"Kitchen Nightmares," Part 2


You might have seen Part 1 of my Lean viewing of the Fox show “Kitchen Nightmares.” I watched the second half of the show, so here is the rest of the story.

As the show progressed, improvements are made, basically in spite of Peter. Ramsay has the kitchen overhauled and new, properly working equipment is put in place for the kitchen staff. The restaurant is “re-launched” with a new menu and, hopefully, a new attitude. Unfortunately, Peter is still being self-absorbed, eating food that was intended for customers because he was hungry. When Ramsay tries to get Peter in gear, Peter turns and takes it out on the staff, blaming them for problems and for things that aren't even their fault, leading a waitress to cry after yelling at her in front of the customers.

We also see one of Peter's “customer service” tricks – after a problem occurs, he basically “pays off” the customer by comping them wine or a dessert. There certainly isn't any “root cause analysis” or good problem solving going on, as a Lean thinker would want to see. Of course, Peter isn't the only company that “solves” problems this way, but I'll save that for another post.

So, finally, Ramsay is pushed to the point where he chews out Peter in front the staff and says, “this place would run better without you.” You can tell the staff is amazed to see this, as they all agree, but they've never had the guts to stand up to Peter. Considering Peter's terrible, violent temper, it's no wonder why they never spoke up. You just have to wonder why they continued to work there

Peter apparently reflected on this overnight and came back with a new attitude (maybe one that was contrived for TV purposes). He admitted “Gordon is right” and realized that his employees were afraid of him. Peter starts making calls to fix the walk-in refrigerator (the one thing that Ramsay didn't get fixed) and actually starts carrying food out to customers, apologizing to the waitress, and being generally helpful.

Peter said, “Instead of trying to be the boss, I'm going to jump in and help out.”

That's exactly what a Lean leader should do. You need to:

  • See first hand, visit the gemba, see what your employees are struggling with
  • Make sure they have the proper tools and equipment
  • Analyze problems and work on preventing them in the future, rather than just buying back your customer's goodwill

So, we had a happy ending for the story. I'd be curious to see how things went after the cameras went away. Would things continue running smoothly? Would Peter revert to his old wannabe gangster ways?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. > I’d be curious to see how things went after the cameras
    > went away. Would things continue running smoothly?
    > Would Peter revert to his old wannabe gangster ways

    Me too :)
    I wonder how complex it is to actually figure the thing out. Was there a real restaurant name used? If it was, then some kind reader of this blog living in NY might be able to just come and ask. Or even come and see.

  2. It was Peter’s Italian Restaurant in Babylon, NY (on Long Island).

    I hope a Lean Blog reader can go and report back to us!

    Here is the NY Times review of the show (not the restaurant) that calls Peter:

    “a big clown of a guy who bleaches his teeth, squanders his money and seems to operate in an uninterrupted state of remorse over never having achieved his calling as an extra in “Goodfellas.””

    That’s nice writing there.

    UPDATE: The restaurant closed in 2008

  3. Hmm.. at least in episodes done in England Ramsay wen’t back after few months to see how restaurant is doing after overhaul.

  4. In the latest episode, he did give an update on the restaurant he “made-over.” I think it was something like two months later and they were still prospering under the new procesess he put in place.

  5. I’m sure you must have seen this post, over at Gemba … it’s slightly similar in its thought processes:

    I love this clip:

    PS Did you know that an anagram of ‘Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares’ is, ‘Cheesy git noted for charm? Barely!’ or ‘Try healthy corned beef. Orgasmic!’.


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