Gordon Ramsay didn’t get three Michelin stars just by swearing at his staff. What’s so successful about his management style?
He’s famous for his four-letter outbursts and taking a tough approach to managing staff. But for all his profanities, Gordon Ramsay seems to bring out the best in those who work for him.
He is not without his critics, but despite his reputation for hot-headedness he has held on to 80% of his staff for the past 10 years.
Viewers of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, have seen him sharpen his knives – and his tongue – and dish out some tough love to rescue a number of failing restaurants. He’s succeeded in every case, so why is he so successful and what do the experts think?
Working as a Team
It’s an obvious ingredient of any successful business, but staff at some companies seem incapable of working as a team.
Relations between kitchen and restaurant staff at D-Place were non existent. Ramsay organised a guacamole cook-off between pairs made up of waiters and cooks, with the one cooking blindfold and having to take directions from the other. The kitchen and the restaurant effectively depended on each other.
Ramsay excels at giving his staff a sense of the story in which they play an important part, says Professor Kim James from the Cranfield School of Management.
“He creates a drama to identify with, convincing people to tie their future to that idea, and make sure they have opportunities to perform to the highest standard. The ultimate test of a leader is their legacy and Ramsay’s greatest gift to the restaurants he turns around may be to leave them capable of good theatre when he is no longer the star.”
Boss not Friend
You don’t achieve Ramsay’s level of success by worrying if your staff like you or not. But he believes that showing staff who is boss is the way to get their respect.
At Momma Cherri’s Soul Food Shack in Brighton, East Sussex, staff costs were crippling owner Charita Jones, yet she was doing most of the work herself. Ramsay forced her to get tough and tackle staff’s laidback attitude by writing a rule book. The more she set boundaries, the more professional her staff became.
Ramsay is tough, but his style is also about coaching and encouraging the best from his staff. They are all vital ingredients to be a good boss
“You don’t have to be everyone’s friend but you do have to be a friendly boss,” he says. “The best managers have to have the ability to lead but also talk to staff and aren’t standoffish.”
Back to Basics
Ramsay always has a well-defined vision – delicious, simple food. He hates pretension and makes sure the whole team understands what his vision is so they are all working towards the same goal.
La Riviera in Inverness, Scotland, had a crack team of skilled French chefs, but the menu was aimed more at Gallic connoisseurs than local diners. Dishes were over-complicated and pretentious, with too many flavours on each plate. Ramsay toned things down and demystified the menu to get punters in.
Ramsay cuts away the unnecessary frills, says Professor James.
“He looks at each restaurant in isolation. He goes back to the basics and researches customers and competitors and, crucially, assess the capabilities of staff to produce excellent cuisine. He identifies a successful formula for each individual restaurant.”
Stand out from the crowd
In each restaurant Ramsay tries to identify its best selling point and make a feature of it.
Momma Cherri’s Soul Food Shack had great food but few customers. It needed a gimmick to draw attention to its tasty Deep South, home-style cooking. Ramsay came up with the Soul in a Bowl menu. The £10-a-head buffet got bums on seats, showcased a wide range of food and was cost-effective for the restaurant.
Ramsay identifies what each business can do to the highest possible standard, says Professor James.
“There is no standard Gordon Ramsay formula that he applies to all. He identifies what it can do to the highest possible standard and works from there.”
His comments might be peppered with swear words, but Ramsay communicates clearly and continuously with staff. He lets them know exactly what he expects and provides them with both positive and negative feedback. The result is a highly-motivated workforce.
At D-Place in Chelmsford, Essex, relations between head chef Philippe Blaise and maitre d’ Dave Bone had reach such a low they hardly spoke. Their stand-off was affecting customers so Ramsay forced the pair to confront the problem, and each other, acting as referee. It cleared the air and re-opened communications.
You have to look beyond the swearing, says Professor James.
“He offers no bland vision statements but tries to inspire. He is generous in bringing people on and instructs the inexperienced.”
The Ramsay 10 Point Solution
His solution is a simple 10 point plan that you must commit to. What he says is:
1. Have clear objectives. Decide what you want to achieve
2. Make sure the chef and owner have strong leadership skills
3. Get the decor right
4. Simplify the menu
5. Bring effective discipline into the kitchen
6. Improve the quality of the food
7. Train the staff
8. Develop team spirit and improve the way the team works
9. Motivate the staff
10. Deliver great customer service
So why did these people need Gordon to improve their business?He is an impartial observer with lots of relevant experience and is focused on improving results, rather than being involved in the day to day running of the business. More to the point, he makes things happen.
Your business is probably no different and using Gordon’s plan perhaps you could be that little bit better too. Here’s our own ten point plan to help you.
1. Clear objectives and a sales plan that everyone understands
2. Leaders in the business who the team will admire and follow
3. A relaxed and welcoming environment
4. Simple and clear processes
5. A team aligned to your values and vision
6. Products and services people want to buy or use
7. An investment strategy for developing staff
8. A defined culture, nurturing and engaging your team
9. Motivated staff who you inspire to be the best they can
10. Team members who’s mission it is to delight your customers
Hope you found this useful. Why not speak to us and find out for yourself how we can help give your business the edge.