Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares – Public Service and The Market

Recently I’ve gotten hooked on a British TV show which is produced by the world-famous chef Gordon Ramsay.  In the show, Chef Ramsay helps struggling restaurants get themselves back on their feet.

While this may sound only mildly interesting at first glance, the way Chef Ramsay goes about making his corrections turns the show into something more akin to watching a professional wrestling match.  Ramsay curses continually, harasses employees, destroys useless property, berates people who he sees as not performing up to snuff and generally acts like a big angry alpha male.

Yet every show, the outcome is the same.

Those businesses who listen to his advice, follow through with his ideas and have the motivation to succeed always do succeed; while those who do not end up failing.

I absolutely love this show because it highlights so many beautiful things about private markets.  Markets care about quality, service, and value.  Ramsay’s innovations are ALWAYS directed at improving all three of those areas.  In order for restaurant to succeed, it must excel at producing an experience which brings all three ingredients to the table.

Ramsay doesn’t go into each restaurant looking to make friends, he goes in with the hard truth and forces business owners to confront the reality of the situation that they are facing.  His abrasive style is a tool he uses, much like a drill instructor, to drive important business lessons home.

Ramsay insists on creating a high quality, service driven, high value experience for customers and will not accept anything less.  His goal is to create an experience that will cause people to want to return again and again.  Only through good service to their customers can a business hope to succeed in the highly competitive restaurant market.

Please take a moment to consider what drives government “businesses” to improve their customer service.  Will the DMV face bankruptcy if their waiting lines take all day to get through?  Will the police go out of business if a bunch of cops are engaged in crooked or abusive behavior?  Will public schools lose students if they pump out a mediocre education?  Of course, the answer is no to all of those questions.  At best those institutions may face some political pressure, but nothing like the market pressure that private businesses face.

Since private businesses don’t make their profits through the use of coercion, they have to consistently and continually offer a high level of service, quality, and value or face the loss of their customer base.  In addition to being forced to provide a high level of service, quality and value, private businesses also must produce a product or service that people actually want to buy!

Consider that the government never asks each individual tax payer if they want to buy a new red-light traffic camera.  Government makes that decision for the tax payer on their own without any consultation.  It could be that no one other than bureaucrats would want to make such a purchase, but since the money government spends is taken through coercion rather than enticement, it doesn’t matter what each individual tax payer actually wants.

Also consider that the company who produces those red light cameras would not be in business at all without bureaucrats spending money that isn’t legitimately their’s to spend in the first place.  This creates a situation where a company who could use its resources to produce something that people want to buy voluntarily, such as coffee makers, is instead wasting resources producing something that no one wants except bureaucrats.  Of course, such waste is not limited to just red-light cameras.

So, the next time you watch Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, please take a moment to consider the beautiful aspects of the free market that this show embodies.  You can watch every episode of each season of the show without commercials on Netflix.