Monday, June 23, 2014

Kitchen Nightmares Crosses the Bar

Over 10,000 words that you cannot say on television and 234 powerful antacids could not keep Gordon Ramsay at the helm of his signature television show.  For Ramsay and restaurateurs around the United Kingdom and the United States, the Nightmares have come to an end.

Gordon Ramsay is pulling the plug on "Kitchen Nightmares."  This ends not only an entertaining series, not only a great place for tips on how to make great food, but also a free business tutorial.

The show debuted on BBC in 2004.  Fox picked up an American version in 2007.  The BBC version simply featured Ramsay giving tough love to bad businessmen, while the bigger budget US program included full makeovers.  In both cases, the core of the show was reforming the business owner him or herself.

Once successful establishments that had fallen on hard times were the staple.  In many cases, the owner simply suffered from laziness, apathy, or depression.  Ramsay described the owners that he worked with in a statement about the show's coming end as "weird and wonderful people."

Other owners had failed to keep up with changing palates and economic environments.  Or they had deluded themselves in some way.  Most of the time, Ramsay was able to fix the food, the business, and also the owner.

Most viewers remember Ramsay for freakouts.  Most food was not fit for a dog (some of it actually induced vomiting.)  Some restaurants had dead rats in the dining area. The cursing, confrontations, and freakouts were for show.  In between the opening shots of rage and the end scenes of hugging and gratitude came sound advice on how to run a business.

These included establishing relationships with customers and also local vendors.  Get a better handle on what the market wants.  Above all, make the restaurant about the customer instead of the ego of the owner.

Ramsay's lessons always implied that no one is entitled to success.  That comes from good judgment and hard work.  All these lessons apply in every field.

The show spawned others of a similar ilk, like Jon Taffer's "Bar Rescue." It differs in that it applies scientific concepts and technology to building a better business.

Together, however, these shows give viewers a glimpse into how hard small business is.  And that is their greatest contribution to television.

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