Gordon certainly has his critics. His frickin’ foul language can be a bit off-putting for some.
Others think he’s too aggro. I think he’s got lots to teach us – especially about teams.
We’ve been watching his ‘Costa del Mar Nightmares’ and loving it. I like the way we see inside each restaurant business for what it really is. More than anything, I enjoy the lessons learned and invaluable tips from each episode on working with teams.
Recently he was in Spain, helping an English couple who were had just opened their dream restaurant and were hoping for it to be the nest egg of their retirement. They were middle-aged with some experience in business, but no hospitality experience. They rang the ‘Gordon hotline’ eight weeks after opening, when they were losing buckets of money each week.
Problem 1 – Confusion of dream with reality
The owners had good intentions, but didn’t really understand the business. With little food experience they designed a very extensive menu with a multitude of choices, one that they would like if they went out. One of the problems with this is that they hadn’t really considered the customers they were targeting and what these people really wanted. This also led to:
- Unnecessarily high levels of stock on hand due to the high number of menu items and ingredients required to prepare them
- Annoying delays for customers caused by the kitchen having to prepare and cook a broader range of dishes
To complicate matters further, they had given this menu to their new head chef with the assumption that he would be able to deliver. They hadn’t sat down with the chef and tested their assumptions, to see if he could indeed produce such a wide range of dishes in a timely manner that they customers enjoyed.
Problem 2 – Delegation and communication
They head chef would become overwhelmed when a flood of orders for maze of different dishes hit the kitchen – it would certainly freak me out! The problem was exacerbated when the chef tried to deal with it all on his own. He had two reasonably skilled local cooks, who with a bit of direction could have helped the situation enormously and take the pressure off the head chef.
Problem 3 – Understanding impacts
The floor staff didn’t know which dishes to recommend as they didn’t have a good handle of the questions to ask, nor the strengths of the kitchen.
Solution 1. Have the honest conversation
Gordon met with the owners to explain the issues and their impacts. In my view he goes a bit hard on blaming people, but when the future of their business was on the line I guess he had to get his message through. He got them to observe and understand who their target client was (cashed-up expat locals who would willingly return) and the types of dishes they would prefer. He outlined the challenges faced by the kitchen and how this could be addressed with a reduced menu. Importantly he discussed the need for an honest conversation with the chef regarding the chef’s skills and experience and his ability to deliver the new menu.
Solution 2 – Work within existing capacity
Gordon drafted the new, reduced menu. He ran it by the chef and observed the chef practice each dish and provided feedback that was timely and specific. He also helped the chef in building his
communication skills, including directly involving cooks in preparation and delivery of the new menu.
Solution 3 – Guide people to a preferred action
Finally Gordon held a briefing with all staff. He guided the floor staff through the new menu so they could experience each dish for themselves and therefore be able to accurately describe it
to customers. Importantly, he emphasised which ones would be the easiest and most profitable ones to sell, making the floor staff’s jobs more secure.
It certainly needed a few attempts to get the system right, but that’s OK, it’s better to aim for the obtainable goal of excellence rather than the distant dream of perfection!
Take home message
You may not like the way Gordon Ramsay or other ‘celebrity’ chefs operate. My challenge to you is to put that aside and think of how you can apply the lessons learnt in your teams and to monitor the results this produces.
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