The celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has said it is good that the Covid-19 pandemic wiped the slate clean of “crap” restaurants.
In an interview with the former shadow chancellor Ed Balls in Radio Times, Ramsay argues that while the past two years have been “devastating” for the restaurant industry, the upside is “the crap’s gone”.
Promoting his new BBC One primetime show, Gordon Ramsay’s Future Food Stars, in which 12 food and drink entrepreneurs vie to go into business with Ramsay, he said the pandemic had taught everyone in the industry to “raise their game”.
As well as independent businesses, hundreds of restaurant chains closed branches for good, including Carluccio’s, Byron Burger, Ask, Zizzi, Bella Italia, Café Rouge, Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquitos, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Pizza Express.
The restaurant and wider hospitality sector was one of the industries hit hardest during the pandemic with misery caused for hundreds of thousands of people who lost their jobs or missed out on seasonal employment. The trade association UK Hospitality said at its peak there were almost 700,000 jobs affected – a combination of job losses plus jobs that did not happen due to tourist seasons being heavily affected.
Asked by Balls if business was returning to the hospitality industry, Ramsay said: “The business was on its ass, but it’s getting better… It’s been devastating the last two years. Landlords don’t say, ‘Take a holiday for two years’. But I think what has been evident for all of us is the crap’s gone. “
Pressed if he was referring to particular chains, Ramsay said: “Well, just shitholes in a prime position and taking advantage because they’re in a great location, and they’ve got the footfall. But now we’ve wiped the slate clean, which is good. “
He added: “Customers have got so much smarter in the last two years. They know a lot more about food than they ever have done and have been making their own sourdough, so it’s taught everyone [in the restaurant industry] to raise their game… It’s wiped the arrogance from the industry. “
Ramsay also defended his lockdown trip to his home in Cornwall, saying it gave him cherished time with his children.
He said: “We got there at an appropriate time and had an absolutely amazing time. And a time like that – we’ll never get back again.
“When the kids started disappearing again, I didn’t want it to end – as a dad, not a chef.”