The family-run restaurant operated by a father, and his seven children is a true nightmare. Purchased in 1997, the restaurant has not been able to pay his children, who have plenty of time to argue with each other, during the service, in front of and in earshot of the customers. The family depends on the restaurant for their survival, but the outlook is grim.
Gordon met with the children to get an insight into its problems; they all agreed that it was their father. His children work twelve hours a day without pay, and they are the only employees. He has no idea that the children met with Gordon first. When he entered the restaurant, he met Sam, who told him that the kids enjoyed being there and working without pay. Sam told Gordon that he would rate his food a nine on a scale from one-to-ten.
Gordon ordered a vegetarian combo, top sirloin steak & shrimp, and a few other items. When he looked around, he saw a rug that was worn out and had long strands of the material that should have been cut off, rather than left alone where someone could trip and fall. On the vegetarian combo, he asked if the eggplant was fresh? He was told it was canned. The meat was purchased frozen and then cooked. As the father questioned his son, an argument ensued which Gordon heard loud and clear. The lamb shank Gordon ordered was bland and anemic, like it was boiled in water. As the arguing proceeded, customers walked out. His medium-rare steak was well-done, and the shrimp was like rubber and floating in butter.
Gordon called the staff together for a talk. They did most of the talking and bickering with each other. Gordon took charge and asked Sam if he has given up? A larger argument prevailed, and Gordon asked the kids if they gave up? The kids were anxious to criticize each other, but nobody would take charge.
Gordon got a chance to talk with Sam's wife and asked her how she felt about the kids being in the restaurant all the time. She expressed her feelings that she wanted more for her children, but they are trapped there. As the evening service progressed, the customers returned dissatisfied plates back to the kitchen. Gordon then went to the walk-in to examine the stock. Rotted vegetables and food that laid to waste. The family was good at playing the blame game, but Sam is the man with his name on the restaurant. When Gordon came out to quell the argument, each had their own story. Gordon felt that the kids needed to tell their father how they felt. They must stand up to him, regardless of his feelings. So Gordon conducted the tribunal. The children, in turn told their father that they needed to do other things, but working seven days in the restaurant is not what they want. Sam did not understand their feelings, but he needed to know that his law is not the only law, and they were working there out of guilt. When Sam started to cry, the kids were heartbroken, but it needed to be said. All the kids and his wife were crying, but this was an urgent matter.
Once they all got it off their chest and professed their love for each other; Gordon proceeded to fix the rest of what was wrong in the restaurant. Gordon gave the kitchen staff a lesson to make better food.
His team refurbished the entire restaurant; no more ugly rug, broken chairs, no dingy and old look. The walls were bright and appealing, and the family was laughing and smiling instead of swearing and fighting.
After redesigning the Mediterranean menu, the restaurant reopened to happy customers and a clean new look. Gordon was smiling along with the family. One other thing happened; a schedule was made enabling the family to work with time off. Something that never appeared at the restaurant before; a help-wanted sign in the window. Thanks to Gordon and his staff at "Kitchen Nightmares."