Restaurant Throws Customers Out, Shuts Down Mid-Dinner

This might beat the 'fired-by-text' dilemma earlier this week, but only in a couple of ways

We're not sure how high this ranks on the restaurant-terribleness scale, but it's pretty bad.

NBC Charlotte reports that a local restaurant decided to shut down immediately after the restaurant management failed to agree with landlords on future lease terms.

The restaurant, Hops Grill and Brewery, called police on Sunday in "anticipation of the shut down to assist wtih crowd control," The Huffington Post reports.

So on Sunday, diners at Hops were interrupted by the police, when management told all their diners to pay up and leave immediately.

"They let the employees know last minute, so families lost their jobs… and we all used to work here. So, it's a big disappointment," a former employee said. After everyone left, a sign went up apologizing for the inconvenience. No word on if workers were given their last paycheck, but if they were, maybe they're better off than the workers who were fired by text message earlier this month.

‘They’re stealing our customers and we’ve had enough’: is Deliveroo killing restaurant culture?

S hukran Best Kebab – the finest Turkish restaurant in the Seven Sisters area of north London, according to some people (although it is surrounded by fierce rivals to the throne) – joined Deliveroo two years ago, and back then it seemed like a no-brainer. “Life as a small, independent restaurant is hard and the profit margins are slim,” says Hüseyin Kurt, Shukran’s owner. “We wanted more customers and money coming in and Deliveroo seemed to offer that. I didn’t think there was a downside.” Within a few days of signing a contract with the company, a shiny new tablet computer arrived on which orders placed via Deliveroo appeared out of the ether with a satisfying ping.

The sense that something was wrong dawned gradually. Kurt, a gregarious, bearded man in his early 40s, who left his central Anatolian home town in 1995 and used his love of food to build a new life in the UK, ran the numbers: with Deliveroo’s commission amounting to 35% plus VAT on every order, he was forced to increase his prices to avoid losing money on each sale. It meant anyone buying his huge adana kofte or mixed shish kebabs through the Deliveroo app was in effect paying three surcharges for the convenience, as Deliveroo was also charging them a delivery and service fee. That went down badly with previously loyal customers who were presented with a vast number of often heavily discounted competitors when using the app.

The more Kurt thought about it, the more he wondered what his restaurant was supposed to be gaining from this arrangement. When things went awry, such as a delivery driver not turning up or someone complaining about a missing item, he could be hit with a financial penalty, and it was almost impossible to reach a human being at Deliveroo to resolve it. And, as time went by, Deliveroo was learning more and more about his clientele, while his customers grew ever more remote from him. “It just felt like Deliveroo were taking in money and information from every angle, while other people – us at the restaurant, the drivers who came to pick up the orders – did all the work,” he says.

That was when strange rumours first began swirling around the local restaurant scene. Word was that Deliveroo had started building its own kitchens on a piece of wasteland up the road, just the other side of Hornsey railway line the newly installed units had no windows, people said, and a security guard was posted on the door. Kurt couldn’t understand it. “What do you think is going on in there?” he asked fellow restaurateurs. “What do Deliveroo know about cooking?”

If you live in one of the 150 British towns and cities now served by Deliveroo, the firm’s turquoise logo probably feels ubiquitous these days: plastered on stickers inside takeaway windows, bobbing on the backs of cyclists and motorbike riders, flashing across television sets during the evening news. Deliveroo’s much-hyped stock market flotation last month dominated headlines, as did the rapid tumble in its share price after major institutional investors opted to steer clear. Many cited concerns about the company’s corporate governance and potential legal challenges from its 50,000 delivery workers, who are currently classed as self-employed contractors rather than salaried employees.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism recently claimed that a significant proportion of the riders it sampled earn below the minimum wage, including some who are paid as little as £2 an hour Deliveroo claims that riders earn £13 an hour on average at the busiest times (although this does not take into account periods in which few or no orders come through) and that the fees paid to riders are increasing year on year.

Hüseyin Kurt, of Shukran Best Kebab in Tottenham. ‘It felt like Deliveroo were taking all the money while others did all the work.’ Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

Amid these controversies, one important fact about Deliveroo has passed relatively unnoticed: the company that the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, calls a “true British tech success story” has never turned a profit – even during the Covid lockdowns. It’s hard to imagine a more fortuitous set of circumstances for Deliveroo’s business model than the pandemic, which has led to most people spending several months in effect under house arrest while pubs and dine-in restaurants shut their doors. But despite seeing a huge surge in demand (total orders for the first quarter of 2021 were more than double those for the same period last year), the firm ended up cutting a quarter of its staff jobs in 2020 and relied upon a big cash injection from Amazon to stave off ruin this year, it is on course to make a loss of almost £300m. And yet financial markets still value the firm at nearly £5bn.

“In a world where consumers want more, better and faster, we think Deliveroo is doing a good job,” concluded a report by the private investment bank Berenberg earlier this month. Plenty of people who make money from money are betting that Deliveroo is on a long-term path to profitability, even if its current set-up pushes the company further into the red with every order. “We truly believe we are still getting started,” declared Deliveroo’s founder, Will Shu, in a letter to prospective shareholders. “Join us on the journey.” But what is that journey’s ultimate destination? And what will the implications be – for the way we eat, the livelihoods of those who feed us and the future of our neighbourhoods – once we arrive?

W est Green Road, home of Shukran Best Kebab, runs for more than a mile through north-east London – from Ducketts Common in the west to Tottenham’s Latin Village market in the east. Step left or right out of Kurt’s doorway and you’ll find yourself immersed in one of the most dense and diverse independent restaurant scenes in the capital. Nigerian diners rub up against Korean fast-food joints Polish cafes dovetail with Ghanaian bakeries, Caribbean takeaways and Ugandan charity kitchens. Nearly all of them are family-run or owned by just one or two individuals living locally.

“The whole planet is here,” says João Castro, owner of Bom Pecado, a Portuguese restaurant whose name means “Good Sin”, which is famed for its hearty stews and pastel de nata pastries. Castro says that the road’s fusion of culinary cultures lends itself to serendipitous interactions. “It’s a special, social place,” he says. “People end up sitting down next to strangers and discovering who they are.”

Before most of us walked around with smartphones in our pockets, the West Green Road restaurants that offered a takeaway service would handle deliveries themselves. In the mid-2000s, Just Eat, today the biggest player by far in the UK’s food delivery market, began aggregating local takeaway options, allowing customers to browse a range of nearby meal choices on a single website, rather than having to wrestle with a bulging folder of paper menus that had been stuffed through the letterbox. But deliveries were still largely managed in-house, at least until 2013, when Deliveroo kicked off a new generation of highly competitive “food delivery platforms” that provided restaurants with a full toolkit of delivery logistics – from order terminals to a network of drivers on demand. The days of grainy cinema adverts for the local curry house were over before long, Snoop Dogg was promoting your nearest chicken balti on prime-time TV.

At first, many outlets in West Green Road shunned Deliveroo and its rival Uber Eats. For one thing, Deliveroo was oriented towards the wealthier end of the market – “the Waitrose of restaurants, whereas around here we are more Tesco or Aldi”, one Tottenham restaurant owner says. For another, many were happy to concentrate on eat-in clients, only sending meals out in a taxi if needed. But the pandemic changed everything: overnight, access to reliable delivery infrastructure and a ready pool of delivery customers went from being a niche luxury to a vital survival mechanism. Nearly every food outlet in the area is now signed up to the platform, including several off-licences and grocers, a major new target for the company in its quest for perpetual growth. “Deliveroo is here to deliver for restaurants who want to carry on offering their amazing food to families at home during this difficult time,” said Shu, as the country’s first lockdown came into force.

Deliveroo couriers are now a familiar sight in many UK towns and cities. Photograph: Robert Evans/Alamy

Talk to restaurateurs about their experiences with Deliveroo over the past year, though, and a more complex picture emerges. The Observer has spoken to several cafe- and restaurant-owners in the neighbourhood and, with one exception, who is broadly neutral, all of them are critical of the company. Everybody insists that the commission levels are far too high and that local independents are paying over the odds compared with national chains and prestige brands. There is anger too that restaurants are at the mercy of Deliveroo’s way of ranking them within the app, with little transparency over why some outlets are at the top and others become lost to obscurity down below.

“They woo you with honeyed words and push users towards you at the beginning, so it seems like it’s working out, then you drop like a stone,” claims one. “They’re stealing our customers and we’ve had enough – we’ve told them to come and remove their machines,” says another, referring to the fact that when a restaurant joins the platform it can bring with it a host of devoted fans who Deliveroo can market to other restaurants. “It’s robbery, pure and simple.”

None of the interviewees begrudge Deliveroo the right to charge restaurants for the service it is providing. Their grievances revolve around the fact that by assuming the role of market gatekeeper, the company has a responsibility to play fairly, and that in this regard it is falling short. Speculation abounds that favoured restaurant names, of the type rarely to be found in this part of the city, are able to cut better deals than smaller outlets that are rooted in their communities but have no economic clout when it comes to negotiating fees. Many refer to the fact that unlike their own firms, Deliveroo pays no UK corporation tax, and the restaurant owners suspect the net effect of the company’s operations is that money flows out of a poor neighbourhood – Tottenham’s unemployment rate is currently the fastest growing in the country and its level of child poverty is almost double the national average – and into the pockets of far-flung global investors.

But despite these complaints, almost every restaurant owner says they have no choice but to remain on the platform because that is where the customers now are. Nearly all requested anonymity in this article for fear that speaking out against Deliveroo could see them relegated down the app’s search rankings. The Observer requested an interview with a representative of Deliveroo to discuss criticisms made by its restaurant partners but was told that no one was available.

In a statement, the company said that it was proud to work with more than 50,000 riders and 46,000 restaurant partners in the UK and that it had helped the latter boost their growth during the pandemic. “They are at the heart of our business and their wellbeing and success is our number one priority,” it said. “We have also introduced a wide range of support measures to help our community, from the £16m Rider thank-you fund to the new £50m community fund, which will directly support riders and restaurants partners.”

Underlying many of the restaurants’ concerns is something more intangible: a fear that as many of us become accustomed to selecting lunch or dinner through a smartphone, our relationship to food itself, and the social context that surrounds it, is shifting. Kurt comes from the Kayseri region of Turkey, as do the owners of several ocakbaşı or “grill” restaurants in the area to him, the local takeaway scene is a rich map of cultural reference points – something intimately bound up with physical geography, in the land from which his cuisine emerged and the places in which it is now cooked here. For customers, eating in small restaurants provides some exposure to that reality by contrast, ordering a meal through a food delivery platform, where identical-looking options are likely to be sorted by the size of the discounts being offered or how fast a third-party motorbike rider can deliver to you, is an abstract process.

“The interface of an app like Deliveroo appears to be completely flat, even though it’s built on data that is generated in real places, by real people,” says Adam Badger, an academic at Royal Holloway, University of London, who specialises in this subject and has also worked as a courier. “Restaurants become data entries delivery riders are just a loading bar travelling from left to right across a screen.” Like all seemingly flat surfaces though, Deliveroo’s hard edges are out there – you just have to know where to look.

T he Deliveroo Editions site at Cranford Way, north London, sits at the back of an electricity substation, sandwiched between a boxing gym on one side and some overgrown scrub on the other. Despite the rumble of motorcycle engines making their way to and from the entrance, and the beeps of lorries reversing out of the adjacent self-storage and warehouse complex, it feels eerily quiet. You could sit here for hours and almost never hear a human voice.

Like most “dark kitchens”, it occupies the edge lands: spaces that are neither one thing nor another, urban offcuts that are easily overlooked. Other Deliveroo Editions sites in the UK can be found at the back of industrial estates or below traffic flyovers. They typically consist of up to 16 metal boxes roughly the size of shipping containers, packed on to a patch of asphalt with generators humming in between. Compared with West Green Road, Cranford Way feels like a different universe and yet it’s barely half a mile from one end of the street. From here, offerings from Pizza Express, Shake Shack and “Cluckleberry Finn Fried Chicken” – a delivery-only outfit that you won’t find anywhere outside Deliveroo’s app – are pumped out into the city. Thousands of people live in the Deliveroo catchment area for Shukran Best Kebab. Most of them are now, unknowingly, also in the catchment area for Deliveroo Editions.

One of Deliveroo’s ‘dark kitchen’ sites in London. Photograph: Jack Shenker

“Dark kitchens” are places where meals are prepared entirely for delivery. They have been used for decades in areas such as catering for mass events, but the idea of gearing them towards home takeaways is relatively recent. It’s a leap that has only been made possible by the rise of food delivery platforms, and the global leader of the concept is Deliveroo, which opened its first dark kitchen in London in 2016. Today, the company boasts 250 in eight countries, each of them home to a fluid array of tenants, including international chain restaurants, tentative startups and virtual brands, some of which might “exist” on the app for just a few weeks.

To many, the notion of a whole host of different cuisines emerging from the same kitchen – with a chef simultaneously preparing a pizza on one work surface and a Sichuan hot pot on another – feels unsettling, but it reflects the logic of the abstracted digital marketplace the New Yorker recently described dark kitchens as “the culinary equivalent of a multicolour retractable pen”. To make a success of the operation you need to know what colour to push and that’s where Deliveroo’s vast stores of data come to the fore. “Using our own technology, we can identify specific local cuisines missing in an area, identify customer demand for that missing cuisine and handpick brands that are most likely to appeal to customers in that area,” Deliveroo’s former property acquisitions manager, Patrick Weiss, speaking in 2017,has said.

As the firm’s prospectus for its flotation reveals, Editions lie at the heart of Deliveroo’s vision of the future and its plan to win the delivery-app wars. “With unparalleled global expertise, we are uniquely positioned to scale this concept,” the company claims, and many investors agree. “Deliveroo already has a great database of consumer preferences,” says Ioannis Pontikis, an equity analyst for the financial services firm Morningstar. “And once you’ve set up a dark kitchen, it’s very easy to trial new brand ideas, new food concepts, new marketing and promotions.” Pontikis points out that dark kitchens don’t only have an edge over bricks-and-mortar restaurants when it comes to generating demand: they also benefit from better unit economics – ie a lower cost for each meal produced.

Established restaurants in West Green Road may have spent years building up fixed infrastructure, a trusted reputation and a place for themselves in the area. But when it comes to being able to adaptively predict, produce, advertise and cheaply deliver whatever particular meals are wanted in nearby postcodes at any particular moment – burgers and wings on a Saturday afternoon during an England football game, for example, or comforting bowls of pasta on a rainy weekday evening – Cranford Way blows them all out of the water.

For both existing restaurants and budding restaurateurs, there are some advantages to dark kitchens. In towns bedevilled by crippling rents, setting up shop inside one of the Deliveroo Editions sites rather than taking out an expensive and inflexible lease in the high street is a relatively cheap way of testing demand. Some of Britain’s most innovative food outlets began life as pop-up cafes or mobile trailers at festivals for many, dark kitchens are the next step in bringing their food to a wider audience. And in the context of the pandemic, during which nearly every restaurant essentially became a dark kitchen at some point, delivery-only production sites have arguably been a lifeline.

Rosa’s Thai Cafe, a restaurant that started out as a husband-and-wife operation, and has since grown into a small chain of 24 UK outlets, opened four dark kitchens in the Covid era, including one at Cranford Way. Its chief executive, Gavin Adair, believes that the concept can help to lower entry barriers for established and fledgling restaurants alike and should not be seen solely as a threat to existing businesses. “You don’t have a long-term commitment, which is one of the things that has tripped up some businesses that have tried to grow in the past,” he says. “These kitchens may end up helping to prove there’s enough interest in our product in a particular neighbourhood for us to eventually open up a full restaurant there. Fundamentally, we’re very clear that we’re a restaurant business with an ancillary delivery operation. It’s not an either/or.”

Deliveroo likewise insists that the Editions model is designed to support existing restaurant sites in the high street, not replace those premises, and says that its Editions kitchens have saved some restaurants from going under, enabled local brands to expand nationally and helped small outfits grow into established names.

But ever-more expansive restaurant choice for consumers is not necessarily good news if the playing field isn’t level. Deliveroo refuses to divulge the commission rates it charges different restaurant partners, yet Adair acknowledges that when it comes to the economics of app-based delivery, his company is in a fortunate position because of its “strong relationship” with the platform few of the restaurants in West Green Road can say the same. And a fleet-footed future of transitory, disposable virtual brands and site-hopping around industrial parks does not hold much promise if your restaurant is woven into the fabric of a real place, especially if the data being used to construct that future has been gleaned from the hard graft of businesses like yours. Pontikis is convinced that, coronavirus lockdowns aside, there will always be a healthy demand for some eat-in restaurants, particularly those at the higher end of the market. But he says smaller family-run takeaways that have traditionally depended upon local awareness and accessibility might find it harder to distinguish themselves within a market wholly geared towards convenience. Their long-term fate, he says remains “the million-dollar question”.

Kurt insists that if dark kitchens ever begin offering meals that directly rival his own, he will rip the Deliveroo sticker from his window and throw it in the bin. But he may already be too late. Deliveroo is no longer the only player in the dark kitchen market: Foodstars, recently bought out by the former Uber boss Travis Kalanick, already operates just east of Shukran Best Kebab, on the edge of a waste-processing plant last year, Karma Kitchen, which has just landed £250m of new investment, opened its own delivery-only kitchen unit less than two miles north.

In March, Reef, an American company that buys up car parks with a view to transforming them into “hubs for the on-demand economy” – offering a space to everything from vertical farming units to pop-up parcel sorting depots and, of course, dark kitchens – announced it was working with the owners of Wood Green shopping centre, 10 minutes by motorbike from Kurt’s front door. In Miami, Reef is experimenting with the use of robots to deliver meals, a move that some analysts believe Deliveroo is bound to copy in the years to come. In China – where the nexus between food delivery platforms and dark kitchens is more advanced, and the market has been sewn up by two of the country’s biggest tech giants, Alibaba and Tencent – data and automation have combined to enable the creation of specialist production sites engineered to churn out a single popular dish without any human involvement at all. Most people currently think of Deliveroo as an app that connects local restaurants with delivery drivers. But standing in West Green Road, with dark kitchens rapidly closing in, it’s hard not to suspect that the ultimate aim of the venture-capitalist subsidised food tech industry might be to do away with both.

I n the meantime, however, Deliveroo still has to contend with real humans and restaurants, many of which are increasingly unafraid to kick up a fuss. Earlier this month, striking Deliveroo riders in central London protested for a living wage on the day of the firm’s stock market launch. On arrival at Deliveroo’s headquarters, where City of London police officers guarded the doors, the president of the Independent Workers of Great Britain trade union, which represents some of the delivery workers, addressed the crowd. “While the pandemic has been going on and you’ve been putting your lives and your families’ lives at risk to deliver food,” Alex Marshall yelled through a megaphone, “this company has been getting richer and richer, even as your own pay and conditions have worsened!” More strikes, protests and legal challenges from riders are being promised. According to Deliveroo, internal polling indicates that 89% of riders are satisfied or very satisfied with the status quo and that there is “overwhelming” support for the company and its flexible labour model.

Protests by Deliveroo couriers after the firm was listed on the stock market earlier this month. Photograph: Getty Images

That has not prevented the emergence in recent years of an array of grassroots alternatives to the leading food delivery platforms – from regional courier collectives to online services that allow small restaurants to market delivery options directly to customers, without the use of Just Eat, Uber Eats or Deliveroo. One Deliveroo rider is helping to build an ethical food delivery platform that will shortly be launched in north London, promising a guaranteed living wage for drivers, zero-emissions vehicles and a refusal to work with large chains or dark kitchens now, some restaurant owners are getting in on the act as well. Henal Chotai, proprietor of Red Cup Cafe in Harrow, north-west London, with his wife, Reena, is co-developing an eco-friendly delivery service called FoodeBikes he believes that as the UK emerges from lockdown, public appetite for platforms that do a better job of supporting independent restaurants is growing fast.

“Independent restaurants in this country are on their knees right now, but at the same time the value of what we bring to society – the importance of real, human hospitality, the places where you go and form happy memories – has been magnified,” Chotai says. “We’re battered and bruised, but we’re ready to fight for our futures. So I beg everyone, when you can: go out and visit your local small restaurant, find a way of buying from them directly. We’ve been here for our local communities and we need our local communities to help us – and the country at large – get back on our feet.”

Other tech giants – Uber for taxis, Airbnb for holiday homes – have eventually come up against public and regulatory backlashes, although in many cases that has done little to clip their wings. In the wake of a recent court ruling requiring Uber to reclassify its drivers as workers rather than independent contractors, Deliveroo may soon be heading in the same direction. In the end, however, neither minor legislative tweaks nor individual consumer choices alone will be enough to turn the tide, unless we decide as a society that the food delivery platform model as it’s currently conceived will damage things we care about, such as local restaurants or workers’ rights.

Henal and Reena Chotai, who are trying to set up their own eco-friendly delivery service in London. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

Badger argues that Deliveroo is a product of the economic and political systems that sustain it if we want it to function differently, then we have to start there. “This is a company that reflects and replicates the structures of monopolistic venture capital,” he says. “For decades, we had a takeaways market that wasn’t monopolistic – it was the opposite, it was fragmented and local. Then speculative financial interests came in to change that. Yes, there are existing regulations, particularly on labour rights, which Deliveroo should be made to adhere to, and new ones that should be brought in. But more broadly, if we want Deliveroo to have better priorities then we all have to fight for a better society. Deliveroo are not the problem on their own.”

Deliveroo is continuing to expand: the company plans to set up in 100 more British towns this year and hopes to eventually become the first thing that any of us think about whenever we think about food. “Our mission is to be the definitive online food company,” the firm announced recently. “The way we think about it is simple: there are 21 meal occasions in a week – breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week. Right now, less than one of those 21 transactions takes place online. We are working to change that.”

In one sense, the company is right: transformations in how we eat are inevitable. The history of the takeaway has been evolving ever since the Roman empire served on-the-go lentils in thermopolia and Aztec market vendors flogged tamales it would be a mistake to romanticise a culinary past in which various forms of exploitation have been omnipresent. But it is worth remembering that every reconfiguration of the way we live and the resources we rely on, including restaurants, meals and the people who produce and deliver them, involves a reconfiguration of power, creating winners and losers. Global investors are gambling billions on an app-driven, dark kitchen-dominated future, and it’s clear who will emerge triumphant if that future materialises.

“We, this street, everyone round here … we’ve helped make Deliveroo rich,” Kurt says. “But is what’s good for them going to be good for us?” The answer to that question – for Shukran Best Kebab and thousands of other small restaurants like it – is in our hands.

This article was amended on 27 April 2021 to clarify that Patrick Weiss is Deliveroo’s former property acquisitions manager.

7 New Rules of Restaurant Etiquette as Coronavirus Lockdowns Begin to Lift

Wondering how to eat safely in restaurants as they continue to open up? Coronavirus lockdowns are beginning to end in some places others will still have a while to wait. But when restaurants do reopen, how does the new normal look when dining in?

As we all continue weathering weeks of quarantine, social distancing, and shelter in place mandates, it’s tough to imagine a world in which it will again be normal to actually enjoy a meal at a restaurant. No more curbside pick-up or takeout? A break from cooking? It’s hard to wrap your head around it!

Eventually, though, restaurants will begin to reopen for in-house dining (in some states, they already are). While it will be a treat to enjoy a meal out (and not in a takeout container), it’s safe to assume that eating at a restaurant will look just a little different than it used to as owners navigate how best to take precautions against the spread of COVID-19. There will be new rules of engagement for all of us, restaurant-goers included.

It’s impossible to predict exactly what the new normal of dining out will be, but restaurant and etiquette experts can at least make some predictions about those new rules of engagement. Keep reading for some of their guesses and suggestions.

1. Don’t Forget Your Mask

Get Yours Where to Buy Masks Online Even as shelter in place restrictions are lifted and restaurants reopen, other protective measures will likely still be recommended, or even required. Face masks, in particular, may be part of the new normal—and etiquette expert Lisa Grotts urges you to show up prepared to restaurants with them.

Yes, you will have to remove your mask when it’s actually time to eat, but it’s more respectful to other diners and servers if you keep it on while you’re waiting.

2. Keep Your Menu

In an effort to minimize the risk of passing germs between patrons and restaurant employees, you may find your favorite eateries transitioning to single-use menus. The team at California’s Teleferic Barcelona, for example, will encourage diners to review menus online and will ask them to take hard copies home from the restaurant, according to owner Xavi Padrosa.

3. Prepare to Respect New Boundaries to Your Dining Experience

Rick Camac, dean of restaurant and hospitality management at the Institute of Culinary Education, warns foodies everywhere of the kinds of restrictions that most dining establishments will need to put in place to ensure safety. He expects restaurants to impose time limits on seating times and stricter windows during which diners can eat. Resist the urge to push back on these rules! For the time being, accept them gracefully…and enjoy your meal.

Tetra Images / Getty Images

4. Be More Timely Than Usual

If you opt to make reservations to dine out post-quarantine, Padrosa encourages you to show up on time. No, really—like, actually on time. Or early! For the foreseeable future, the kinds of crowds that tend to build up in a restaurant lobby are going to remain a potential danger zone. “We’re sure no one wants to stand in crowded lines in these uncertain times, so being very punctual will help restaurants have an organized welcoming,” Padrosa says.

5. Keep Your Distance When Greeting Friends and Family Members

Pre-pandemic, it was perfectly normal—even expected—for you to get up and give your loved ones a hug when they arrived at a restaurant to share a meal with you. Social distancing has, of course, changed the way we all approach making physical contact. Etiquette expert Jennifer Lynn urges diners not to throw out those rules simply because restaurants are open. Hugs and kisses in public places are bound to make others feel awkward, so stick to a smile and a “hello!” when your friends and family arrive to meet you for dinner.

6. Say Goodbye to Sharing

Previously, you may have thought that it was especially kind and gracious to invite the loved ones you’re dining with to have a bite of your dish or a sip of your drink. For now, at least, those days are gone! “As of now, it will be frowned upon to ask someone to do this,” Lynn says. “It will only make it awkward, and will put them in a position to feel rude by declining the offer.”

7. Practice Patience!

After months of staying home and social distancing, you might be sick and tired of being patient…but sadly, that’s not going away any time soon. As restaurants and other establishments learn to adapt their practices to maximize safety for their customers, remember to practice basic manners when dealing with servers and restaurant managers, no matter how impatient you’re feeling. “We are making up these rules day by day,” Grotts says. “It will be much easier to accept them without anger.”

As vaccinations increase, you may want to dine indoors again. Here’s what to consider.

Not for the first time in this pandemic, the ground is shifting. This time, the news is good: After a slow start, more and more people are getting vaccinated against the coronavirus. And many restaurants around the country are reopening dining rooms, bringing back business to a hard-hit industry.

That might be worth a toast at your favorite neighborhood hangout — but these glad tidings also come with a heaping side of uncertainty.

Vaccine rollouts are happening at varying paces, meaning families and friend groups won’t all have their shots at the same time. Restaurant regulations still vary widely by jurisdiction, and a few places have pretty much lifted restrictions, which some have interpreted as permission to party like it’s 2019.

Who can dine together? Can I eat indoors again? Should I? Those are just some of the questions diners are considering as they think about booking a table during this in-between time, when millions of Americans are getting vaccinated daily but before we’ve reached herd immunity.

The answers aren’t always clear-cut.

“There’s no such thing as zero risk, and nothing is 100 percent risky,” says Leana Wen, a visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health and contributing columnist at The Washington Post. “It’s a spectrum.” She has long urged people to think about their risks as expenditures from a “coronavirus budget,” and says the budgets of those who have been vaccinated just went way up. “You still have to think about how to spend it, and if your priority is seeing grandchildren and going to church, then maybe you’re not going to restaurants all that often.”

With encouraging headlines, springlike temperatures and our collective covid fatigue at an all-time high, it might be tempting to throw caution — and another round of takeout — to the wind. But experts agree that now is not the time to lower your guard, but instead to maintain your vigilance so we can return to something like normal by the fall.

For most people, who aren’t vaccinated, restaurants can still pose risks. A study released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that counties allowing in-person dining at restaurants saw a subsequent rise in cases and deaths. That followed an earlier CDC finding that people who were infected in July were more likely to have dined at a restaurant.

We spoke to public health experts, scientists and industry representatives about dining in this new, partially vaccinated world.

Whom can you dine with?

The CDC’s guidelines for vaccinated people, two weeks past their final shot, applies only to private settings. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said guidance for public places is coming soon, although the agency doesn’t have a firm release date yet. In its initial advice, the CDC focused on what vaccinated people could safely do in their homes, and urged them to continue taking precautions including masking and distancing in public settings.

The agency is cautious about issuing dining guidelines because of too many unknowns, said Greta Massetti, co-leader of the CDC’s Community Inventions and Critical Populations Task Force. “First of all, if you go to a restaurant, you will not know the vaccination status of any of the other patrons or any of the people who work there,” she says. "And likewise, the restaurants themselves won’t know whether people are vaccinated who walk through their doors.”

To figure out whom you can break bread with in public, first check to see how many people are legally allowed to be seated as a party where you live. But numbers aren’t the only factor to consider. Wen notes that eating in a group means you can’t observe the usual protocols.


The cafe was started in Sikeston in 1942 by Earl Lambert, assisted by his wife Agnes, his brother Robert, and Robert's wife Ruby. In 1976 Earl's son Norman "'Ole Norm" Lambert, a former football coach at Sikeston High School, took over management. It was Norman who started the tradition of throwing rolls to customers. In 1981 he explained, "I started throwing rolls about four years ago when we were in our old cafe. It was too crowded one noon for me to serve the rolls to a customer and somebody yelled, 'Throw em.' So I threw them. So, now I do that about every noon meal and during the evenings too. The rolls are fresh, right out of the oven." [4]

In August 2015 the restaurant was sued by a customer who says he suffered permanent eye injuries after being struck by a hot roll thrown by a staff member. [5] A lawyer acting for the plaintiff said Lambert's has been sued for similar injuries in the past. [6] A Lambert's spokesman confirmed that other customers have previously sought damages for similar claims, and in some cases medical expenses have been paid. [7]

No, Chilaquiles and Migas Are Not the Same Thing

These breakfast cousins are often mistaken for each other. But they have some fundamental (and delectable) differences.

Arrive too late at Tía Dora’s Bakery on any morning, and you’ll find yourself standing in line on the sidewalk. Seven days a week, the crowd in Dallas’s Oak Cliff neighborhood patiently waits for the restaurant’s rapturous tamales, breakfast tacos served on spongy house-made flour tortillas, and a vibrantly colored array of pan dulce pastries. Spanish and English are heard sporadically from those gathered outside mostly, there’s silence. Such is the intense draw of Tía Dora’s—even though the coronavirus has prompted management to shut down indoor dining.

Before pandemic restrictions were imposed, customers would spend their mornings chatting with family and friends in Tía Dora’s cozy booths. And many of them did so over a plate of the panadería’s signature chilaquiles, an unassuming assemblage of salsa-covered crispy corn tortilla triangles topped with a joyful gyroscopic pattern of crema and a heavy shower of queso fresco, with refried beans served on the side. Eggs and other proteins, including shredded chicken, are optional.

Juana Pineda, the general manager and the sister of the bakery’s semiretired owner, Aurora “Tía Dora” Reyes, says chilaquiles are the panadería’s third best-seller, after pastries and tacos. Judging from anecdotal experience, however, I’d say the chilaquiles seem to be the real draw.

Then there are the migas, which can be ordered as a platter or a heaping bowl. As with most of the migas in the state, Tía Dora’s are a lumpy landscape of scrambled eggs studded with pico de gallo, fried or crisped tortilla strips, and cheese. Oddly, in Texas migas and chilaquiles are frequently confused with each other, especially in South Texas, where Mexican menus use the names interchangeably. The mix-up lies in the two dishes’ common denominator, crunchy tortillas.

But there’s a difference in that regard: migas usually feature short strips of fried tortilla, while chilaquiles use what are essentially tortilla chips. There are other distinctions too. The tortillas in migas are mixed with scrambled eggs chilaquiles’ are drenched in salsa. And though both dishes have roots in Mexico, their histories differ. Chilaquiles’ genesis is largely Indigenous. Migas’ lineage reaches back to Europe.

Yet many restaurateurs and restaurant-goers continue to mistake one for the other, an error that happens more frequently now that chilaquiles are gaining popularity, especially among Anglos. If chilaquiles are on the verge of eclipsing their cousin, it might make sense for Texans to learn to tell them apart.

Sisters Juana Pineda and Aurora “Tía Dora” Reyes.

Photograph by Mackenzie Smith Kelley

Tortilla chips and salsa being prepped for chilaquiles in a pan at Tía Dora’s Bakery.

Photograph by Mackenzie Smith Kelley

Chilaquiles were created after the Spanish conquest of Mexico. The name, as the magazine México Desconocido has reported, is derived from the Mesoamerican Nahuatl word chīlaquīlli, which refers to “something that is covered in chili,” as documented in a vocabulary book written by the Spanish priest Alonso de Molina in 1571. However, the first instance of “chilaquiles” that mentions something resembling the dish we know today appears in the 1828 recipe book Arte nuevo de cocina y repostería acomodado al uso mexicano, which refers to it as a dish of fried tortillas, clemole (a tomato-and-chile caldo common in central Mexico), pork or chorizo, and a pinch of sesame seeds. Three years later, a trio of chilaquiles recipes—blancos, rojos/colorados, and tapatíos—were included in the cookbook El cocinero mexicano.

Latest From Tacos

Seafood Tacos Will Be the Star at a New Dallas Restaurant

A Wildly Innovative San Antonio Taco Truck Proves That Food Trailers Can Do Anything

Homesick Californians, Rejoice: This North Texas Taqueria Has Stellar Cal-Mex

Why Texans Can Expect to Pay More for Corn Tortillas This Summer

11 Great Texas Taquerias Owned by Women

Texas Taco Festivals Are Making a Comeback

Perhaps the earliest citation in the U.S. appears in El cocinero español, an 1898 collection of Mexican California recipes, which includes instructions for chilaquiles a la mexicana (which features olives), chilaquiles tapatíos a la mexicana (Guadalajara-style chilaquiles, also with olives), and chilaquiles con camarones secos (dried shrimp). The first known print mention of the dish being served in Texas turns up in a 1925 issue of the San Antonio newspaper La Prensa Texas and involves a fond remembrance of a feast of chilaquiles and refried beans.

In the intervening century, chilaquiles’ topping options evolved, with eggs becoming the popular default. Yet the foundation of the dish has always remained those salsa-drenched chips. Today, the simple and satisfying chilaquiles platter is a fixture of Mexican restaurants.

Recently, chilaquiles even inspired an eponymous business. In the summer of 2019 the husband-and-wife team of Orlando and Susana Aguirre opened a food truck called Chilaquil in San Antonio. Last October, Chilaquil moved into the food hall of the historic Pearl District there, the dish is available as a platter, its chips smeared with salsa roja or enough salsa verde to tinge them green. The chips are then topped with crema and cheese, a shot of chopped cilantro, a fan of avocado slices, and a knot of brilliantly pink pickled onions and buttressed by refried black beans. Though most customers order them topped with fried eggs, it’s not required. “In Texas, most people say chilaquiles need to have an egg on top, but they don’t,” explains Orlando Aguirre. “That’s a choice and one of the differences between chilaquiles and migas.”

It’s tempting to regard migas as yet another Texan adaptation of Mexican cuisine, like chili con carne and puffy tacos. But the story isn’t so clear-cut.

The origins of migas lie in early twentieth-century Mexico. The dish was created out of necessity during the Mexican Revolution and its disastrous consequences, including a brutal famine. Cooking migas (Spanish for “crumbs”) was a way to repurpose stale bread and therefore extend scarce food resources. A descendant of the day-old bread dishes served across Spain, it evolved into variations of a soup thickened with loaves or rolls, something very different from the migas Texans can find at most Mexican restaurants today.

These brothy, Mexican-style migas gained popularity at Migas La Güera, a restaurant in Mexico City’s Tepito neighborhood that was opened in the mid-sixties by José Luis Frausto and his wife, Celia Patiño. In a 2018 El Universal article, Luis Frausto said he first tried a restorative bowl of migas after a soccer match when he was a child. The recipe used at La Güera, which to this day is kept secret by the couple’s children, is reportedly based on his memories of that dish (though some sources give Patiño credit for the recipe). The success of La Güera’s migas—a steaming, ruddy-hued, and herbaceous pork broth thickened with old bread and served with or without pork bones—inspired countless imitators, and today similar migas are served at stands and restaurants across Mexico City and its surrounding municipalities.

A Texas reference to this dish appears as a recipe in a 1922 issue of La Prensa Texas. But this is not, of course, the eggy, broth-free preparation most Texans are familiar with. The first known mention of something resembling that dish shows up as another recipe in a 1951 edition of the Brownsville Herald. The instructions call for powdered eggs, onions, tomatoes, chile powder, and fried strips of tortillas.

It’s tempting to regard this seemingly Americanized dish as yet another Texan adaptation of Mexican cuisine, like chili con carne and puffy tacos. But the story isn’t so clear-cut. When sisters Reyna and Maritza Vazquez were growing up in Veracruz, Mexico, in the eighties and nineties, they often ate a version of migas that was a lot like Tex-Mex migas. “We grew up eating migas from leftovers,” Reyna says. “We always had leftover tortillas. The next day, we would scramble eggs and throw in the tortillas and whatever we had left—some veggies or chorizo or bacon.”

After the sisters immigrated to Austin in 1999, they became interested in opening their own food business. Wanting to offer dishes evocative of their youth, they went in search of the Tex-Mex–style migas they’d grown up with. But the migas they tasted during their research at local restaurants and food trucks had thinner, soggier chips than the ones they remembered.

Tía Dora’s employee Gloria Galindo rolling out dough for tortillas. Photograph by Mackenzie Smith Kelley

The sisters tinkered in the kitchen until they settled on a recipe built with their own homemade tortillas. That’s the original migas taco—later joined by a “migas poblanas”—available at Veracruz All Natural, the sisters’ popular fleet of Austin-area trailers, trucks, and brick-and-mortars. That dish is a mix of scrambled eggs, tortilla chips, Monterey Jack, chopped onions, cilantro, and tomatoes and is finished with an avocado wedge and usually served in a fresh corn tortilla. It’s often named one of the best tacos in the city and state.

It’s a breakfast taco that draws lines of customers. Maybe it’s the feel of the crunchy tortilla strips juxtaposed with the soft house-made corn tortilla that brings so many people to the restaurant’s door. But the intense demand might be the dish’s undoing, as the migas taco is, in my experience, somewhat inconsistent. (This is unusual for the otherwise dependable Veracruz All Natural.) Sometimes the filling is salty. Sometimes it’s bland. On occasion, the dish is served cold. Still, Veracruz’s migas tacos have gained national renown via SXSW attendees, who have raved about them on social media.

Migas aren’t the only dish made from leftovers that the Vazquez sisters fondly remember from their childhood. “My mother would make a pot of chilaquiles for the whole family,” Reyna says. And so, in 2011, two years after the sisters started serving tacos, they added chilaquiles to the menu as part of a series of brunch specials. Today, it’s served as a breakfast taco at the downtown location and will soon be added at other locations. Anyone who still confuses migas and chilaquiles can clear up that uncertainty by going to Veracruz All Natural and ordering both of them there’s really no mistaking one for the other. While eggs dominate the migas, when it comes to the chilaquiles, it’s all about the salsa. As Reyna puts it, “The sauce is the bomb.”

This article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Breakfast Cousins, Many Times Removed.” Subscribe today.

Restaurant: Impossible

Chef Robert Irvine is in Palmyra, NJ to see if he can save a 60yr old family restaurant from failure. Paul Villari 3rd took over his family's restaurant from his father 15 years ago and has watched as the customer base has literally died off. Paul has been unable to bring a new customer base in and has found himself on the brink of having to shut down this neighborhood icon. With outdated décor and a disastrous kitchen, it's a race to the finish as Robert tries to put Villari's back on the path to success. Will he succeed or will this be Restaurant: Impossible?


Robert heads to Providence, R.I., to save Mainelli's, a former neighborhood-favorite Italian restaurant with bad service and an extensive menu of dishes the kitchen just can't get right. Upon discovering food safety issues, Robert closes down the restaurant until further notice. After attempting to teach the cooking staff basic techniques, Robert enlists design help for a much-needed interior renovation. With time ticking away, Robert needs to pull out all the stops to complete this mission and keep Mainelli's from closing for good.

Flood Tide

Robert must overcome the impossible to save the formerly venerable Flood Tide Restaurant in Mystic, Conn., which has earned a bad reputation due to its coarse owner. Robert evaluates an evening of service during which he finds many problems including a dirty kitchen. While encouraging the staff to take pride in their work, he tackles the kitchen mess. Then, he updates the menu and décor and retrains the staff to make better use of their time and materials. As the clock winds down it becomes a race to the finish to see if Robert will be successful.

Salt Works II

A new restaurant with young owners keeps Robert on his toes in this mission. Salt Works II in Wilmington, N.C., prides itself on serving down home cooking, but when Robert steps into the kitchen he finds that they only cook canned food. He immediately jumps into action modernizing the interior and changing the menu while urging the staff to work as a team. In hopes of attracting a new client base to go with the younger feel of the restaurant, Robert hits the streets to bring in the nearby college students. With time running out, he needs to confirm that the staff can execute the new menu so this restaurant can stay afloat.

Rascal's BBQ and Crab House

Robert travels to Rascal's BBQ & Crab House in New Castle, Del., where many pass by but almost none stop to eat. Rascal's hides behind mountains of trash and one of the dirtiest kitchens Robert has seen. He orders a mass cleaning, and as the trash sorting begins, some treasures surface to update the restaurant's aesthetic. Robert also introduces fresh dishes and a new catering menu to help revive this dump. As the mission comes to an end, Robert still needs to do some serious work to triumph over the trash.


At Meglio's in Bridgeton, Mo., near St. Louis, Robert finds an Italian restaurant stuck in the past with a laundry list of problems. They claim to cook old family recipes, but Robert discovers that the extent of their cooking involves opening frozen food bags. After getting over the initial shock, he attempts to retrain the cooking staff and explain why they should provide quality food for customers using a smaller menu and fresher ingredients. With a last-minute design dilemma and an unfocused owner, Robert faces tough odds to make this mission a success.

Secret Garden

Down in Jacksonville, Fla., Robert strives to save The Secret Garden Café, a failing breakfast/lunch locale owned by partners Zack and Michael. From the get go, it's obvious that this restaurant has no clear direction or theme, less-than-thrilling dishes, disorganized staff, and haphazard décor. Robert spins into action by putting staff through the wringer, creating new dishes, updating the décor in massive ways, and marketing the restaurant while working tirelessly to ensure all is set for a successful grand re-opening. With countless ups and downs throughout, this mission could prove impossible.

How a group of sommeliers saved this Los Angeles restaurant

When a restaurant closes, it leaves a lasting hole in the fabric of a community. Bäco Mercat, Bon Temps, Broken Spanish and Here’s Looking at You are just a few of the well-known pandemic casualties the city will mourn for a long time.

The struggles of smaller neighborhood restaurants have been less documented but are no less painful Rustic Kitchen is one of them

In January, the small wine bar and restaurant in Mar Vista was in bad shape. Like many small-business owners, John and Noelle Fanaris struggled to keep their doors open.

The restaurant, which offers more than 70 wines by the glass, is a neighborhood spot that relies on people sitting down and experiencing a leisurely meal on one of the restaurant’s two patios. It is not a destination for takeout. In December, revenue was down 70%. The ban on outdoor dining made it almost impossible to keep up with payroll, utilities and vendors.

“We were really close to shutting down,” John said. “I was drowning in credit [card debt] and digging into my life savings to keep us afloat.”

A look back at how the pandemic reshaped L.A.'s restaurant scene

One afternoon in late January, John remembers sitting at his bar contemplating the restaurant’s future when Cristie Norman walked in. The sommelier was there to pick up bags from a virtual tasting she’d hosted earlier in the week.

Norman, who was a sommelier at Spago until the pandemic hit, hosts weekly virtual blind tastings and biweekly or monthly masterclasses. She relies on businesses to be pickup and drop-off locations for her wine-tasting kits. Six months ago, John, a wine enthusiast and sommelier who had attended some of Norman’s wine events before the pandemic, offered his restaurant as a pickup and drop-off site. In doing so, he created access for dozens of wine professionals on the Westside to participate in Norman’s classes.

“I walked in that day and he looked really upset,” she said.

“She asked me how it was going, and I told her, well, it was going terrible,” John said.

“I offered to help, but he said there was nothing I could do,” Norman said. “He put this big smile on his face and it just broke my heart.”

When she got home, she quickly devised an emergency assistance plan.

Norman, 26, has experience with facing a seemingly impossible challenge. She received her sommelier certification at 21 and joined the team at Spago shortly after. When the pandemic hit, she co-founded the United Sommeliers Foundation, an organization that has raised more than $950,000 to help wine professionals.

That night, she posted a message to 180 people on a private Los Angeles sommelier Facebook group and sent an email blast to about 320 people on her personal mailing list.

“Rustic Kitchen needs our support right now, urgently, so I’ve created some ways to do that,” she wrote. “I try not to ask you guys for much. I really don’t. This would mean the world to me. We all have to eat, so I felt that this was a low-impact way for each of us to do a small thing and create a big result.”

Norman’s call to action included a request for money to purchase a $1,000 gift card to the restaurant that would be given away in a contest on Instagram. She asked contestants to follow the restaurant and tag two friends who live in L.A. In just 24 hours, the Rustic Kitchen social following more than doubled, from about 600 followers to more than 1,200.

A longtime bartender, server and two managers look back at a year of COVID-19

But Norman wanted to create a sustainable solution for the restaurant. Her Facebook post also asked the group to commit to ordering delivery or takeout from Rustic Kitchen at least once in the next seven weeks and for everyone to ask their contacts to do the same. She created an online form to keep track of the details and started a Telegram chat devoted to efforts to save the restaurant. About 20 people signed up, committing to order food and spread the word.

Norman has a specific structure for the campaign that she calls “throwing darts” — each outreach effort is akin to throwing a dart. To encourage leadership, she asked participants to volunteer to be a leader — rallying the group and contributing “positive energy"— for a specific week.

“Darts don’t come back to you, it’s just something that you throw out there,” Norman said. ‘If it sticks, great. If it doesn’t, at least you told one person about the restaurant.

Participants logged every “dart” thrown with information on who they contacted and whether the person said they would visit the restaurant. In February and throughout March, some people committed to going right away. Others promised to visit in the future and gave specific timeframes.

Norman was able to raise enough money for the $1,000 gift card and received an additional $500 donation, which she put toward her sommelier group’s house account at Rustic Kitchen. If someone says they want to visit the restaurant but can’t afford it right now, Norman offers them a free meal using the account.

“It’s about creating inspiration and leadership in our wine community and giving them an opportunity to step up because the wine industry is very individualistic,” she said.

John noticed the increased engagement on his restaurant’s Instagram account and started to see more customers coming into the restaurant for takeout after Norman’s Facebook post.

“People were supporting us, bringing their friends, and it’s just been amazing,” he said. “It’s helping us get over the hump and keep going.”

Christine Tran, general manager and wine director at Hinoki and the Bird restaurant in Century City, is one of the sommeliers in Norman’s network and a frequent participant in the virtual wine tastings. She reached out to her database of contacts, asking them to meet her at Rustic Kitchen for lunch. In February, the week she was a leader, she dined at the restaurant three times.

“Small restaurants have cried out for help during this past year and I think as a community if we don’t help our own community, how do we expect other people to help?” she said.

Lu Diodovich, an unemployed wine professional who has worked in Los Angeles for 14 years, called and texted everyone she knew and asked them to come to Rustic Kitchen.

‘I take my baby to the park and whoever talks to me at the park, I tell them about the restaurant too,” she said. “I also have a teenage son, and I told him to tell all his friends about the lobster mac and cheese because he loves it.”

Norman scheduled regular calls with the group of sommeliers, checking in on their dart-throwing. And she encouraged them to share how they felt about being part of the team.

How the events of the year left a lasting impact on how we will cook from this point forward.

Lauren Hirsh, who co-owns Club 14 wine club and bar in Westlake with her brother, felt compelled to support another member of the wine community. “Every single order counts,” she said. “You hear about restaurants closing down and you wish you could have done something. This is doing something.”

As business picks up, John is looking forward to hiring back more staff and to start hosting dinners with winemakers again. Just before the outdoor dining ban in November, he had planned a sold-out dinner with Law Estate Wines.

“What these sommeliers did really helped,” he said. ‘I saw people coming in and they bought wine and had dinner [outside]. Probably without it, I would have had to close.”

Norman is hoping her efforts will encourage other communities to launch similar campaigns for their favorite neighborhood restaurants. She doesn’t plan to stop helping Rustic Kitchen any time soon. For the eighth week of the campaign, she designed a contest. The participating sommelier with the most points (earned by throwing darts, following up with people and asking them to submit Yelp reviews) will choose a liquid to dump on Norman’s head. She’s counting on everyone’s competitive nature to result in a surge of business for the restaurant.

“I hope people see what we’re doing and they’re inspired to do something for places that have impacted them,” she said. “It’s not just about this specific restaurant but the message it sends to everybody. A small group of people with a small amount of effort can make a big difference.”


SeriesEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
1427 April 2004 ( 2004-04-27 ) 18 May 2004 ( 2004-05-18 )
2824 May 2005 ( 2005-05-24 ) 12 July 2005 ( 2005-07-12 )
3421 February 2006 ( 2006-02-21 ) 14 March 2006 ( 2006-03-14 )
4614 November 2006 ( 2006-11-14 ) 19 December 2006 ( 2006-12-19 )
5830 October 2007 ( 2007-10-30 ) 18 December 2007 ( 2007-12-18 )
Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare130 January 2009 ( 2009-01-30 )
Ramsay’s Costa del Nightmares423 September 2014 ( 2014-09-23 ) 14 October 2014 ( 2014-10-14 )

Series 1 Edit

Ramsay quickly identifies the restaurant as having two major issues firstly, the fine dining menu has no appeal to the mostly working-class locals, and secondly the head chef, 21-year-old Tim Gray, is inexperienced, incompetent and out of his depth, first evidenced when he unwittingly serves Ramsay expired scallops which cause him to vomit, and then when he proves unable to make an omelette. Ramsay shows Tim how to buy cheaper produce from the Leeds Kirkgate Market and helps him make a meal for his family, though is still concerned when Tim botches even this meal. Despite this, after having revised and simplified the menu, Tim is successfully able to serve a new bistro menu to nearly fifty guests on Valentine's Day, leaving Ramsay hopeful for the restaurant's future.

While Ramsay quickly sees the potential in the restaurant upon his arrival, due to the attractive building, excellent location and strong flow of tourists, he finds the actual food to be poor, which he blames on new owner Neil Farrell's inexperience and panicky nature and head chef Richard Collins' lazy attitude, which hampers an otherwise-talented kitchen staff. Ramsay also finds the kitchen to be in a terrible state, and makes the staff join him in cleaning and repainting it. An initial failure to improve sees Richard come dangerously close to being fired, but he talks Neil into giving him one last chance, and Richard is able to improve and lead the kitchen through a service with a simplified, revamped menu.

Before visiting the inn, Ramsay discusses its history and the success it had under former owner Franco Taruschio, which has turned into financial difficulty under current owner Francesco Mattioli, something that has surprised Ramsay, given that the two were already acquainted from Francesco's career as a restaurant manager in London. However, Ramsay soon discovers exactly how bad things are the restaurant is without a head chef, the food is very expensive and of poor quality (including a seafood stew being full of sand), and the locals have lost interest. Ramsay helps Francesco recruit a new head chef, Spencer Ralph, and create a more reasonably priced menu, before holding a special anniversary dinner to celebrate the inn's 40th anniversary, with Franco in attendance.

Despite the potential offered by the rich locals and the golf course next door to the restaurant, Ramsay finds it wasted by the building's terrible decor (including the exterior being entirely painted a claret shade), and the outdated menu that relies extensively on deep-fried food cooked in ageing, filthy equipment. The inexperience of owners Richard Hodgson and Nick Whitehouse also poses a major problem, as does the seeming indifference of much of the kitchen staff, especially head chef Mark Robinson, whose background is mostly in IT rather than cooking, and is berated by Ramsay for spending time golfing rather than cooking, which eventually leads to Ramsay destroying the kitchen's deep-fat fryers by throwing them into a water hazard on the course. Things begin to turn around when an experienced sous-chef, Andy Trowell, is hired, and Ramsay gives him a burger recipe which he turns into the restaurant's new signature dish and introduces in a successful Mother's Day lunch.

Series 2 Edit

Ramsay meets Executive Chef Alex Scott in the kitchen, where he finds no authentic Italian ingredients, and too many precooked and prepackaged dishes. His meal consists of greasy minestrone soup, breadsticks in a paper package, and sausages on garlic bread that remind him of "two poodles' penises doused in parsley". In the walk-in, Ramsay finds old food, Pot Noodles, and rotten vegetables. Worst of all, the kitchen and floor are filthy, with food debris everywhere (but amazingly, no rats or mice). Despite Alex losing £1,000 per week, Ramsay opens his garage to find a brand new BMW with custom numberplates – "A1 CH3F". Ramsay discovers that Alex had spent £48,000 on the car, and straight away sets off to sell both the car and the numberplate – calling a number of celebrity chefs about the latter, with amusing results. Ramsay teaches Gavin, the ineffectual manager, to be more authoritative – even roleplaying an uncooperative cook, to let Gavin tell him off. Ramsay also has the cooks engage in a pizza contest which the sous-chef, Aldona Novak, wins. This ignites some passion in her for food, whereas before she had completely lacked it. Ramsay also updates the menu and the decor, bringing in paintings from a local art school. On reopening night, Alex starts to get overwhelmed and takes too long getting food out, but Gavin's newfound assertiveness saves the night.

While his biggest problem is with the restaurant's name, Ramsay finds that rookie owners Israel and Tara Pons are allowing themselves to be steamrollered by general manager Dave Bone, who Ramsay finds confrontational and ineffective, and head chef Philippe Blaise, who is vastly experienced and somewhat talented, but also arrogant and prone to taking shortcuts. Ramsay gets the owners to rename the restaurant as the Saracen's Café Bar, after the hotel which the restaurant is situated in, and creates a better menu with a club sandwich as its centerpiece. While Philippe needs a lot of persuasion (and more than a little yelling) to fully embrace the new menu, Dave's inept handling of the reopening lunch service rapidly causes it to descend into chaos, leaving many guests without food. This causes Israel to finally run out of patience, and he fires Dave on the spot. Ramsay leaves with an uncertain outlook, noting that Israel and Tara are finally toughening up and Philippe's attitude seems a little better, but that it remains to be seen whether the changes will stick.

In a break from form, Ramsay declares that the restaurant's food is excellent, and easily the best he's had on the show so far. However, he finds that owner-chef Charita Jones is far too easygoing when managing her staff (such as tolerating lateness and allowing the staff to use the restaurant's facilities off-shift), tends to rely on freezing her food (ruining its flavour) and has made little attempt to promote the restaurant. With Ramsay’s help, she adjusts to cooking all her food to order, and manages to pull in more customers. The kitchen staff initially finds it hard to adjust to the hugely increased custom, but soon adapt as the week goes on.

Ramsay has mixed feelings on the restaurant's food, noting that while head chef Loïc Lefebvre's food is technically very proficient, it's over-complicated, not cost-efficient, and would have limited appeal even in London or Edinburgh, to say nothing of Inverness. After helping Loïc and his team gain a better understanding of local culture by taking them to an Inverness Caledonian Thistle match and even getting them to wear kilts for their reopening service, Gordon helps Loïc create a menu that's sophisticated, but also cost-effective and appealing to the locals.

Series 3 Edit

Initially, Ramsay deems the restaurant's problem to be its unfocused, over-complicated menu, and Ramsay helps owner Maura Dooris to address this, along with setting up deals with local butchers. However, Ramsay also finds head chef (and Maura's son) Lenin to be alarmingly inconsistent in terms of ability, and on further investigation finds that he's been drinking in service. While Lenin is very competent when sober, his standards slip dramatically when he has been drinking. Ramsay orders Lenin to restrict his drinking to the evenings, but on his next shift he gets a waitress to smuggle alcohol into the kitchen for him, further angering Ramsay. Ramsay manages to get Lenin to stop drinking on the third night by promising to himself give up swearing for that night's service, but events take a serious turn on the fourth night, when Lenin suddenly collapses in service and has to be rushed to hospital, where it's revealed that he's in the early stages of cirrhosis. This leads to Ramsay bringing in former chef and charity founder Michael Quinn to discuss the issue of alcoholism and drug abuse in the industry, and Michael tells Ramsay that 10% of all chefs will encounter substance abuse issues during their careers, and that Lenin must give up his job and enter rehab. In the meantime, Ramsay and sous-chef Les manage a successful service with a new menu focused around Irish cuisine.

Upon visiting the Sandgate Hotel, Ramsay is immediately confused with the hotel's layout. There is a bar, a restaurant, and even a Japanese restaurant downstairs, all run from the same kitchen. To further complicate the experience, each has their own menu and diners cannot order from one menu without going to the other restaurant. Ramsay finds Stuart White, a gentle Geordie, in charge of the kitchen alongside his young inexperienced assistants. Ramsay identifies numerous issues: Stuart is clearly not comfortable cooking the bizarre range of food and has no experience in cooking Japanese food he must leave the kitchen to his junior chefs while he runs the balcony grill the orders are sent through an intercom system that disrupts the kitchen the hotel staff spend too much time and money at their own bar (and in fact are inadvertently keeping the hotel afloat) and the number of managers causes confusion over who is in charge. Furthermore, during the week Stuart loses his AA rosette, severely demoralising him. Despite these problems, Ramsay manages to set the restaurant on the right path by turning the Japanese restaurant into an exclusive dining area, focusing the menu on fresh seafood, and establishing more control over the front of house with owner Lois as the host.

Clubway 41 is run by Dave Jackson and his girlfriend Dawn Brindley, and is heavily promoted on the back of being named Blackpool Restaurant of the Year, but is struggling to attract customers. Ramsay finds that the upstairs restaurant is being kept afloat by the downstairs greasy spoon café. Dave's salmon with strawberry and mash with nectarines are appalling to Ramsay. Dave has difficulty taking criticism from Ramsay and shows little proficiency for cooking, and even less familiarity with managing a kitchen, even with the downstairs cook Nigel Lloyd, who was more capable in handling the rush. Digging deeper, Ramsay discovers that no locals have heard of the award-winning Clubway 41 and obtains copies of the nomination forms, finding the reviews to be almost farcical. Identifying the difficulty with attracting customers to an upstairs restaurant, he takes a risk and turns the downstairs café into the main attraction, focusing on simple English food. In the reopening, the restaurant is renamed Jacksons. With Dave and Nigel in the kitchen, the service begins well, and while Nigel is a capable assistant, Dave continues to struggle with handling the workload.

Daniela Bayfield has invested in a 40-year-old establishment and is hesitant to modernise, and relies on functions to sustain the restaurant rather than a steady customer base. Ramsay states that the restaurant is stuck in a time warp, with dishes and service reminiscent of the 70s and the dishes are severely underpriced, making a loss per sale. Head chef Steve Straughan lacks passion and is unused to busy sessions. During a birthday function, the kitchen uses canned tuna to substitute for tuna steaks, uses bought-in apple pie instead of making it, and mixes freshly made minestrone soup with packet soup to save costs. Steve struggles to maintain order in the kitchen during service without a clear system. Ramsay discards the complicated menu and devises a new, simpler menu and changes the decor in the dining room. He also brings back the flambé table service as a hallmark of the restaurant. The dinner service proceeds well, though Steve still has difficulty communicating with the team.

Series 4 Edit

Laurence Davy runs a restaurant in an ideal Spanish holiday location, but has difficulty attracting locals. Ramsay discovers a menu that encompasses numerous cuisines and appalling recipes, such as prawns with chocolate sauce and chicken with banana. Poor service and improperly cooked food have given the restaurant a negative reputation, especially after Laurence's bizarre recipes and arrogant attitude alienated a donkey sanctuary. To show the staff the importance of letting ingredients speak for themselves, he creates smoothies from the menu items, including the prawns with chocolate, with Lawrence being unable to identify the prawns. Ramsay creates a simple menu for the night's service, but Lawrence insists that he is in control of his large, unpopular menu and only switches to Ramsay’s backup menu after it is too late. To make things worse, the restaurant is robbed during the night, with the thieves taking money from the takings stored in a filing cabinets. Ramsay takes Laurence to a bullfighting school to demonstrate the importance of listening to expert advice. He also berates Laurence over his excessive use of his plancha grill, causing food to be overcooked and taste monotonous, and teaches him to cook fresh food in pans. The final service begins well, but the staff have double-booked tables, causing confusion in the kitchen and ruining an otherwise nearly flawless reopening. Ramsay leaves, concerned that the restaurant would not make it through the slower winter season.

The Fenwick Arms is a classic English pub, but Ramsay finds the menu is anything but classic English pub grub, with many dishes ruined by sloppy sauces created by owner and head chef, Brian Rey. At 62 years of age, Brian (and his wife, Elaine Howden) are working between 100 and 120 hours a week and his age and health create disorder in kitchen as he is unable to keep track of orders. Ramsay also finds that Brian is a compulsive hoarder, collecting a bizarre collection of crockery from eBay. To address the problems, Ramsay removes Brian from the kitchen and moves him to the front of house. However, Brian is unable to fully remove himself from his duties and creates another batch of terrible sauce. Ramsay throws the sauce away and gets Brian to begin selling his excessive plate collection. He turns Brian over to a simpler menu, focusing on classic pub dishes instead of pretending to be a restaurant, and to complement the excellent Yorkshire pudding, Ramsay creates a new focus and campaign for the pub to bring back real gravy. Brian is enthusiastic about the idea and the staff market their new gravy in town. Despite some confusion in the service, the kitchen staff hold up under pressure and the customers are pleased with the new food. Ramsay leaves after making Brian promise not to step back into the kitchen.

Despite having been a successful chef in the previous decade, owner and chef Nick Anderson has fallen on hard times due to his refusal to modernize his menu or cooking methods, which Ramsay attributes to the way he was abruptly fired from a hotel shortly after earning it a Michelin Star in 1997. After speaking to the locals and finding out about the Rococo's abysmal reputation, Ramsay tells Nick that there's no way he can salvage things as they are, and that the only way to recover is to effectively start over with a new restaurant in the same building. Nick agrees, and Rococo is renamed Maggie's, given a complete makeover and refit, and a new menu focused around local seafood.

Ramsay has major issues with the food, but finds the biggest problem to be the feuds among the owners and staff owner Sandy Morgan has little knowledge of restaurants and insists on personally buying all the ingredients from a nearby supermarket rather than appropriate business supplier. Her younger daughter Laura Kelly has even less business knowledge. Elder daughter Helen Kelly has more, but works elsewhere and therefore only works at the restaurant part-time. Head chef Philip Lee has a confrontational attitude, uses bizarre combinations (such as mashed potatoes and apricot) in the menu and doesn't get on with sous-chef Emma, who nonetheless serves Ramsay the only thing he likes, a sticky toffee pudding. Ramsay finds it hard going, and the continued feuds cause Laura to temporarily walk away from the restaurant, but with Helen committing to the restaurant full-time and Phil agreeing to work more with Emma and simplifying the menu, things begin to look up.

Series 5 Edit

On his arrival, Ramsay finds that owner and former actor Allan Love is in a fragile emotional state due to the precarious nature of the business and the possibility of losing his house. Allan's restaurant specialises in fish, which he dislikes, and his two chefs, Jamie and Alex, are lazy and seemingly only interested in the money. Ramsay realises that the restaurant's fish is too expensive and sub-standard. On taking Alex and Jamie to a local fish market finds that pollock is in plentiful local supply and revises the menu, adding a pollock fish and chips meal which proves popular. Ramsay clashes with Allan over the restaurant's gaudy decor, which Allan is proud of and initially threatens to stop filming if Ramsay attempts to change it. Allan eventually agrees to allow a makeover, and Ramsay also has the restaurant renamed Love's Fish Restaurant so as to take advantage of its biggest asset, Allan himself. Jamie is designated head chef, and the full reopening proves a big hit.

Ramsay is simultaneously delighted to be working in Paris, the city where he originally learned to be a chef, and a little daunted at the prospect of taking on a vegetarian restaurant. By the end of the first night, he forces owner Rachel McNally to fire her lazy, incompetent head chef Daniel (whom Ramsay has to physically eject from the premises when he refuses to leave). Rachel's friend, waitress Stephanie, quits a day later after Ramsay criticizes her attitude. Ramsay dislikes the dull, health-conscious fare, pointing out that people come to Paris to indulge themselves. He demonstrates by taking the staff out to eat, followed by an evening's drinking in bars, and finally to a burlesque performance inspired, he and the staff jointly devise a vegetarian but still very luxurious chocolate dessert. Ramsay proceeds to prove the restaurant's potential by opening it himself for lunch, something Rachel has never done, and makes over €400 from a simple meal of tomato soup and grilled cheese-on-toast. Backup then arrives in the form of Rachel's father Brian and promising young chef India Innes, and despite a brief delay caused by Rachel forgetting to buy supplies, a strong relaunch service seemingly has the restaurant set up for success.

Despite enjoying perhaps more custom than any other restaurant seen to date on the show, new owner Scott Aitchison reveals that The Priory is losing money because almost all the custom is from people using "50% off" vouchers on the restaurant's carvery - customers are in effect paying only £5 for a full meal, less than the value of the ingredients in the carvery, causing the restaurant to take a significant loss on almost every sale. Ramsay also strongly criticizes the work ethic and competence of head chef Toby, and is infuriated to discover the kitchen is full of old food and filthy, rusting equipment, which he orders to be replaced. However, Ramsay suspects that the kitchen staff are merely demotivated due to the unchanging menu. He sets up a new grill menu, but Toby is even worse at cooking that than the carvery. Ramsay orders the restaurant's general manager Matt, himself an experienced chef, to take over from Toby, who is demoted to sous-chef. This change in roles finally gets things moving, and under Matt's leadership the kitchen finally gets through a service.

Run by former Italian boxer Mike Ciminera, The Fish and Anchor is a local eatery filled with sports memorabilia and with a tarnished reputation, with Mike and wife Caron notorious for their feuding, which has scared customers away. Mike, while passionate and ambitious, is not a trained chef and has based his menu on cookbooks written by celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein and Gordon Ramsay himself. Ramsay is critical of the menu's complexity and lack of focus, and his concerns are proven in the evening service. As the cookbooks are written for home cooking, the dishes are too complex to manage in a busy restaurant environment, and Mike does not know how to handle multiple orders. Half the customers are not served food, and Caron verbally confronts and kicks out several customers. The next day, Ramsay gets rid of Mike's cookbooks and removes the exotic dishes from the menu. He appeals to Mike's proud Italian heritage and creates an authentic meatball item. Mike is capable of handling the orders in the following service with praise for the food, but the night is ruined when Caron forgets an order and throws a tantrum. Ramsay manages to help the couple ease the tension and work together. They go into town to promote their new menu and service. Before the service, Ramsay sets up a punching bag outside to get the couple to vent their anger. The restaurant is packed, and Caron proves to have overcome her temper issues. However, Mike's inexperience in managing a full dining room causes him to fall behind. The service is stopped when one of the waitresses slips and falls, being knocked unconscious and taken to hospital.

Ramsay is initially displeased with the restaurant's atmosphere and misleading claims of being Nottingham's best restaurant (with "Runners-Up" in small print). Owner Arfan "Raz" Razak proudly boasts that his "make your own curry" idea is what sets his restaurant apart, but Ramsay tells him that it's actually ensuring the business will fail. The kitchen staff have to buy huge quantities of ingredients to make all the curries on the menu, none of them taste nice, and not even the restaurant staff can taste the difference between them. At Ramsay’s urging, head chef Khan puts a lamb korma made from a family recipe on the menu for the second night's service, which proves a big hit and wins Raz over. Ramsay sells Raz on the idea of making curry deliveries to offices in the city center. With a fully revamped menu based on regional flavours, the reopening night is a big hit.

The Granary is run by ambitious entrepreneur Nigel Nieddu. Originally intended as an exclusive club for the rich and famous, Nigel has had to rebrand the restaurant, which now struggles to pull customers and has a poor reputation with the locals for its exclusive impression. Ramsay and Nigel eat lunch together, where it becomes clear that the restaurant does not live up to its focus of modern British food, with too many exotic dishes on the menu (such as shark with mozzarella) that the kitchen staff struggle to cook. The kitchen is run by Martin, who has taken on board two delinquent teenage boys to help them back on track with cooking. Ramsay books the restaurant to half capacity for lunch to test the kitchen, but unused to even these numbers, the staff struggle to keep up. Ramsay identifies that Nigel, who has no experience as a restaurant manager, lacks control over the dining room and has difficulty accepting criticism. Nigel even struggles to delegate tasks to his staff when challenged to put together a prefabricated chicken coop. After convincing Nigel to turn to a simpler British menu and allowing Martin to have more control, the staff host a food fair to bring the community back. The reopening begins well, but Martin struggles with the numbers and fails to show strong leadership under pressure. The kitchen staff lose discipline, although young cook Pete is able to hold himself together. The service is disappointing, with Martin disappointed with himself and Nigel determined to get it right.

Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare Edit

A one-off, two-hour special entitled Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare was broadcast on 30 January 2009 as part of The Great British Food Fight, a two-week series of food-related programming on Channel 4. In the programme, Ramsay campaigned for viewers to start supporting local restaurants, especially in a bad economy.

The Dovecote Bistro (renamed Martins' Bistro)

Mick is a former trucker and burger van operator who has opened a bistro with his wife and adopted daughter, Michelle. Ramsay is firstly appalled by the psychedelic wallpaper, but impressed with the simple menu. Mick, however, has very little cooking ability, using orange squash to make a sauce and microwaving unrefrigerated, vacuum-sealed pre-cooked lamb shanks. Not only does he show little responsibility in the kitchen, he is also secretive with his spending and is hugely in debt. Mick is adamant that the problems in the kitchen are not his fault, and his stubbornness causes a rift with his wife and daughter. Ramsay takes the business matters out of Mick's hands, kicking him out of the kitchen. His daughter, Michelle, is placed in charge of the kitchen, despite having no cooking experience. She rises to the challenge, and while Mick is not convinced over replacing his microwave food, the reopening is a success.

Months later, the restaurant is making profit. Ramsay sends Michelle for further culinary training, and she impresses him with freshly cooked food.

The restaurant was renamed Martins' Bistro during production.

The Runaway Girl (renamed Silversmiths)

Justin runs The Runaway Girl, specialising in Spanish tapas, with best friend and head chef, Richie. Ramsay finds the name and appearance of the restaurant to be similar to a strip club. The kitchen does no preparation work before service, as Justin has had Richie pre-cook all the meals in advance to prevent wastage. Justin invests very little in the kitchen and focuses on organising live music events, which customers find loud and obnoxious. Richie launches a heated tirade about Justin's inability to listen to criticism, threatening to resign if the restaurant does not immediately improve. Ramsay employs a mystery diner to assess the service, and despite Justin claiming to recognise their purpose, botches the service and forgets to even provide cutlery, resulting in a scathing review. After helping Justin and Richie make amends, he refurbishes the restaurant and renames it Silversmiths, bans live music and, realising that they have no chance of competing against local Spanish restaurants, changes the focus to modern British cuisine.

Ramsay’s Costa del Nightmares Edit

While previously successful, the Mayfair has fallen on hard times, which Ramsay attributes to owner Jack's refusal to fire head chef Juan, awful hygiene standards (which results in Ramsay closing the restaurant down for the first day for an extensive cleaning), and insistence on filling much of the restaurant with useless junk. Ramsay initially sees Jack's son John as the right man to take over, but quickly loses faith upon discovering that the car hire business that John runs separately is failing, and that he's invested €40,000 of his parents' money into it. After forcing John to promise to shut down his hire business and repay his parents, and getting Jack to get rid of his hoard, Ramsay renames the restaurant Jack's Chicken Shack and creates a new menu focused around fried chicken. The service that follows initially goes poorly thanks to John's poor handling of the order system, but he eventually gets the hang of it, and service is successfully completed.

As soon as he arrives at the restaurant, Ramsay is outraged by head chef Steve and the staff cooking themselves a dinner of sirloin steak belonging to the restaurant, and accuses them of taking advantage of owners Tim and Debbie. However, Tim is discovered to be a big part of the problem due to his interference in service, refusal to allow Steve to set his own menu, and careless handling of the business side of the restaurant. Ramsay has further criticism for Steve's lack of local product knowledge and not even being able to speak French. However, he and the kitchen staff cook good dishes after Ramsay takes them to a local seafood market, only for Tim accuse the staff of laziness upon seeing the results, even threatening to fire them. Despite this, the reopening night goes well, and Ramsay tells Tim that so long as he doesn't interfere with the running of the kitchen, he can make Le Deck a success.

In a Kitchen Nightmares first, Ramsay works with a restaurant that has opened only 8 weeks prior to his arrival. Owners Milan and Gina are new to the restaurant industry, and their inexperience leads them to lean on head chef Neal to manage the restaurant as well as run the kitchen, putting heavy pressure on Neal. The restaurant’s menu is too complicated for a small brigade and Neal fails to delegate to his assistant chefs, which slows down service and causes Neal to be extremely stressed while cooking.

In order to demonstrate the difficulty that Neal and the servers are under, Ramsay has Milan and Gina work a service with only six guests to demonstrate the negative impact of decisions they had made, like the broken dumbwaiter and the complicated menu. He also implements a new menu based around sharing plates to take pressure off the kitchen. During the relaunch, the service initially starts off strongly. However, when the sharing plates run out, Neal reverts to his bad habits. Ramsay is able to get Neal back on track, saving the service and impressing a local food critic.

Initially, siblings Joe and Terry Quelcutti seem to be more interested in running the establishment as a bar rather than a restaurant, which has caused chef Terry’s food to be abysmal. However, Ramsay identifies a bigger problem: server Joe’s inability to keep cool during service leads him to regularly confront guests he’s meant to be serving. In order to improve the siblings’ abilities in the front and back of house, Ramsay has them work a lunch service at Quique De Costa, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the area.

In June 2006, Ramsay won a High Court case against the Evening Standard, which had alleged that scenes and the general condition of the restaurant had been faked for the first episode of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. These allegations followed reports from the previous owner of Bonapartes, Sue Ray. Ramsay was awarded £75,000 plus costs. [2] Ramsay said at the time: "I won't let people write anything they want to about me. We have never done anything in a cynical, fake way."

The programme received favourable reviews for its in-depth look into the restaurant industry. Jane Redfem of Off the Telly commented that the show "could have been cynically designed to exploit Ramsay’s foul-mouthed reputation. But watch, listen and think about what he is saying, and his genuine commitment to his profession in general, and the task at hand become abundantly evident." [3] Lorna Martin of The Observer said "Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares is compulsive viewing – packed with excitement, emotion and entertainment." [4] Slate's Sara Dickerman was impressed by the show's "economic realism" in the tired food television genre. She wrote, "There is something refreshing about a show that doesn't promise a ticket to ride (a surgical makeover, a million dollars, Richard Branson's job) but instead offers restaurant owners the hope—if they seriously reform their establishments—that they might, just might, break even for the next few months." [5]

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares was named Best Feature at the 2005 [6] and 2008 BAFTA awards. [7] It also earned the 2006 International Emmy for best non-scripted entertainment. [6]

United States Edit

On 3 March 2009, Acorn Media released series 1 of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares on DVD in the US. Series 2 was released on 1 September 2009. Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares DVD news: Box Art for Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares - The Complete Series 2 | TVShowsOnDVD.com

Name Ep# Release Date
Season One 8 3 March 2009
Season Two 10 1 September 2009

Canada Edit

For the Canadian market, Visual Entertainment has released the first three series of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares on DVD in two volume sets.

What Happened Next at J Willy's?

In the weeks that followed they kept Gordon's changes.

They won first prize at the College Football Hall of Fame ribs cook-off with their signature barbecue sauce.

J Willy's closed on 4th February 2009.

With food prices increasing and customers decreasing, they had the choice of cutting the quality or closing.

A coffee shop opened in its place but this also closed.

The building was demolished in 2015.

Rick and Tricia also closed their restaurant Damon's Grill and Rick is now working in restoring and selling classic cars.

J Willy's aired on October 30 2008, the episode was filmed in February 2008 and is Kitchen Nightmares season 2 episode 5.