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What Kitchen Nightmares Teaches You About Product Strategy

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Diana Eugenia Matei Diana Eugenia Matei
Senior Product Manager @ Clearscore
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Kitchen Nightmares is not just a popular show, but it can also be a source of inspiration and knowledge for product people and of course for businesses. For me, Kitchen Nightmares is a great practical way to learn about strategy and the elements you need to run a successful business. The swearing and humour is what attracted me initially but after a few episodes, I started to see the patterns and the key elements that differentiate average businesses from great ones. I believe these elements are relevant for product people and in this article I will share 5 key themes Kitchen Nightmares teaches you about product strategy.

"I started to see the patterns and the key elements that differentiate average businesses from great ones"

Diana Eugenia Matei, Senior Product Manager @ Clearscore
1. Have a focused menu - prioritise quality over quantity.

How many businesses have gone into trouble because they expanded their menu into something unsustainable? Unsustainability came from the chef and the team not having the time to put the required effort into each dish and from the fact that the food was no longer fresh because of the availability and storage options. Having so many dishes available diluted what was special about the restaurant. Having more doesn't mean better. Probably one of the first changes Ramsey makes is to reduce the options in the menu, understand what is available in the area, what dishes go best with the history and the uniqueness of the restaurant and redesign the dishes to stand out. This is one of the first things a strategy should also achieve - a clear focus for the company that highlights what is unique about your business and how you answer the customer's needs. How many times have businesses expanded into so many areas that they forgot their core purpose? When it comes to building a great strategy, the concept of quality over quantity is key.

2. Clear understanding of what makes you unique.

Gordon always spends time understanding the motivation behind the restaurant, the passion within each person who works there and what makes that place unique. He then takes all that information and he rebrands the restaurant and creates bespoke dishes that reflect the story of the restaurant. Knowing what makes you stand apart from competition and how your product solves a customer need is so important to your strategy. You can decide to double down on what makes you different, what delights your customers so that you can create a memorable experience. Humans are wired for stories and it is a missed opportunity not to share yours.

3. Understand your competition.

Even though the focus shouldn't be all about competition but on answering customer needs, it is important to have an understanding of key strengths, weaknesses, strategies and positions of the competition. I really enjoy seeing Ramsey walk around towns and cities, checking the competition's menu, positions, prices, and quality of food. While focusing on building your own identity and offering, it is still valuable to know where the competition is at. For restaurants, Ramsey always wants to understand where the next opportunity lies, maybe offering lower prices, lunch meal offers and what dishes are really missing. As part of strategy definition, do a competitor analysis and you can use SWOT model or the business model canvas to better understand your competition. In line with this, keep an eye on trends and changes in your industry and map that out.

4. Work collaboratively to execute the strategy.

Probably the most exciting part of the show is when Ramsey brings everyone who works at the restaurant together for open discussions. This group includes everyone from the owner, to the chef, to the waitresses and accountant. They discuss what is going well as well as what is not going well in a forum where he makes sure everyone is heard. The same group then shares ideas for how to move things forward. Any business is as good as the people within it. A strategy without buy-in and a clear action plan is not as valuable. Make the process of the strategy collaborative, bring diverse thinking and allow people to learn from each other. Spend time thinking about how you want to communicate your strategy to make sure everyone feels involved and they understand how they contribute. Having a small amount of 'dishes' also helps get everyone excited. I really like when the chef and his team get together and learn how to make the new dishes that Ramsey selected. The process reminds them of their motivation to why they became chefs and they start enjoying their day to day job.

5. Feedback directly from customers.

To complete the feedback loop, Ramsey hosts a night with a full restaurant and he spends time to understand how the customer needs have been fulfilled and what are the gaps. He always puts customers first and he trains everyone to do the same. As a product manager, there are so many other priorities and things to do, you can feel like running user research sessions or finding ways to keep in touch with customers is not the top priority but you are missing out on valuable insight. Building your strategy shouldn't be independent from customer needs. As part of the process, make sure to run some sessions and bring in themes that represent your audience. Coming back to point 4, ensure you share these insights to the wider team so that they can get involved. How many times did Ramsey take the chef out of the kitchen all the way to the customer table so that the customer can share good or bad feedback? The answer is countless times, probably every episode. Imagine you are doing the same but through your own process to create accountability and engagement from everyone in your team.

I hope this got you excited to watch or rewatch Kitchen Nightmares but most importantly, I hope it has brought a new, tangible perspective to strategy planning and key elements.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Diana Eugenia Matei

Diana Eugenia Matei
Senior Product Manager @ Clearscore

Diana is a product leader with over 8 years experience as a B2C and B2B Product Manager building innovative products from idea to launch in different size companies from large corporations, to start-up and scale-ups.

Her approach focuses on clear goals, collaboration, empowerment and experimentation. Check out her product coaching and consulting offering at [www.dmthepm.com](http://www.dmthepm.com).

As Senior Product Manager at ClearScore, Diana focus's on creating a tailored home experience that helps existing customers discover the value they can get from ClearScore.

Previously, Diana worked at thortful, growing the reach of apps and building an engaging experience for new and returning customers across iOS and Android.

Prior to thortful, she led the end to end product development process for the Gousto sign-up journey and the recipe inspiration product where she setup product discovery processes that led to a considerable conversion uplift.

Before this, she was Product Manager for internal products at Skyscanner and Tesco where she focused mainly on data products that led to millions of pounds of savings.

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