Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Devil's Workshop

Gordon Ramsay, the chef behind Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares, should write a book on how to run a business. Though I wouldn’t want to work for him in a million years (working for similar types in Hellish, nightmarish corporate settings is close enough for me), I love his shows. Running a restaurant strikes me as being similar to running a furniture making business. Both have high overhead and both are very reactive to upturns and downturns in the economy. They both require constant artistic inspiration and an extreme number of hours. They probably go out of business at a similar rate. Here are some of his concepts for running a successful restaurant that translate, in my mind, to making furniture:

First, to make money in a restaurant, you have to be able to take full advantage of your ingredients. If you’ve got a chicken, offer a chicken entrée one night but then use the carcass to make soup or chicken stock. The same concept applies to a woodworker and his or her inventory of lumber. Buy material for one project, then see what you can make of what’s left over.

Second, do the basics well. In one episode of Kitchen Nightmares, there was a guy who owned a pizza parlor. He had ambition to be as popular as Wolfgang Puck and have his pizzas in stores nationwide. The only problem was that this guy couldn’t make decent pizza to save his life. He used bad crust, bad sauce and bad cheese. For woodworkers, there are lots of basics to cover. But if you put yourself out as a handmade furniture maker, you better darn well be able to cut excellent dovetails.

Third, restaurants have to be impeccably clean. Granted, a woodworker can’t pass along salmonella to customers, but there are real advantages to keeping a shop clean. A clean shop is a safe shop. For example, sawdust on the floor is slippery and can cause surprises when you are using power tools. Also, you can’t possibly be efficient if there are tools on top of projects on top of tools.

My shop is currently a wreck. It’s time for me to get cleaning.


jim lynde said...

I think the same as you about Remsey.
Probably a perfectionist but nevertheless an asshole. (for the camera)
Sometimes he lets his emotions come through and I believe he really wants
the restaurant owners to "make it" but it is a brutal show. I guess sometimes a small business person needs that wake-up call in order to get their ducks in a row.
Right On, Jim Lynde, N.Hollywood,CA

Sophie said...

ramsey aside, this did inspire me to clean up my workshop and sort my offcuts and scrap - it's amazing how much easier it is to work when you're not constantly trying to find a space to put the next thing down :)