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Published on October 20th, 2009 | by Janine Popick

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What Any Business Can Learn From Chef Gordon Ramsay

Gordon RamseyI’ll admit it, I love watching any TV show with Gordon Ramsay in it, but “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares” is my current favorite. He’s brazen and harsh. He swears like a sailor and belittles people. Not my style of leadership, but it makes for great TV.

I like the show because he gets down into the inner workings of a small business and peels away the onion to find any issues that might be hampering the business from growing.

So, I’ve outlined 6 things we can all learn from Gordon Ramsay, followed by a question you can ask yourself to see how you rate by his business strategy.

#1 – It all starts with the customer.

One of the first questions Chef asks the restaurant he is working with is how many people have reserved for the evening. More often than not, it’s a pretty low number, so he observes for a night to find out why. In most cases (or there wouldn’t be a TV show) there are serious issues with the way the entire restaurant is run.

He also takes to the streets; in many shows he walks the streets of the town to observe other restaurants and he’ll stop people and ask what they think about the restaurant he’s trying to help.

Question: When was the last time you surveyed your customers to find out what they think about your business, your product or your service?

#2 – Chef Ramsay gets at the foundation of the business.

He wants to get to know the owner of the place to find out how the business got into bad shape in the first place. He wants to see the owner’s passion for what they do. He works with the staff to make sure they have a proper foundation and that the person leading the charge is truly leading the charge.

Then he gets into the real foundation of the business. According to Ramsay, success starts with a clean kitchen and in many cases that’s the first thing that gets done.

Question: When was the last time you did a proper “cleaning” of your business to make sure it’s in order? It could be cleaning out old inventory lying around or it could be actually cleaning up your office environment. Spring cleaning is always a great idea for a fresh start!

#3 – The product needs to be good.

Chef wants to know who is making the food and what ingredients are being used. He wants to know if the staff is capable of doing what needs to be done. Then he works with them to make a great product (in this case, menu) and changes the way they think about what they’re making and how they’re presenting it.

Question: Is your product or service the best it can be? What would it take to get it to the next level? Do you need to change the way your staff thinks?

#4 – The experience needs to be good.

Ramsay will go to the extent of training the staff himself to make sure that reservations are being booked in a way that doesn’t overflow the kitchen. He’ll make sure that the staff is offering entrées that the kitchen can make quickly and tries to get them thinking about the customer experience. Then he’ll go to extremes and redesign the restaurant and give it a clean, friendly and updated look. Doing this has often given the staff a morale boost, which often leads to a great experience.

Question: When was the last time you looked at your location, or your website? Putting a fresh coat of paint on your walls, changing your front door entrance, or reducing the number of clicks your website visitors have to go through might be just the thing your business needs.

#5 – A business needs to market itself.

Obviously you can’t get the word out without a great product and a great experience, but now there’s something to talk about. My favorite thing about this show is that Chef knows how important it is to get the word out, from the signage out front to winning over customers on the street. For an Indian food restaurant, he had Indian dancers perform in the neighborhood and hand out food; for a Soul Food restaurant he set up an outdoor BBQ and gave food away. He’s a true marketer at heart, which is what I love about him.

Question: What creative things are you doing to get the word out for your business?

#6 – Get back to the customer.

After it’s all said and done, Chef Ramsay asks for feedback. After the dining experience, he wants to keep the business in check so getting comment cards back from the customers is critical.

Question: Are you asking your customers for feedback constantly, then acting on it?

There you have it, 6 reasons why I think there’s a lot to learn from Gordon Ramsay. The meat of why he’s effective is laid out above; imagine what can happen when you interpret these tips with your own special sauce.

© 2009 – 2012, Janine Popick. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

is a contributing author for VerticalResponse.



10 Responses to What Any Business Can Learn From Chef Gordon Ramsay

  1. Megan says:

    Gordon is straight to the point, a style that can be offensive to many. However, the restaurants featured on there know what they signed up for and understand that his style is effective for improving and assisting in business success. Great post idea!

  2. Another thing Gordon Ramsey does is to reduce the often-huge menu to 5 or 6 key dishes. Just like restauranteurs, retailers can spend too much money on “ingredients” which suit only 1 or 2 “dishes”. By considering how he can use as many of the same elements into one dish as possible, he cuts wastage, overheads and stock from spoiling. Too much choice has been proven to deter consumers from spending at all which is why niche sites do so well.
    One other thing he does is to select produce/products which are made or sourced locally. This saves time, money and the environment.

  3. Darren says:

    Why this is not on CNBC or FOX Business is beyond me. It is business 101. The British version is better…more cursing!

  4. David Moore says:

    Your post actually got me to searching for the old shows. As a result, I’ve become a big fan as well. It also inspired a blog post of my own on Ramsay’s ideas on improving a business. You can find it at http://www.Print4APurpose.typepad.com. Fan to fan, I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed yours.

  5. Loyd says:

    My wife and I enjoy all of Chef Ramsays shows. We can relate to the points he makes since we have a little pizza place of our own. He might seem too tough at times but the restaurant business is a tough business. I wish we would have paid more attention to his marketing tips. We recently moved our business to a larger town. But in our case, more poeple also meant more competition. We’re convinced we have the best product in town since we receive phone calls from new customers confirming this but our customer base just hasn’t grown fast enough. Unfortunately we will probably be closing the business at the end of this month. Do yourselves a favor. Do more than just put out good food. Pay close attention to your marketing.

  6. Sandra Sims says:

    Great post… Every time I watch Kitchen Nightmares I am amazed at how well he can get to the heart of what’s going wrong with a business and see how to fix it. He may dish out a lot of trash talk and tough love, but really does care about the people and their success. I’d highly recommend the British version of the show (in the US on BBC America).

  7. Mario says:

    Ramsay is crazy. Shouldn’t be allowed on TV.
    He is a bully and we don’t want people to have him as a role model.

  8. Great points – especially listening to what your customer actually wants. I think these lessons sometimes get lost in Ramsey’s brash delivery on KN, but his points are right on.
    I have found that many owners are reluctant to change how they operate their business (i.e. listen to customer criticism) because their egos can’t handle it. But desperation and change generally make excellent bedfellows.

  9. Sara Martin says:

    I would say Fantastic Analogy. But personally I think #6 – Get back to the customer should be the top priority for small business owners. Asking their feedback isn’t enough only one must come up with creative ideas to make things more convenient to customers. Making website user friendly and unique is also important, but the most important thing is freshness of a web page. How frequently you update your content like mentioned in the post when you painted your wall last time.

  10. Dear Janine, thanks for your blog about Chef Ramsey’s recipe for business growth and success! Our print shop could use some of the spice your 6 ideas gave me. Especially the cultivation of customer feedback and putting their input to work. Thanks again… Abraham

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