kitchen nightmares

60% of “Kitchen Nightmares” restaurants have closed: failed model?

June 27, 2014

kitchen nightmares

“Kitchen Nightmare” making headlines

According to GrubStreet, 40 percent of all restaurants that have appeared on Chef Gordon Ramsay’s reality tv show, Kitchen Nightmares are still in operation, with many calling the show (which ended filming in 2013) a failure.

In total, Kitchen Nightmares featured 77 restaurants in its seven seasons on the air. Of those restaurants, 47 closed, 23 of them within the first year of their episode airing.

But is this model of helping failing business owners to save their struggling business a failure? We don’t think so – there are several reasons as to why this 40% is actually a higher number than most should expect, and we will outline them below.

The premise of the show is for failing restaurants to benefit from the wisdom of famed Chef Ramsay, who (with cameras) discovers all of the flaws with a restaurant (typically bad management, complete lack of cleanliness, bad decor and location), then rallies the owners to fix the flaws.

1. You can’t un-see the pre-show filth

As American Genius Founder Benn Rosales said on the topic, “you can’t un-see what you’ve seen on the show. Rats? Filth? Mushrooms growing on the walls of the coolers? Clean it all you want, but I’m not going to those restaurants now that I’ve seen the disgusting underbelly.”

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2. It’s not really free advertising

After watching the show, we can honestly say that some owners sign up thinking that it’s free advertising for their restaurant, that they’ll do a little song and dance, get yelled at a bit, then the money will start rolling in. Wrong.

In this case, bad press might just be bad press, and inviting cameras in to see how disgusting or poorly run your place is tends to turn customers away, lest all failings become cured prior to Chef Ramsay rushing off to his next venture.

3. This rate isn’t off the mark

Let’s face it, the restaurant business is tough. According to the National Restaurant Association, one in three restaurants closes within a year of opening, and another one in three shut down in their second year.

If half of all restaurants close within their first two years without cameras or celebrity involvement, and roughly 40 percent of restaurants filmed on this reality show remain open (after nearing collapse prior to the cameras showing up), the model isn’t a failure, it’s a success.

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Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.


  1. Gordon Ramsay can fix the restaurant OK, but he can’t do anything about the crushing debt the owner’s might have amassed prior to his involvement.

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