Famously foulmouthed chef Gordon Ramsay is set to open up to 100 new restaurants across America. Having grown his cultural presence via shows like Kitchen Nightmares and Hell’s Kitchen, the British cooking extraordinaire has now built a vast empire.
His restaurant group, Gordon Ramsay Restaurants, is thought to be finalising negotiations with a London and Los Angeles-based private equity firm. According to reports, Lion Capital is set to provide a significant investment which will help finance operations in the UK and fund a considerable expansion stateside. It’s thought that this will provide the capacity to open up to 100 US restaurants.
This comes at a time when Ramsay’s restaurant company has hit headlines for trademarking “Great Burger” - an area where the group has already seen success and a name which seems like a nod to the 1997 Kenan and Kell movie Good Burger.
Of course, Ramsay is no stranger to grilling a puck of ground beef and putting it between two halves of a brioche bun. While his name is synonymous with fine dining, this simple dish typifies his straightforward approach using only the best ingredients.
Without wanting to reinvent the wheel, at Gordon Ramsay Burger, the TV chef has managed to add a touch of class to an American staple. As for price points, only time will tell whether Great Burger, if this is to be the brand’s name, will offer a cheaper alternative to the $17 burgers at Gordon Ramsay Burger.
Ramsay is likely to bolster his offering in favourite locations such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City, though with the potential to launch so many restaurants, there could be plenty of other towns and cities getting a sprinkling of the Ramsay magic.
But with so many new locations, who will helm these burger spots? Well, in an interview with City AM, Ramsay said of finding protégés: “The ones that get successful early are the ones with the natural ability, the instinct and the discipline to know where to draw the line, to know when not to add a puree or a golden caviar - to know when ‘that’s it’. But if you’re not careful, that level of perfectionism can be your undoing, because everything around you needs to function. Eventually you need to let go.”
The news of this potential investment also comes at a time when rival British chef Jamie Oliver has broken his silence on the scaling back of his restaurant empire. The television personality and prolific cookbook author admitted in August that he had “two hours” to save his restaurant business by injecting his own money into it.
His portfolio, which was mainly made up of his chain Jamie’s Italian, has gone from 43 to 25 restaurants. “We had simply run out of cash,” he told the Financial Times, “and we hadn’t expected it. That is just not normal, in any business. You have quarterly meetings. You do board meetings. People supposed to manage that stuff should manage that stuff.”
“I had two hours to put money in and save it or the whole thing would go to shi*t that day or the next day,” he added. “It was as bad as that and as dramatic as that.” Jamie Oliver has had trouble creating a stable restaurant business in the UK and he estimates that he “f*cked up” at least 40 per cent of his ventures.
But while these sweary, British, TV chefs clearly have a few things in common, Lion Capital will be hoping that bad luck isn’t one of them. Describing itself as a “consumer-focused investor passionate about investing in brands about which people are passionate,” Lion Capital is clearly attracted to Ramsay’s fiery... passion.
“We embrace the power of brands,” they explain on their website, “seek them out in our personal lives and have developed a unique understanding of how to translate the potential of a true brand into growth and superior financial performance.”
However, while traditionally seen as a very risky investment, the restaurant business is actually far more stable than people tend to think. The old adage of “most new restaurants fail in their first year” made it into an advert for the oft unwelcome American Express credit card. Claiming that “most” was in fact 90 per cent, the actual figure is more like 17 per cent.
Furthermore, Ramsay has proven the concept already by launching a fleet of restaurants. That said, an additional 100-location chain would almost quadruple his portfolio. Before long, every major city in America could have a Great Burger to boast about.