4 Lessons Any Struggling Business Can Learn from Kitchen Nightmares

4 Lessons Any Struggling Business Can Learn from Kitchen Nightmares

I'm a big fan of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. The British version, not the American one. I enjoy watching, not because the shows are about cooking, but because they're about business. Teamwork, leadership, purpose, positioning, margins and profit and losses are all topics you'll hear covered.

1. Go Where the Customers Are (Marketing)

This one stands out to me, because it's something I didn't previously understand. It's important to let others know what you're working on, what your skills are and how and why you can help them. You need clients or customers to pay you to help their businesses succeed. If you don't have customers, you're not running a business. You've got a hobby.

Many times when Ramsay walks into a new restaurant, there are lots of empty tables. Empty tables are lost money. He doesn't sit and wait for new customers to show up, he goes where the customers are.

Watch a few episodes and you'll see Ramsay out on the street, handing out food and talking to potential customers. Just stopping them as they walk past. No one is looking for your business -- you have to create interest.

2. Get Feedback, But Not Too Much (Listen)

If he isn't handing out food, he's asking people questions. You'll hear things like:

  • "Have you heard of ?"
  • "Have you eaten there recently?"
  • "Was it worth the money?"
  • "Would you go back?"
  • "Would you take your friends?"

Most of the time, the owner won't like the answers. You have to listen and make the right decisions. However, balance is important. In many cases, restaurateurs are too close to their business and let decisions become emotional.

Listen to the staff as well. They're closest to the customers and know what people like and dislike. In many cases, they're powerless to suggest and make changes.

3. Create Reasons for People to Come to You (Advertising)

Parties are fun. People like parties. One of the tactics we'll see is to have a relaunch event. Give people a chance to see the business with new eyes. Change the scenery. Change the menu. Hire new staff.

We hit a bit of a rough patch with sales last year. It was troubling. Instead of sitting and waiting for new clients to walk in the door, we cleaned up the office, sent out invitations and threw an open house.

Activity breeds activity. Do the next thing.

4. Limit Choices (Specialization)

Who's been to a restaurant with 250 menu items? It's overwhelming! You don't have to serve everything. Find something you're good at and focus on that. Many of the new restaurants in town are single menu item and they thrive because of it. It's much simpler all around: training, purchasing, advertising, marketing. Do one thing really, really well.

"A good restaurant does one thing brilliantly. A bad one does fifty things badly."
-- Gordon Ramsay