Tag: restaurant business

Kitchen Nightmares: Ramsay Picks Up Two Saves

Last Thursday we were treated to a double shot of Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” on FOX, because the World Series is over and they have some catching up to do. Watching two hours of this show takes time, but I’m going to save you some time by summarizing both episodes into one short blog here.

The first one was a visit to the quaint town of Cranbury, New Jersey. I never knew New Jersey had any quaint towns, but this one looked really nice, at least in the winter time. The restaurant, Hannah & Mason, was a French bistro run by two chefs who were kind of misfits–one who was set in his ways (Chris) and another who had very little passion about anything (Brian). Nick was the 23-year old manager who wanted to make things work but was being held back by the two owners. Ramsay did not like the food at all, and found out that this is why they were losing business–that no one else liked it either, and the restaurant was only open three nights a week for dinner. During the dinner service, Ramsay noticed food going out that was not cooked properly, sometimes not at all, and shut the kitchen down after finding out the fridge was disgusting. It was Valentine’s Day, and Ramsay called the shutdown a “Valentine’s Day massacre.” That was a bit too much drama, but you get the point. He then visited a local apple orchard and came back with a giant bag of apples, and made a special with pork and those apples. He found out there were other farms nearby and after a re-design into more of a bakery/cafe, included many of those fresh produce items on the new menu. Brian was once again re-charged, and Chris was skeptical, but excited too. After a glitch of slow service during dinner, everyone re-grouped and got it going, and Hannah & Mason the cafe was a better success than Hannah & Mason the bistro.

The second episode was to Jack’s On Waterfront in St. Clairs Shores, Michigan, right on the water in a resort town near Detroit. The owners were three body builders, Scott, Bill and Tammer. Tammer’s dad, AJ, was the general manager after they had moved him out of the kitchen. Aaron was the chef now, and he didn’t like the menu at all, which featured canned and frozen fish. Ramsay came in and found this ridiculous, especially when he ordered the “krab” omelet and found out “krab” was spelled that way because it was not real crabmeat. Customers were scared of Scott, who looked like a shaved-head version of Tony Soprano. But the food was the biggest problem. When Ramsay observed that there were also communication problems in the kitchen, he put things in Aaron’s hands. He also gave him a new menu that featured fresh locally caught fish. With a lake outside, that was a no-brainer. But Aaron was still having trouble with his staff until Ramsay came in and kicked them all in the ass to get moving and listen to him as well as to the owners. At the dinner service with the new decor, the restaurant was packed despite a snowstorm. The customers were loving the food but not every dish was going out of the kitchen cooked properly. AJ wound up getting his hours cut, and then was eventually fired. Aaron was able to fire some that weren’t performing and hired some better sous chefs. Jack’s was revamped and so were the friendships of the three owners.

So Gordon Ramsay did it again, twice! Dude tends to butt heads with one or two people who are dragging each place down, and usually finds a disgusting kitchen with a lack of fresh food on the menu. With that kind of pattern, he makes it clear that it doesn’t take much to right any restaurant ship that is sinking, but some effort and imagination. Of course, the respect of Ramsay runs deep in the restaurant business and that’s why it works. See you all next (this) week!

Kitchen Nightmares: Returns Thanks to a 5 Game World Series

Last night Fox had to scramble for extra coverage when the World Series abruptly ended after a two-day rain delay in Game 5. Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” returned in its usual slot at 9pm ET, with a bonus re-run episode at 8pm. In the new episode, Ramsay visited South Bend, Indiana….his second venture to the middle of America after doing most of these shows in New York and Los Angeles. The establishment here, a few miles from Notre Dame University, was J. Willy’s, a bar/restaurant focusing on barbecue cuisine.

The restaurant was owned by three people–married couple Rich and Tricia, who owned another restaurant three hours away and were rarely at J. Willy’s, and J. Willy himself, a.k.a. John William. Dave the manager and Steve the chef as well as the rest of the staff were just pawns doing what John made them do, which was to use more and more processed, cheap food and cutting corners everywhere. As a result, this restaurant was $1.2 million in the hole. Yes, you read that correctly.

So Ramsay arrived and noticed the ratty decor and then proceeded to order from the menu….potato pizza (blech), beef ribs and a pulled pork sandwich. He was grossed out by all of the items and I was too watching it. At the dinner serivce that night, Ramsay also noticed that the poor food quality was scaring customers away. So he brought the three owners to a nearby church and posed as a priest at confession, asking them to share their feelings about why the restaurant was failing. The general verdict was that John had lost his passion and it was all his fault. Ramsay convinced him that if he freshened up the menu and got his staff on board, things could quickly change. They went back to the kitchen and started throwing out all of the processed and spoiling food.

Then Ramsay taught the kitchen staff how to make homemade BBQ sauce, and they served it that night along with fresh hamburgers and fresh cut fries. Everything was a hit until they ran out of food and started using frozen stuff again that had somehow been saved from the purge, angering Ramsay. So before he gave them a re-design of the restaurant, Ramsay made sure the owners were all committed to making changes. They agreed, he made it beautiful and brought in four of his own chefs to help re-design the menu further. The kitchen got behind and was making mistakes again, but manager Dave, and the three owners were able to rally their staff and have a great dinner service.

Ah, success. And they showed the restaurant months later still enjoying success and winning BBQ sauce competitions. Good for them, and hopefully they are climbing out of that big financial hole. Ramsay, you bugger, you’ve done it again.

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