Why every CEO should watch Kitchen Nightmares

Tue Jan 17, 2012

I’m quite enjoying Kitchen Nightmares (UK version) on Netflix. At first, I thought it was a typical cooking show, or merely a culinary car crash where Gordon Ramsay cuts down hapless cooks with his exceedingly foul mouth. And yes, there is a bit of that. But, surprisingly, Kitchen Nightmares is more a crash-course on effective business management.

It’s tough to make it as a restaurant owner, where most new restaurants fail in their first year. As a microcosm of any small business, there are valuable lessons to be learned in the gastronomical trenches:

  1. Source and use raw materials wisely. Savvy head chefs hit the local markets and haggled for deals, then produced dishes that used cheap and chunky vegetables to fill the plate and minimize the expensive meats. The result? Higher revenues per dish.

  2. Keep a low inventory. Food sitting in the freezer is not food being sold. Preparing dishes fresh to order not only eliminated food rot and contamination, but greatly increased quality for the customer.

  3. Keep prices down. If you’re in financial trouble, increasing customer traffic is always better than increasing prices to get back on track.

  4. Open up lateral communication across all divisions. This is perhaps the most important point. When the head chef failed to communicate with the kitchen underlings or with front-of-house, or when the owner wasn’t providing continuous feedback to the kitchen, everything fell apart.

Now, if only I could get my act together for dinner tonight…

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