Everyone’s a winner in Ramsay’s Best Restaurant

Britain's reputation for dismal food and poor service gets an overhaul in this latest culinary contest

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Britain’s looking a little seedy these days. Escalating prices, shoddy goods, customer care lines that just don’t care, and meals out where the waiter only smiles when he presents you with the bill.

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So, if you’re feeling all clenched up with consumer frustration, I can guarantee Ramsay’s Best Restaurant will unravel those knotted innards. Billed as a competition to find the nation’s top eatery, there are no disappointments on the culinary front – but for me, it’s all about the fabulous customer service.

First on the menu of events, two of the competing restaurants lay on lunch for a busload of Ramsay’s mates, who arrive en masse and order simultaneously. It’s a challenge I suspect few Michelin-starred chefs would relish and these businesses are usually small concerns, often staffed by family members.

The presence of Ramsay in the kitchen, flapping about and undermining the very practices that presumably got the chefs on the show in the first place, hardly helps.

Out come the meals, invariably presented with the delicacy of a Japanese flower arrangement. Amazing to think that such marvels are being prepared daily in places like the family-owned Prashad, an Indian deli and restaurant tucked away in a Bradford backstreet.

The dazzling culinary skills are as nothing, however, to the miracles on view in the next round. This is when Ramsay announces to his mortified contestants that a couple of secret diners have visited their concerns under cover.

“Too spicy,” moans Ramsay’s stooge, her exacting demands recorded on hidden camera. “Too mild,” she whines, when a replacement dish is presented. Every time the waiter whips away the offending meal and returns with another freshly cooked delight.

On one occasion, the chef made two new meals so the aggrieved customer would not be further inconvenienced by starting her main course at a different time to her companion. In fact, the winner of the French round actually got ticked off by Ramsay for overdoing the freebies. This is not a problem I’ve experienced of late.

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How can just one of these businesses win when they all surpass so many big, familiar chains? This series should be required viewing for all CEOs. And has anyone wondered why a visit to a TV chef’s restaurant would cost a princely sum, while these entrepreneurs are achieving outstanding food and service at high-street prices?