Management lessons from Hell’s Kitchen

I’ve just fallen in love with a new television series that I’ve discovered online. The program is called Kitchen Nightmares and it features world-class restaurateur Gordon Ramsay, most famous for his television show Hell’s Kitchen.  In this series, Ramsay works with struggling restaurants all across the United States to see what he can do to help them return to profitability. 


The most fascinating thing that I found in watching Kitchen Nightmares is all of the different human resource issues that are being addressed.  It’s almost like a series of Harvard business school case studies presented in a fun, entertaining format.  For example, in the first episode Ramsay works with a family-owned Italian restaurant.  The question?  How do you tell the manager of the restaurant, who also happens to be the son’s owner, that he is the biggest problem holding back the business?


In another episode Ramsay works with a downtown Manhattan restaurant that is absolutely filthy.  The problem here?  Apathetic employees and incompetent managers.  Ramsay’s solution?  Fire the general manager and instead turn to the floor manager to run the restaurant while he simultaneously brings in a new chef.


In all of the episodes you have the opportunity to watch a wide variety of real life human resource problems solved on a practical basis.  I was struck by the complicated nature of the problems that each of these businesses faced and how it ultimately fell back to a people problem in all cases.  Certainly, in some of the episodes the issue also turns out to be poor promotion, a too-complicated menu, or an unfocused business plan, but in the end you can always trace the problem back to an individual. An egotistical owner, an incompetent manager, or apathetic employees who just don’t care anymore.  The result?  A poor experience for the customer, and of course, poor results at the cash register.


The series gives you a chance to see the subtle people issues that managers have to deal with on a daily basis and how, if neglected, ultimately cause the business to suffer. 


If you have ever wondered whether good people management matters, tune in. You’ll see real life examples of the difference that good leadership makes. Look for it under popular TV shows at   

2 thoughts on “Management lessons from Hell’s Kitchen

  1. David I could not agree with you more. What a great show! I found myself watching it and realizing that Chef Ramsey was acting as a leadership / management consultant dressed up as a cook. Certainly there were issues of marketing and promotion, complicated menus, poor decor, but at the heart of each episode was a leadership issue. Someone who got in their own way, someone with an ego too big for the resturaunt, someone who just needed to go.
    Seems like that industry is short on leadership development advice. Also appeared clear, as with many other business segments, there is a darwinian nature to success where those who do not develop at least a competent model of managing fail

  2. I arrived at this site from Google after enjoying this past week’s episode of Hell’s Kitchen. I preferred to ascertain if other viewers feel that Chef Gordon is keeping contestants for the sake of the outrageousness factor? By way of example, Sabrina should’ve been dismissed immediately after her outrageous statements in the first episode on 9/22, during which she had intimated that she would wipe out her own group. Are players like her professional actors?!

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