With the ongoing writers strike affecting what is available to watch on TV there have been some evenings  when the kids are in bed, and our work is put away for the evening, when my husband and I struggle to find something interesting to watch. Recently our tivo decided we might enjoy watching Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. With nothing better recorded we decided to give it a shot.

It seems like the restaurants Gordon picks to come in and “save” are all on the brink of disaster. The bill collectors come every day and most of the kitchens are a mess (so much so that it makes you never want to eat out again). Gordon comes in, and within the hour episode, has revamped the menu, taught the staff wonderful new recipes, spruced up the dining room, and re-opened to great success.

As I watched 2 episodes I couldn’t help but cringe when I saw the business nightmares that were happening. I wouldn’t be surprised if more then 80% or even all of the restaurants Gordon has “helped” are gone within the year. The reason the restaurants are such a disaster is that they are not just kitchen nightmares, but more importantly, business nightmares. Not one owner seems to understand simple cash flow. Not one owner seems to have planned any part of their business, least of all the financials.

How? How could you pore hundreds of thousands of dollars into a business, and never sit down and crunch numbers? How could you put all your savings, your family, your retirement, on the line and never once think about writing a marketing plan? It’s almost like all these people think that their “desire” and “passion” not only should be enough, but are enough. I want to shake these people and just reach through the TV screen and put a simple sales forecast and profit and loss statement in front of them.

The more interesting thing though, is that Gordon Ramsey, and the TV production company seem to not care about the business side of things. Sure its fun to see Gordon yelling at the mediocre chef for serving powdered mashed potatoes on an entree priced at $28.00. But isn’t Gordon concerned about his reputation when all these restaurants go out of business within the next 24 months? Shouldn’t he be concerned at all that a MAJOR part of the reason the restaurant is a disaster is because their is no business sense behind it? WHy not send the owners to business bootcamp?

Look at someone like Jefferey Chodorow who had been very successful in the restaurant business. He may have a passion for food, (and he may not) but more so he has a passion for business. He doesn’t need to be the chef, or the decorator, or the “front of house” manager. He just needs to be a good business person — and then he can be successful and hire the right top people for his restaurants.

And please, rest assured. I am not saying that every person who dreams of opening a local restaurant needs to mimic Jefferey. There are a lot of things that many people don’t like about how he does business, or the restaurants he owns and manages. BUT he thinks like a business person. And ANYONE who starts a restaurant needs to understand that what they are starting is a BUSINESS. So be smart. Do your research. Write your plan. Understand your market, and you will have a much greater chance at surviving the very tough restaurant business.

Sounds pretty simple, no?

Sabrina Parsons, aka Mommy CEO

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Sabrina Parsons
Sabrina Parsons

Sabrina has served as CEO of Palo Alto Software since 2007.