Perhaps the most idiotic headline on the Huffington Post last week was the one on the homepage which read, "The Real Reason Kitchen Nightmares is Over?" And then, in a close second for Stupidest Headline of the Week was when you clicked through the link and got to the story itself -- "A Shocking 60 Percent Of Restaurants On 'Kitchen Nightmares' Are Closed."
The only shock to me is that 40% of the restaurants on Kitchens Nightmares are still open.
The implication behind that first headline, and within the article itself, is the idea that because so many restaurants featured on the show have closed, the series lost its credibility.
The article also notes that "Even more shockingly, almost 30 percent closed within one year of their episode airing (some even before)."
What's clear to me is that the Huffington Post and I have different definitions of the word, "Shocking."
I've read different statistics, but for the sake of fairness, let's go with the most conservative ones. And those say that withing their first year of opening, 25% of restaurants fail. So, 30% within a year of an episode's airing seems right in the ballpark (even taking into consideration that it's not actually the restaurant's first year).
And -- again, staying conservative -- the statistics say that within five years of opening, 60% close.
Consider now that Kitchen Nightmares has been on television for...TEN YEARS. I'd say that, with that in mind, their failure rate is pretty spot on. Actually, it's seems better than the norm.
Yes, I know that the very point of the show is to "fix" these restaurants. But keep in mind that these were restaurants that were in serious trouble -- not just on a culinary level, but financially. Owners regularly say that without the show, they might have to close the doors in a couple months. Among other things, this means that they generally have had huge debts. Improving your cuisine and management skills and maybe even (or not) your very personality still doesn't resolve those debts. Creditors want their money. The IRS demands its money.
For 40% of these restaurants in such dire shape for numerous reasons to still be open, on a show that's been broadcast for 10 years, is actually pretty good. Indeed, the very opposite of "shocking." And hardly even remotely a reason to stop production.
But I'll go a step further.
The figures "uncovered" in the story are hardly news of an amazing discovery.
After watching Kitchen Nightmares for a few years, I started a habit. I would record a show and check out first if the restaurant was still open or not. After all, I decided that I had little interest in investing both my time and my caring about whether the restaurant in question had a great re-opening if it turned out that the place had already closed. So, over the years, I would do very simple searches and found that most places had, in fact, not made it.
Actually, going further, the only "shock" to me about the Huffington Post's story was how high the success rate was! My own un-scientific checks seemed to turn out a much higher percentage of closures. That might well be because I was checking on reruns, often from quite a few years back, going back to the English series (which I preferred). so the restaurants by that point had had a few years to sink or swim.
And the thing is, too, for years there have been websites that kept a scorecard on how the restaurants on Kitchen Nightmares (and its British predecessor, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares) were doing. So, it was perfectly easy for anyone to simply do the most basic search in the world and find out.
And for years and years, it was brain-dead obvious that most of the restaurants over time closed. But some did make it now and then. So, for the Huffington Post to be "shocked" (!!) that such a shockingly high number of restaurants featured on Kitchen Nightmares had shockingly closed...AND that this is the reason the series might be going off the air is just plain idiotic. Not only because it's not remotely a shock, to anyone who cared to simply look, but also because the number is actually, in the real world, not particularly bad.
Shocking, I know.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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