Last night, I watched a TV show called “Kitchen Nightmares” about Chef Ramsey, a world-class chef and restaurateur, trying to work with a young Italian restaurant owner to turn around her failing business she had owned for 5 years. It is important to note that this business had existed for 17 years prior to her taking it over. What did we see?
- The owner was a vegetarian—she had never tried any non-vegetarian dishes in her own restaurant.
- Thinking that the vegetarian items would at least be quite good, Chef Ramsey ordered 3 items from the menu and could not stomach any of them. They weren’t marginal—they were inedible. This is what the kitchen staff prepared for a world-class chef and restaurateur.
- A business owner relying on her USC business degree to validate why she belonged in business–people don’t care about degrees, they care about execution.
- A business owner who knew little about the roles and responsibilities of the members of her team—she had never walked in the shoes of any of her employees
- A business that had remained unchanged for 5 years—same dishes, same menu, etc.
- A restaurant that had a filthy kitchen representing a health risk for its customers.
- A kitchen team that had been there forever but really did little more than go through the motions.
- A kitchen team that, for premium food pricing, would cook food in a microwave, was incapable of staging tables of food together in a coherent fashion
- A computer system that was terribly unreliable, both in terms of entering information and reliably getting information to the kitchen
- A wait staff team that seemed to genuinely care.
How can we summarize the current situation? Entitlement, laziness, complacency, and people just showing up and going through the motions (including the owner).
This business needed a major transformation to thrive. What did Chef Ramsey do?
- Engaged the owner in the kitchen so she could understand first-hand what was going right and wrong—this was critically important.
- Remodeled the dining room; replaced the aging tableware
- Replaced the aging computer system with a state-of-the-art system
- Set a new standard for kitchen cleanliness and food freshness
- Created a new menu and more of a wine bar atmosphere
- Brought in a chef to train the existing team how to operate a world-class kitchen and get dinners out in an organized, orchestrated fashion
The restaurant owner made the mistake of thinking that she had purchased a turn-key business that would require no additional thought, innovation, training, systems, quality control, etc. She demonstrated no passion for “making the business work”—she merely expected it to work as it had for years prior to her owning it.
Are there business execution lessons here for all of us? Absolutely!
Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting