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Gordon Ramsay, the famous foul-mouthed TV chef, has an OBE, is a Michelin-star restaurateur and entrepreneur, and has run a string of successful food and drink businesses. He quickly rose to fame when he appeared in the 1999 reality TV show Boiling Point; with his short fuse, explosive temper, straight-to-the-point attitude and creative use of profanities, he was the standout star.

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares first aired on Channel 4 in 2004 and ran for five series in the UK, and since then, variations of the show have been created, all starring Gordon Ramsay. The show was adapted for American audiences and was called Kitchen Nightmares and ran for seven series. Some other spin-off concepts include Hotel Hell, Costa del nightmares, and Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back.

Gordon Ramsay

Image source: Channel 4

For those unfamiliar with the show’s concept, Gordon Ramsay goes into struggling food and drink businesses and acts like a sweary, hands-on consultant to help bring the restaurant back to its former glory. On the surface, the concept is just another reality TV show, where a loudmouthed, profanity-slinging, and confrontational celebrity is put into a situation where people are stressed, tired and at their limits. All to ruffle feathers, cause tension and ignite explosive reactions… but there is so much more to it:

  • It’s a cooking show
  • A renovation show
  • A self-improvement show
  • A business and entrepreneur show

And a show about how to run a successful food-and-drink business. You could argue that it is essential viewing for anyone who wishes to run a restaurant, café, bar, coffee shop or tearoom. The knowledge from this show can be applied to all types of catering businesses.

So, if you are running a food-and-drink business or thinking of starting one, then here are ten things that Gordon Ramsay has taught us about running a restaurant.

How to run a successful food and drink business

  • You are only as good as the customer service you deliver
  • Keep it simple
  • A thought for the food
  • It’s a team effort
  • Communication is key
  • Update the décor
  • Market your business
  • Keep it clean
  • Remember, it’s a business
  • Create a safe place

1. You are only as good as the customer service you deliver

Over the years, Gordon Ramsay has visited plenty of food-and-drink businesses that serve delicious-looking food in picturesque premises, but there is not a customer in sight.

What Gordon usually discovers is that it’s because of the customer service. This could be because of an unwelcoming front of house team, clueless management, unfriendly owners, or just plain rudeness. He works with them to demonstrate that running a restaurant is about more than just delivering friendly service; it’s about being prompt, polite and professional. Customers are not expecting a silver-service reception every time, but they do expect a pleasurable dining experience.

Work with your front of house team to get the basics right; make sure orders are correct and that the staff are attentive, knowledgeable, anticipate the customers’ needs and know the menu inside out. If your waiting team gets this right and makes every customer’s experience a positive one, they will return.

2. Keep it simple

‘Keep it simple’ is Gordon Ramsay’s mantra. He has visited restaurants that have a never-ending menu full of complicated and confusing foods. Such menus are hard for the front-of-house team to remember, hard for customers to make their choice from and challenging for the kitchen staff to deliver.

Take a look at your menu, and if it feels more like a novel than a list of fine food selections, it might be time to simplify it.

3. A thought for the food

When Gordon Ramsay visits, he likes to sample a variety of culinary delights, which usually results in him spitting his food out and giving the chef who cooked it a good rollicking. As Gordon says, the kitchen is the driving force behind the business, and the food it produces is vital to its success. If plates are not coming back clean, then there might be an issue with the food.

Chef Ramsay works with the kitchen staff and the restaurateur to create a simple menu that uses locally sourced, fresh ingredients for easy-to-make, wholesome dishes.

It’s essential to have someone who knows their way around the kitchen, has a good idea of what works and has had experience of working in a busy environment. Work with them to create dishes that your local community will want to eat and are happy to pay for. If you don’t know what they want, then ask them. If you serve fancy food that looks good but barely fills a plate serving customers in a village pub, you may quickly lose the locals.

Gordon Ramsay will often take a walk around the local town, look at the competition and ask the locals where they eat and how much they spend. He also sources local ingredients from local suppliers to create food that resonates with the local area.

4. It’s a team effort

A dysfunctional food-and-drink establishment is usually down to a dysfunctional team. This could be due to a lack of training, experience, knowledge or enthusiasm. In some instances, it is down to an overbearing owner who won’t let staff do the job to the best of their ability. Gordon Ramsay has pulled many business owners over to one side and had a heated debate about how they are not empowering their employees. If this is the case, then Gordon allows the staff to take ownership of their roles. He lets the head chef run the kitchen on their own terms alongside the owner or gives the maître d’ or bar manager the chance to prove themselves, If they don’t rise to the challenge, Gordon works with them to improve. After all, if the kitchen is the business’s engine, the staff are the cogs that keep the business moving.

Work with your team to improve their quality of work to the standard you would expect from your food-and-drink business. But at the same time, don’t micromanage them – give them the space and freedom to do their job successfully. Remember, there is no I in team.

5. Communication is key

A successful catering business is built on communication with your customers, staff, and suppliers. Communication works both ways. There is no point talking to a brick wall; when an order is up and communicated to the kitchen, the kitchen needs to acknowledge the order and deliver it to front-of-house within an acceptable timescale. As Gordon Ramsay says, there should be communication between all business areas; it’s like a perfectly oiled machine.

However, mistakes can and will happen. What’s important is how you deal with them, how you resolve them and how you overcome and learn from them.

Communication can also take the form of feedback or criticism. Listen, take it in your stride, don’t be defensive, learn from it and implement the change.

6. Update the décor

Gordon Ramsay and his team don’t just overhaul the food, staff and kitchen; they also update the décor, making it a more pleasant place for customers to eat. A coat of paint can work wonders, turning a dull, dingy restaurant into a bright and inviting one. Replacing wonky tables and broken chairs can elevate the quality of an eatery. So, if your establishment looks like a throwback to the 1970s with funky curtains and carpet, then it might be time to update your décor.

If interior design isn’t your thing, then why not visit other food-and-drink businesses to see what they have done with their décor? A useful app for finding creative inspiration is Pinterest; just search for pub or restaurant interior ideas to see what is possible.

7. Market your business

Is your food-and-drink establishment looking a little quiet? Does it lack customers? Then maybe you are not marketing your business enough. Start by finding out your business’s reputation. Get out there and meet the locals. These are your potential customers; see what they think or have heard about your establishment and see where they are eating currently. This will give you a great insight into how you can adapt your food-and-drink business to your customers’ requirements.

Once you know this, you can focus your marketing efforts to drive a new customer base through your front door to eat your food. There are many free ways to market your business, or if you are looking to learn more about how digital marketing can help your business, why not download our free guide? Click here to download.

8. Keep it clean

Rats, mice, insects, black mould, rotten food, thick grease, dirt and generally poor hygiene are just some of the things Gordon Ramsay has witnessed while exploring other people’s businesses.

Exceptional hygiene standards are a must for any food-and-drink business. Failure to implement correct standards doesn’t only cost you customers; it could cost you your business. Cross-contamination can lead to a public liability claim from food poisoning, allergic reactions and, in extreme cases, death. Lack of cleaning and general tidiness spreads germs that attract vermin like insects, rats and mice. It can also be hazardous for staff; trips and slips are more likely to happen if the work environment is not tidy.

Deep-fat fryers, grease traps, extractor fans and cooking equipment caked in fat create fire hazards that could easily and quickly go up in flames. A surface clean is not enough; regular deep cleans are a must, pulling out fridges, freezers and cooking equipment, not only in the kitchen but front of house as well.

9. Remember it’s a business

How much money have you lost? How long can you stay open if business continues to be bad? These are just a couple of the questions Gordon Ramsay asks when he has a frank and blunt discussion with a broken, tired and defeated business owner. When starting a food-and-drink venture, it’s easy to be naïve and get carried away with the idea of owning a restaurant without understanding all that’s involved in running a business like this.
But this is the bottom line, it is a business and it’s vital to have a handle on every aspect – understanding income, outgoings, stock levels, bookings and ways to streamline.

10. Create a safe place

Working in hospitality and catering is challenging but can be rewarding. It can also have an element of danger, which is something many food-and-drink business owners sometimes overlook. Having a safe environment for your staff and customers is a must. There have been establishments that Gordon Ramsay has visited that have been not only unhygienic but also completely dangerous.

It’s important to keep things clean and tidy and have the correct procedures in place to protect your staff, for example, ensuring staff are properly trained in handling knives and ensuring there is a qualified first aider on-site at all times in case a customer or staff member has an accident.

Think about the risks that could occur and put in preventative measures in place to reduce these risks.

Conclusion

Whether or not you agree with his methods, Gordon Ramsay certainly knows a thing or two about running a food-and-drink business. He also has years of experience in every aspect of business, from running the kitchen to managing the front of house. If you are running or thinking of running a restaurant, follow the tips above or you could watch a few of Gordon Ramsay’s shows on 4 on demand.

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