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Ramsaywatch UK


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There are politics junkies who watch the words or actions of the big players, trying to extrapolate from the merest, possibly unintended slip what the parties are going to do next. It's based on paranoia and groundless speculation but it's compelling if that's what you're into.

Me? I'm a Gordo watcher. I'm fascinated by every move he makes, the motivations behind his personal and business decisions, the machinations of the Death Star that is GRH.

There's never, in the whole history of food and cooking, been an individual so high profile and surrounded by such carefully created and managed image - the comparison to a high profile politician is not lightly made.

So, as the web is the natural home for conspiracy theory and ill-informed speculation, I wondered if anyone else had any theories about what's going on Chez Ramsay.

There's definitely something happening. His missus has been set up in a nice little earner of her own. Gordo has spread himself wide in product endorsement. The debate about how many pass bars he can regularly attend seems to have gone off the radar. GRH seems to be almost stealth-opening gastropubs. The big GR hotel restaurants are closing. The individual 'proteges' are being permitted higher billing.... and the list goes on.

I'm not suggesting that these things are related to any single event but I think might be intriguing to speculate on the strategic directions behind any of it.

To me it seems like a general exercise in capitalisation on the GR brand whilst subtly creating elements that are insulated from dependence on the man himself.

Why? Have they reached a stage where he simply can't be stretched further? Is he about to change personal direction? Is his relationship with GRH going to change?

Any suggestions, guesses?

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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Harden’s is having a good time twisting the knife further, although I do thing that their spin about him being knocked off the top spot by… ehem… another one of his restaurants was just a piece of good PR. Doesn’t sound like a story of corporate failure to me.

However… his new place in Ireland does an awful lot to subscribe to the ‘spreading himself too thin’ theory.

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All the things you highlight would point towards the flotation of GRH sometime within the next 18 months.

There was a rash of articles a while back that he was looking to the City for capital. The City, I'm sure, will have told him that he would need to de-Bransonise the company. Nobody wants to invest in a one-man, one ring circus, no matter how big that ring may be.

But does Gordon really need the money? Well, the first thing to note is how much money it'd be. Let's say GRH hits its target of £100m turnover next year (up from c.£30m in 2004, apparently). If he's making a 10% pre-tax margin on that and the business is valued at 15 times earnings (fair for that kind of growth) you're looking at a company worth £150m.

Remember that's for the GRH group alone, rather than for Ramsay the Entertainer. It would not alter his ability to make reality TV and shill for Threshers -- activities which, I'd guess, now provide 90% of his income. So, by floating the restauraunts, he'll be swapping a barely significant slice of his pay packet for a whacking great lump sum and regular dividends that'll see him through to his pension.

The standard routine would be for Gordon to take a c.£50m windfall and stay on as "executive chairman" with a >30% stake. Key staff could be optioned up, while early investors (of which there must be many) would be given the chance to cash out. The company will probably raise some fresh money as well, with a lot of stuff in the prospectus about expansion and bolt-on acquisitions. The stealth openings you note would indicate that the company will be split into two divisions -- casual and posh -- in the hope that they can protect the premium brand while expansion accelerates.

As for the hotel franchises, this looks like a pruning back of anything that's not under sufficient group-level control. Such contracts are okay when you're a private business, which can absorb cashflow fluctuations. But when you're publicly owned, even one slip will result in a profit warning and an often fatal loss of credibility among shareholders.

As I say, the IPO willl probably happen within the next 18 months or so. The first thing to look for will be the appointment of a serious City person to GRH's board (my money would be on Stephen Gee). The second clue will be when Walnuts gives an interview that lambasts the quality of provincial gastropub food, and wishes a GRH-certified offalhouse on every town.

Edited by naebody (log)
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The big GR hotel restaurants are closing.

Hang on, it's just the Connaught isn't it? Claridges, Petrus, Maze and The Savoy are all still doing pretty well aren't they?

The Savoy closes in December for a 16 month refurbishment. Its been rumoured that Ramsay won't re-open there. San Francisco based chef Michael Mina'a name has been connected with the hotel here for example.

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The big GR hotel restaurants are closing.

Hang on, it's just the Connaught isn't it? Claridges, Petrus, Maze and The Savoy are all still doing pretty well aren't they?

The Savoy closes in December for a 16 month refurbishment. Its been rumoured that Ramsay won't re-open there. San Francisco based chef Michael Mina'a name has been connected with the hotel here for example.

Very interesting, thanks Andy. I decided his heart has never been in Claridges anyway when I reviewed it...

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Both the Devonshire and the new Coach and Horses (working title) in Camden were independent gastropubs that appear to have run out of money close to launch or soon after (I don't know the Warwick well enough to comment). GRH have ridden in like the cavalry and inherited boxfresh operations in interesting areas without much effort or as much investment as one might expect.

Rumour suggests there are at least 8 other gastropubs in their sites but the intriguing bit is that they're all in slightly off-the-beaten-track locations.

Are they actually intended to succeed or are they a cheap way of making a statement?

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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Rumour suggests there are at least 8 other gastropubs in their sites but the intriguing bit is that they're all in slightly off-the-beaten-track locations.

Are they actually intended to succeed or are they a cheap way of making a statement?

Am I talking to myself here? It's transparently obvious what the plan is. Everything GRH does at the moment is being done because it will look good on a Powerpoint presentation.

Within the next year or so, you're going to get the chance to buy shares in the group. They're preparing to convince you (or, more likely, your pension fund) that it's a good deal.

Why open gastropubs?

Because they're a means of expanding the business without diluting Brand Ramsay.

Why is it being done by buying struggling businesses rather than with newbuilds?

Because everyone knows that the gastropub market is already saturated. This way, investors can be told: "under its old ownership, this pub made £1,000 a week. Three months after we took it over, it was making £10,000." They're not creating new businesses, they're applying efficient management and economies of scale to old ones.

Why the odd locations?

Because there's only one Mayfair, but there are a thousand Maida Vales. There's no reason why a formula that works in the affluent suburbs of London cannot work in the affluent suburbs of anywhere. Therefore: limitless expansion potential.

Why the lack of publicity?

Because if every new opening came with the usual Ramsay circus, there would be a law of diminishing returns. The hype attached to The Narrow established in most people's minds that Walnuts was moving into gastropubs. Now the trick is to keep the buzz local. Most of the folk of Chiswick will be aware that one has opened on their doorstep, but I doubt many other Londoners would have noticed. So, when one opens on their doorstep, it'll be a more exciting prospect than a Carluccio's or a branch of Chicken Cottage.

What happens to the destination restaurants?

I'd guess this part of the business will become more like a talent agency. It'll "nurture" Angela, Sarge, Mark, Bjorn et al, who will ride in the slipstream of Ramsay's Don King-style hype as he opens in Nobu-ish locations (I'm thinking LA, Miami, Paris, Qatar, Dubai, Shanghai). This is going to be a separate division from the gastropub business, and may well be a different company entirely.

What happens to Ramsay himself?

He will move from being rich to being un-be-lievably rich. (Anyone doubting this motive need only watch his adverts for BT, Gordon's Gin, Threshers, etc. etc. etc.)

Edited by naebody (log)
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Am I talking to myself here? 

No.

But thinking to oneself "that analysis sounds perfectly plausible" isn't usually justification for a post !

However, purely to reassure you :wink: --

That analysis sounds perfecty plausible, Naebody! :smile:

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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What happens to the destination restaurants?

I'd guess this part of the business will become more like a talent agency. It'll "nurture" Angela, Sarge, Mark, Bjorn et al, who will ride in the slipstream of Ramsay's Don King-style hype as he opens in Nobu-ish locations (I'm thinking LA, Miami, Paris, Qatar, Dubai, Shanghai). This is going to be a separate division from the gastropub business, and may well be a different company entirely.

What happens to Ramsay himself?

He will move from being rich to being un-be-lievably rich. (Anyone doubting this motive need only watch his adverts for BT, Gordon's Gin, Threshers, etc. etc. etc.)

Some destination restaurants are more important to him than others. I think he's deadly serious about his ambition to have a 3* restaurant in London (so far so good), New York (2* already, expect a major push here, hence the US Hell's Kitchen to keep him on the publicity radar over there) and Paris (big plans for Versailles). He's talked about this quite a lot and I'd say it's not just about Ramsay the brand but also driven by Ramsay the ego. He likes to be the definitive best at whatever he does.

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...

Am I talking to myself here? ...

Certainly not - I'm just a little awestruck by the perspicacity of your observations. My lips were moving... little appreciative grunts were coming out, but this is the first time I've been able to make a coherent response :)

The GRH publicity machine has obviously made strenuous efforts to suppress any public discussion of the more questionable elements of Rambo's behaviour. Can we assume that the great financial behemoth it will become will be immune to any revelations?

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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It's transparently obvious what the plan is. Everything GRH does at the moment is being done because it will look good on a Powerpoint presentation.

Yes. What he said. Exactly, verbatim, word for word*.

Cheers

Thom

*Variations on that response have got me, for better or worse, to where I am today...

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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There are politics junkies who watch the words or actions of the big players, trying to extrapolate from the merest, possibly unintended slip what the parties are going to do next. It's based on paranoia and groundless speculation but it's compelling if that's what you're into.

Like Metternich's fabled musing on hearing that the arch-plotter Talleyrand had died: "I wonder what he meant by that...."

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The GRH publicity machine has obviously made strenuous efforts to suppress any public discussion of the more questionable elements of Rambo's behaviour. Can we assume that the great financial behemoth it will become will be immune to any revelations?

In a sense. Think of it more as an exercise in making GRH big enough to catch Ramsay when he falls. He will become the company figurehead, heading up a unit that sells lobster ravioli to holidaymakers while the £5 oxtail soup concept is rolled out nationwide.

Nothing can make you invulnerable to tabloid sludge and public weariness. But, once there is an aggregation of power, the financial damage will rarely be fatal. This is a well-trodden path for dealing with charismatic leaders. For example, the EasyJet moneymen did much the same with Stelios, a man whose ego easily equals our Glaswegian friend.

Another item for the prosecution: there's no single brand for the gastropubs. Someone's chosen to sacrifice the priceless recognition value you'd get from rolling out a chain of Little Swearys. Not to ride on the Ramsay hype seems counter-intuitive. But I guess that this way, investors (of which he is the largest) may still have a viable business once Rambo meets his destiny.

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The GRH publicity machine has obviously made strenuous efforts to suppress any public discussion of the more questionable elements of Rambo's behaviour. Can we assume that the great financial behemoth it will become will be immune to any revelations?

In a sense. Think of it more as an exercise in making GRH big enough to catch Ramsay when he falls. He will become the company figurehead, heading up a unit that sells lobster ravioli to holidaymakers while the £5 oxtail soup concept is rolled out nationwide.

And considering his concentration in hotels (and despite his change of direction with the Connaught), maybe add general hotel catering to the strategy? Airline food next?

Edited by Corinna Dunne (log)
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But I guess that this way, investors (of which he is the largest) may still have a viable business once Rambo meets his destiny.

(LOL at the link)

...or, indeed sets fire to his testicles.

Aside from the aggressively managed spin which somehow conspired to make it a result of his astonishing sexual potency, how the fuck did he manage that? Ignorance of rudimentary kitchen safety, a 'senior moment' or did his fragrant Missus just pour coffee down his jammies in a moment of blind rage?

(ETA) How tall is he anyway? I've just spent twenty minutes in the kitchen slapping my privates at the range and I'm damned if I can work out how he did it. Either the man's 7'8" or he climbed on a chair to drop his leathery cods into the skillet.

Edited by Tim Hayward (log)

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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(ETA) How tall is he anyway? I've just spent twenty minutes in the kitchen slapping my privates at the range and I'm damned if I can work out how he did it. Either the man's 7'8" or he climbed on a chair to drop his leathery cods into the skillet.

That conjures a very specific -- and not particularly pleasant -- mental image.

-drew

www.drewvogel.com

"Now I'll tell you what, there's never been a baby born, at least never one come into the Firehouse, who won't stop fussing if you stick a cherry in its face." -- Jack McDavid, Jack's Firehouse restaurant

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I clearly shouldn't have bothered with such in depth journalistic research. Looks like Ramses just made it up.

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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I particulrly liked...

When asked whether her husband was given the all clear by the doctors, she replied: "The dull ache is absolutely fine. All checked and all fine...It's old age."

Now there's loyalty.

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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And from the advert in the Guardian today it looks like you can read even more about him in the forthcoming Observer Food Monthly.  He is on the front cover, and seems to have forgotten his shirt again.  :biggrin:

Ooops! Silly old Gordo. :hmmm:

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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