Let me ask you, pseudo-seriously, what makes people think they can just buy and run a restaurant? Do people honestly just kind of look around, realize that there's a restaurant to be bought, and decide “sure, that'll be a good business.” Last night we got back-to-back episodes of Kitchen Nightmares that featured owners who seemed to have done just that, and it wasn't the first time we'd witnessed such things this season.
One of the best news articles I ever read (and it kills me that I don't currently have a copy of it framed on my wall) was in, I believe, The New York Times, and it focused on why people failed at certain tasks and yet seemed oblivious to their failures. The article explained that oftentimes when people fail at doing something it is because they don't really understand what's required in the task, that sometimes people are simply incapable of understanding what's required. Consequently when they failed they didn't even recognize the failure because they didn't “get” the task to begin with.
I feel like that's what occurred in last night's Kitchen Nightmares, and, if we're being honest, oh-so-many of the episodes. Chefs, owners, and managers at the various restaurants on the show constantly look at the camera and say something like, “Well, I don't really think it was as bad as Chef Ramsay made it seem.” Or, they yell at Ramsay when he explains to them that as their restaurant is failing they're going to have to change something. For these owners, the restaurant is failing not because the owner has failed at some part of the business (food, service, or even simply attracting customers via publicity), but because people simply aren't showing up. These people Gordon Ramsay goes to try to help often seem to want him to just stand their on a street corner holding a big sign that says “Come eat at Joe's!”
You and I watch flabbergasted because being on the outside looking in, it's easy to say that when all your customers tell you that your food stinks you should look into changing the ingredients, the menu, the chef, or all three. However, the owners almost never seem to see the problem, or, if they do, they can't fathom how to fix it. One of last night's episode featured a restaurant manager who got liquored up on a regular basis while working. The man needed to be fired, and all three owners knew he needed to be fired, but no one wanted to step up to the plate and fire him because he was the father of one of the three men. So, instead, they were paying him $100,000 a year to get free drinks and run their restaurant into the ground. I love my family as much as anyone, but I'm not willing to declare bankruptcy in order to provide them with a six-figure income. Yes, part of the problem there was one owner not wanting to upset his father, but couldn't he have sat his dad down, showed him the books, and explained that it's not a good thing when you're spending way more money than you're making? Wouldn't dad have gotten that, after all, the man had been in the restaurant business (allegedly) for decades?
Of course, maybe he wouldn't have gotten it, maybe he was one of those people that the article was talking about, maybe he just didn't understand what was required to run a successful business.