Restaurant Revisited: Mama Lee’s

by in Shows, May 2nd, 2012

Mama Lee'sWhen Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team visited Mama Lee’s soul food restaurant in San Antonio, it had never turned a profit and was just weeks away from closing down. A few months after Robert’s major revamp — he even called in reinforcements from HGTV’s Kitchen Cousins — we caught up with Ken, the owner, to see how business is going.

Four months later, Mama Lee’s is closer to turning a profit. Sales are up 15 percent and Ken is seeing many new customers in addition to his old regulars. With the increase in sales, he is slowly catching up on overdue bills.

Ken still feels reinvigorated as a leader. “We’re holding staff meetings every other Sunday,” he told us, in order to address service issues and discuss customer feedback. “I’m re-energized.”

The restaurant is now a source of pride for Ken and his crew. They are cleaning the new kitchen daily, and the vents are cleaned once a week. Weekly visits from the exterminator have eliminated the roach problem. “The guys are taking pride in the restaurant, and that is reflected in our actions.”

The new decor is a big hit with customers, who talk most about the frying-pan flowers on the walls. Ken’s favorite part is the new bar. He has applied for a liquor license, which he expects will help boost sales even higher.

More from Restaurant Revisited:

Valley View (March 14)

Pelican Grill (April 25)

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Comments (1,095)

  1. Guest says:

    After reading about the treatment of customers. I will not be going to Mama Lee's. I do not believe in bigotry .

  2. DBF says:

    A comment to Felicia, regarding customer service…

    Felicia, as soon as you had this sense you should have pointed it out to management. Even if it meant not eating there. This is much bigger than whether or not you tip a waitress. A good manager, someone trying to be successful would not allow that behavior in his employees. Ken seemed like he genuinely wanted the restaurant which honors his mother to be successful. You really should have given him this feedback.

    I respect your complaint, but if you never made management aware, you sort of did them a disservice. If you can, take a few minutes to make the complaint, because Ken (or any restaurant owner) doesn't want that attitude with his staff or that type of review.

  3. Judomama says:

    I agree with Dave from 15 weeks ago. I hate having to log onto this website to find out about outcomes at the restaurants from your shows. This is actually the first time I was able to get all the way on to the site before I was distracted by kids and life. Robert, I love you but I barely have time to watch your show!!! Give me a break and give me the update at the end of the show. Instant gratification ALWAYS trumps "go see.". Besides, when I need food network I log on.

    IDEA: give me the option to sign up for email updates and recipes…then you get my contact info! Thanks.

    • Virginia Furry says:

      Couldn't agree more. I love watching the restaurant makover shows with Robert, but really would like to see the results of the show months later. I don't really have the time to go to computer and look it up, and in most cases, when I do go to the computer, I've forgotten the restaurant's name I'm interested in

    • Jason says:

      I agree. The first 3 seasons gave us updates at the end of the show, now we have to go to a confusing website where videos sometimes works and sometimes dont (im in the UK). I think it needs to be on… website: impossible, as this is a terrible website.

    • Carolyn says:

      I agree, I'm not going to get up and "log on" to get the results of a show. I am about to turn off the series and record something else because the show is not complete but left hanging with "log in" to see the results of the hard work.

  4. pat delavega says:

    I love RI !! What all of you do is outstanding by helping people who need it the most. I'm just amazed at how much everyone can get done in the short amount of time & w/very little financial backing–My hats off to you all for the wonderful job you all are doing ! It's one of my favorite shows !

  5. DYopp says:

    I must agree with the other comments, I feel that you should provide updates at the end of the show. It is the viewers "reveal" and driving the viewer to the website is a cheap marketing tool which is frustrating. Love the show.

    • Carol Howell says:

      I adore you Robert and I think you do an amazing job. I love your approach, your teaching method, your heart and compassion. I have nothing negative to say about you. I wish i could give you a hug for all your efforts.. so consider yourself hugged. I do agree updates at the end of the show or via email we can sign up would be better.. from the viewer perspective! Great job Robert~

  6. Randy G says:

    I don't think the Food Network will ever show negative failures. Love the show, but too much staged, phoney and why in the hell does he only have 2 days………and HE does not get the job done with only $10K. If that is the case, come and do my house and I WILL give you $10K……….

    • SEAL says:

      they have shown failures on the show.

    • Julie - Florida, says:

      He only has two days because the show is called "Restaurant Impossible" not Restaurant Makeover. Thats the concept of the show. The $10,000. is only for product, not labor.
      They do show failure, ie Valley View. If you look at their blog is states in the update that they have closed.

    • Janet R says:

      Replying to Randy G. I'm pretty sure the reason for expediting the opening of the restaurant is because each day the restaurant is closed it is money down the drain. Therefore, they need to do everything they can to open the business as quickly as possible.

  7. Pappy says:

    FN must be doing something right to get 1025 people to come to their website to post kudos and complaints about this show. But, I do agree with most of the posts about the updates at the end of each show vs having to go to the FN website for any update. FN; do the end of show updates and then tell people to go to the website for more info and updates; finish the show, and then if people want more info they can go to your website. I am entertained with all of Robert's shows, but you are letting his and your viewers down by not completing his hard work. Thanks.

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  9. Dima says:

    15% increase in sales after all that work??? Is that really a success?

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