click here to watch the show online on demand via 4od.