Bad Language, Great Lessons: Foul-Mouthed Turnaround Specialist Shows How to Revive Failing Businesses in One Week

Never before has such foul language proved itself as a major business tool.

By now, I do hope you have heard of Gordon Ramsey, host of "Kitchen Nightmares" and "Hell's Kitchen".

If not, I would highly suggest watching the "Kitchen Nightmares" show sometime soon.

First, a WARNING: Thin-skinned folks need not tune in.

If you cannot handle foul language and incredibly abrasive personalities, do not watch Gordon's show!

He is rude, loud, in-your-face, and LOVES swearing to get his point across (and everything is a point, so pretty well every sentence consists of swear words).

I am not going to go too much into Gordon's past, but, rest assured, this ex-professional Scottish football player has a list of credentials that is long, and highly admirable.

He is now working on his 25th restaurant and many of them have multiple Michelin stars to their name (the most recognized and influential culinary ratings guide). He has multiple best selling cookbooks, 4 television shows and a DVD series, to name a few.

The story line behind a kitchen nightmare ...

Gordon comes into restaurants that are almost ready to close their doors, for any one of multiple different reasons. He has 1 week to turn the business around and make it a success.

He is a no-bull guy and when he starts, there is no stopping him.

Why is this important to you?

Because Gordon's formula for a 7-day business turnaround is one that each and every one of us should pay close attention to. If you are looking to increase your sales, the ideas below will help you see new ideas you have never thought of before. If you are struggling in your business or cash flow - go through each step below and reconstruct your business from the ground up.

Step #1 - Figure out what you are selling now.

Sounds basic - but is it really? When Gordon first steps into one of the restaurants he is about to makeover, he sits down for a meal.

While he waits for the different dishes he ordered, he watches carefully for the way the staff works, the way they treat customers, and the way customers are enjoying (or not) the food.

When the food shows up, he is usually disgusted in what they are passing off as main course meals.

Also, the restaurants that he steps into are almost always seriously lacking enough customers to stay in business.

Step #2 - Who is behind this disaster they call a restaurant?

This is where the real truth starts to come out. He interviews the owners, the servers, the head chef and the kitchen staff.

Usually, he finds one or two of them passionate about the business, the rest of them are putting in time between paychecks.

Typically the ingredients are sub-par, the menu confusing with too many options, and the actual food being delivered not worthy of a roadside burger stand.

Step #3 - Find out what the customers REALLY want

Rarely is it what is being delivered!

The first thing to be done - - ASK THEM.

Find out what is missing on the restaurant scene.

Find out what foods they want the most, or that they have a tough time finding.

Find out who the regulars are and what they want.

Find out which restaurants are doing best in your area - then go in there to sample their food and service, always looking for ideas to improvise upon.

And, very important, if it is a seasonal business or location - make sure that the restaurant caters to those who live there year round! Those are the people who keep the restaurant open - catering to one-time tourists is a sure-fire way to bankruptcy.

Step # 4 - Find the signature dishes

Such a simple concept that so many businesses (in every possible niche) completely ignore.

What is the one dish that the head chef enjoys making the most?

Usually, Gordon finds out that the chef has an incredible signature plate that is not on the menu. Why? The owner is usually the problem. As Gordon says, "owners should never write the menu - the head chef should be the one to design the menu".

Step #5 - Simplify the menu and the number of choices

Too many choices leave people confused and lacking in direction.

It also overcomplicates what is required in the kitchen to deliver what was promised (resulting in inferior quality on all the plates).

The menu is typically cut in less than half and the customers are usually very happy about the change.

Also, a large portion is NOT a secret to restaurant success. Smaller portions reduce waste, and keep customers coming back for more.

Step #6 - Systems ARE the key to success

Once the new menu has been created, putting systems in place to ensure consistent (and fast) delivery is key.

Being able to double business in a week, without loss in quality or without increase wait times, is something Gordon does in every restaurant he walks into.

Step # 7 - Feet on the street marketing

Last, now that everything is in place and the systems have been tested on a smaller scale, they get busy.

Getting the staff all geared up in uniforms, loaded up with their new signature dishes, they hit the street and let anyone and everyone try out the new menu choices.

Usually, an afternoon of that and they have enough curiosity built up to guarantee their first night's dinner is packed with diners and hungry new customers.

The 7-step formula above sounds simple, but it consistently turns failing restaurants around in 1 single week.

The customers love the new choices (the ones they told you to start making), the staff become much more motivated to deliver consistent service, and the restaurant very quickly starts to make a profit.

Gordon usually revisits the restaurant after a month or two to see if they have held together all the new changes.

9 times out of 10 they have held it together, stuck with the changes, and are enjoying more money than they have experienced in years.

And yes, this does apply to your business to ...

* Figure out exactly what you are selling now

* Who is behind your business? What do the customers see? What do they think?

* Find out what the customers REALLY want

* Find your signature offer

* Simplify the number of choices

* Systems ARE the key to success

* Feet on the street marketing

Last, a few side lessons from Gordon ...

It IS about the image you portray

Use only the finest ingredients in areas the customers enjoy most

What is the passion - where did it come from - find a way to bring it back

Don't take it personally - take it seriously

It's about the story you give them to tell others

When you hire a professional to help - try listening to their advice for a change (not that any customers who hire a copywriter or marketing consultant would ever ignore the advice of an expert!)

What you hear most on the show: "%^&#ing HELL!" (which he says every time he sees something that is destroying the business - about every 32 seconds you will hear him say "%^&#ing HELL!"

My favorite Gordon quote: "Who needs a wine list when you can get pissed on desert?"

To your success,

Troy White

This article was originally written for the Small Business Mastery Column, which I write every Friday for the World's Highest Paid Copywriter, Clayton Makepeace.

Troy White is a top marketing coach, consultant & direct response copywriter based in Calgary, Canada. He has a powerful approach to growing small businesses and entrepreneurial run ventures on a budget. His FREE Cash Flow Surges newsletter shares tons of great strategies at

SecurityMetrics for PCI Compliance, QSA, IDS, Penetration Testing, Forensics, and Vulnerability Assessment


Many of the 1000+ articles on Frugal Fun and Frugal Marketing have been gathered into magazines. If you'd like to read more great content on these topics, please click on the name of the magazine you'd like to visit.

Ethics Articles - Down to Business Magazine - Frugal & Fashionable Living Magazine
Global Travel Review - Global Arts Review - Peace & Politics Magazine
Frugal Marketing Tips - Frugal Fun Tips - Principled Profit
Why The Business Ethics Pledge Campaign
Clean and Green Marketing

Our Privacy Policy

Click here to order Shel's books on cost-effective and ethical marketing

This site is brought to you by Shel Horowitz,
Director of Accurate Writing & More--bringing you marketing,
writing, and career assistance since 1981.
(413) 586-2388

For information on reprinting articles from this site, click here.

You're also invited to visit our sister sites:
(ethical, cooperative, and profitable business success)
(How to have more fun and spend a lot less money)
(marketing, writing, and career services)

Social networking icons by

Disclosures of Material Connections:

Site copyright © 2000-2011 by Shel Horowitz