I've been enamored with Gordon Ramsey lately. I watched every episode of his "Ramsey's Best Restaurant" show on Netflix, and now I'm burning through the first season of "Kitchen Nightmares". I love it! If you haven't seen it, here's the gist:
Each episode features famous TV chef, Gordon Ramsey tasked with turning around a failing restaurant in a week. He shows up, takes a look around, and declares the place a complete disaster. In the next 40 minutes, he yells at the kitchen staff, makes fun of the waiters, and tells the restaurant owner he's six kinds of idiot.
Here are three reasons I'm fascinated with the show.
1. Each episode is a case study in business turn around
Marketing nerds love a good case study. Watching Ramsey waltz in, diagnose the problem(s), and execute like crazy is like marketing pornography. Every marketer fantasizes about being cast in the leading role of a heroic turn around story (think Steve Jobs circa 2004).
2. The show deals with marketing, management, and operations
Ramsey touches on all the good stuff. There's always a shot of Ramsey going over the books with the restaurant owner. They all seem to have about 3 months before they're going to go under, which makes Ramsey all the more white knightish.
He's keen to point out the turkeys on staff – the lazy, the stupid, and the self-absorbed. But at the same time he recognizes those who are talented and under-used. Ramsey is big on teamwork and like any drop-in expert-from-out-of-town, he appears to walk on water. He brings out the best in the team with just the right balance of tough love and atta-boys.
Pointing out the inefficiencies and the wasted money as he goes, Ramsey cleans house. He teaches people to be leaders and communicators. He teaches them to work as a team and take ownership of their restaurant.
Every one of the restaurants needs marketing help. They've lost control of their brand identity, their product is terrible and mis-targeted, and they've lost the will to make a marketing effort. Inevitably, Ramsey takes to the streets with a platter of food in hand. They stalk strangers, invite them to taste the food and win them over for a Friday evening dinner at the restaurant. What once was a wasteland of empty chairs and empty tables is now booked to capacity for the first time in years. It's amazing.
3. He wins every time
There isn't a restaurant so pitiful that Gordon Ramsey can't turn it around in front of a professional camera crew and with the help of television editors. By the end of the show, all of the operational pieces fit together like a well-crafted watch. It all happens in just the knick of time, of course. But it happens. The credits roll as the restaurant owner sees the light of profitability just ahead.
And one reason I don't
Well, you can't help but wonder what you don't see. How did the restaurant get featured in the local radio talk show? Who paid for the new menus? How did they really fill a restaurant with eager customers on such short notice after years of failure?
It's all compressed and edited. Business probably doesn't really work this way. Had the owners made exactly the same decisions, would they have filled the restaurant, or does a little celebrity cache go a long way in a sleepy village pub?
I probably know the answer. But I don't want to say it out loud, because I want to believe in magic. I want to imagine myself wielding the power of a young marketing Jedi.
So I suspend my disbelief. I cue up the next episode. And I wonder how long I'll have to wait before I come into my own as the brilliant marketer who sees what others can't see and executes where others fail. I love t.v.