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Gordon Ramsay – a guerrilla UX consultant?

How many of you are familiar with the infamous Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares tv show? It features the famous chef, Gordon Ramsay, who visits a struggling restaurant and has one week to turn it around. As I started watching the series (the UK version first), I couldn’t help but noticed that there was many similarities between what Gordon Ramsay does and what we do in the user experience field (potentially, minus all the F-words).

I decided to share my thoughts about whether Gordon Ramsay is a guerrilla user experience (UX) consultant at yesterday’s BarCamp Canberra. BarCamp Canberra is the very first of many, I hope, BarCamps to be held in our capital. For those not familiar with BarCamps, Wikipedia defines it as:

An international network of unconferences — open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants — focusing on early-stage web applications, and related open source technologies and social protocols.

The Canberra BarCamp covered a wide range of topics, including design, social networking, open source and future technologies topics.

Defining user experience

In my presentation titled Ruth’s UX Nightmares, we briefly covered the meaning of user experience:

All aspects of an individual’s perception and interaction with a company, its services, and its products

Designing a product (whether it is a website, web application, a service, or a physical product) is not just about the actual product. It’s about the broader meaning of design (which was covered nicely in Darren Menachemson’s talk on Broadening design thinking). This means thinking about all aspects of the product, from the look and feel, interaction design, information design, help services (online and offline), the physical interactions that may exist with the organisation and the customer, as well as the context of use.

In Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, some of the UX elements that Ramsay looks at include:

  • Amount of choice on the menu – too many choices that are presented to the customer can cause confusion
  • Price of food
  • Quality of food – is the food sourced locally? Is it fresh or is it frozen/packet food?
  • Quality and timing of service
  • Staff attitudes
  • Décor (visual elements)
  • Layout of restaurant
  • Brand perception
  • Interaction between the front of house service and kitchen

What this shows is that there are many elements that form the user experience. They all need to be considered together in the context to run a successful business or product.

The Gordon Ramsay Guerrilla UX Method

The Gordon Ramsay Guerrilla UX Method is a tongue-in-cheek look at a simplified UX life cycle of research, design, testing and implementation. Ramsay’s methods align with many UX techniques.


The key idea of research is to gain an understanding of the business and the users that will be using the products that you are designing. Gordon Ramsay achieves this by:

  • Conducting expert reviews where he always tries the food of the restaurant that he’s helping.
  • Running contextual inquiry where he observes the way the chefs are working in the kitchen, as well as how customers are serviced.
  • Conducts user interviews to find out what people are thinking about the food and the restaurant. He often does this by walking about the city/town and asking passer bys about the restaurant.
  • Doing a competitor analysis to find out about the other restaurants in the area. He’s then able to recommend whether a new direction is needed with the restaurant, such as the recent US episode where Ramsay recommended a move to healthy food to best service the health spa area that the restaurant was located in.
  • Researching the business – for example, where to source the freshest products such as fish from local fisherman rather than importing frozen fish from overseas.


Much of Gordon Ramsay’s design methods are about simplifying the product being presented to the customer, while maximising the quality. In the La Parra de Burriana episode, the owner was offering 72 dishes to customers, including his signature dish – prawns in garlic, with chocolate sauce. After a few choice words from Gordon Ramsay, the new menu was simplified to a few key dishes that could be handled by the staff.

Surprisingly, Gordon Ramsay also looks at navigation and orientation. In the Moore Place episode, customers were confused upon entering the restaurant. It wasn’t clear where they had to go next. After a physical restructure of the layout, customers were guided to the dining room with no chance to get side tracked.

The design of the décor is a big factor in every episode. Gordon Ramsay almost always recommends a simple elegant style to fit with the simpler menus on offer.


User testing is another key factor with Gordon Ramsay hitting the streets with various products on offer. My favourite is the giblets club sandwich user testing from the La Riviera episode. The key message is to offer products that people want, rather than what you think they want.

5 rules

I finished the presentation with five Gordon Ramsay’s rules applied to UX. These are:

  1. Keep it f***ing simple
  2. Customers, customers, customers – it’s about knowing your users and thinking about the entire user experience
  3. Communication is key
  4. Know what you’re doing – do your research and make sure that you understand the context and the constraints
  5. Be passionate! Gordon says “cook from the heart!”

I’ll probably expand this in a separate post.

The presentation

Note: I’ve been having issues uploading my presentation to slideshare, so you may notice some funny stuff happening. There are a few slides in there which are appearing with a red background and it shouldn’t look that way! It looks fine in the original presentation. Weird….

The verdict

The very first BarCamp Canberra was a success. I thoroughly enjoyed the day. Thanks to the unorganisers (Andrew Boyd, Stephen Collins, Simon Pascal Klein and Nathanael Boehm) and to the generous sponsors.

You can catch many of the great presentations on slideshare and photos on flickr. There’s also the twitter stream and video will be available soon.

Edit 22 April 2008: The podcasts from BarCamp Canberra #1 are now available.

Published inConferencesUser experience


  1. Ruth, Thanks for a terriffic presentation. It was a brilliant parrallel and discussion between our trade and the weird and wonderful world of Mr Ramsay.

    I do wonder though if perhaps it could lend itself to a vodcast of some sort.

    Thanks for the recap in this post also, I enjoyed the presentation so much I forgot to take notes!

  2. Great presentation Ruth! I thought I had missed yours – but it’s all coming back to me now :-)

  3. Thank you for the great presentation.

    Did you by chance just install wp-typogrify? (:

  4. It was a fantastic presentation – although there wasn’t enough swearing ;-)

  5. Pat Pat

    I guess great minds think alike hey Ruth? :)
    Gordon really is a bit of a role model in terms of the come-in-and-sort-us-out style of consulting. Just today I had a conversation with a colleague about how a client needed “a Ramsay job” done on them.
    (It has been pointed out to me that what we see on TV might not be reality and that there are probably a team of consultants/producers calling the shots behind the scenes, but I choose not to believe that)

  6. Looks like it was a great presentation, shame I missed it (comes from living on the wrong side of Australia)

    Thank you for the recap and slides, interesting, entertaining and got me thinking.

  7. You know, people should get even more passionate about UI than the brutally honest Gordon Ramsay. After all, if one pub’s food tastes like crap, it affects maybe 500 punters in a week.

    BUT… if it’s an app or site that denies people an enjoyable experience, or their time, trying to work around it’s crappy UI (iCal, I’m looking at you) than we’re talking tens or hundreds of thousands of people every week who are suffering a crappy experience.

    There’s an archetypal story about Jobs putting pressure on the original Macintosh developers to shave seconds off the boot-up time — his reasoning was that every few seconds saved for each day while someone waited, resulted in thousands of hours of humankinds time overall. His math may have been off in the end — but the point remains — NEVER in history has there been such an opportunity to leverage the work of a few to save the time of the many.

  8. And I will Add – twas a great talk Ruth! I’ve now discovered an enjoyed the Gordon Ramsay series thanks to youtube and you! :-)

  9. Ruth Ellison Ruth Ellison

    A very belated thank you to all of you for your comments.

    @Simon Pascal Klein – not yet, but I’m looking into it :)

    @Keith Lang – that’s true. In many of the organisations I’ve worked in, the changes we were doing were affecting thousands of people (whether customers or staff). Talking about Gordon Ramsay, I prefer his UK TV series than the American ones.

  10. hi my name is olivia im 10 and im a big fan of chef ramsay .he has inspired me to cook

  11. A rolling stone is worth two in the bush, thanks to this article.

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