Employment law lessons can be found everywhere. As winter slogs on, I have been spending more time indoors. For me, more time indoors means more time watching TV. One show that I have discovered is Kitchen Nightmares, in which chef Gordon Ramsay helps failing restaurants.
The shows follow a predictable pattern. As the show opens, Ramsay meets a proud, yet clueless owner and places an order. The food is always horrible. Gordon then tours a filthy kitchen and meets the a hapless kitchen staff led by a despondent chef.
Chef Ramsay’s recipe for turning around a restaurant can be used by virtually any employer.
First, he carefully reviews the strengths and weaknesses of the restaurant. He then delivers his findings to the owners in a direct, expletive strewn, way. Interestingly, they usually know about most of the weaknesses, but have failed to address them. They are paralyzed with fear that making changes will make a bad situation worse. Of course, their failure to act simply accelerates the restaurant’s decline. Ramsay convinces them that their approach is a fool’s game, since without change the restaurant will ultimately disappear.
Second, he demands that the owner be an effective leader. In each of episodes, the owner is new to the restaurant business. This lack of experience leads to either indecisiveness or arrogance. Both approaches fail. The indecisive owner is ignored. While the arrogant leader is sabotaged. Ramsay counsels a middle ground where the owner listens to the staff while imposing consequences for failure to follow directives.
Third, he orders a complete cleaning of the kitchen. To Gordon, the filth is a symptom of a staff without pride. Where necessary, he orders new equipment to ensure that the staff can actually produce food in a safe manner.
Fourth, Ramsay simplifies the menu. In virtually every restaurant, the menu is bloated with dozens of appetizers, entries, and desserts– all done poorly. Ramsay’s approach is develop a single theme for the restaurant which customers can understand. All other items, are eliminated. The restaurant can then focus on a “core competency.”
Fifth, the smaller menu also allows Ramsay to train the kitchen staff on the proper preparation of each item. To often, the kitchen staff is a “jack of all trades, master of none.” The trained staff leads to better prepared dishes which lead to praise from customers which lead to a more motivated staff.
And, sixth, he demands communication in the kitchen. To often, the chef mumbles the orders as they come in. The staff fails to acknowledge the orders and they go their separate ways. As a result, the orders become hopelessly backed up due to preparation errors and poor timing.
In these tough economic times, employers should take stock of Ramsey’s ideas. Access strengths and weaknesses. Deal with problems now. Listen to employees. Discipline when necessary. Invest in new equipment. Clean up the workplace. Focus on your core business. Train. Communicate.