Restaurant Revisited: Zandi’s

by in Shows, July 25th, 2012


At Zandi’s in Millersville, Md., sisters and co-owners Evette Aponte and Yvonne Zandi were just a few months from closing down when Robert Irvine showed up. He was discouraged to find not only lackluster food, poor service and tired decor, but a lack of passion on the part of the owners. A few months after their emotional Restaurant: Impossible makeover, we checked in with Evette and Yvonne to see how business is going.

Since Robert’s Restaurant: Impossible intervention, sales at Zandi’s are up 39%. They’ve gone from roughly 30 customers per day up to 70. Evette and Yvonne are slowly catching up on their debt and will soon be able to start paying their mother back.

Evette and Yvonne have made great headway to get the word out about their restaurant and its out-of-the-way location. They fax out specials for the day to local businesses and have distributed menus around town. “We’re also the main sponsor for a local high school; they put our business information on their sporting event handouts such as cups, shirts and rally towels,” they explain.

“Everyone loves the new look! Our favorite changes are the new floor and [interior designer] Taniya’s wall art.” Evette and Yvonne’s mom also likes the changes and is optimistic that business will continue to grow.

The chef that the owners hired, Alan, is no longer at the restaurant. The sisters were able to find a new replacement who has impressed everyone so far. Zandi’s used to hire chefs based solely on their resumes; now, thanks to Robert, they have any chef candidate cook for them as part of the interview process.

Regarding the menu, Evette and Yvonne learned from Robert that less is more, and they’ve stuck with “fewer menu items prepared really well opposed to a lot of items done mediocre.” Customers love the burgers, and milkshake sales are picking up for the summer. They are now gearing up to start serving dinner a few nights a week and are working to secure a beer and wine license.

“Our passion is back and gets stronger as we slowly get caught up on our debt,” Evette and Yvonne say. “We are proud to say we own Zandi’s.”

More from Restaurant Revisited:

The Main Dish (July 18)

Longbranch Steak and Seafood (July 11)

Horton’s Kids (June 13)

Pollard’s (May 30)

University Grill (May 23)

Ristorante Barolo (May 16)

Pappas (May 9)

Mama Lee’s (May 2)

Pelican Grill (April 25)

Valley View (March 14)

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Comments (330)

  1. Guest says:

    If this is a hamburger, sandwich and milkshake grill…why does their website sport a huge deep dish pizza? Just asking…I would recommend updating it to a cute photo of a hamburger and milkshake!

  2. DEFHemp says:

    I wish both of these ladies well. They seem so nice and charming. I am glad they are fighting again. I will follow them on facebook.

  3. Daniel Rean says:

    I saw the episode tonight. I am an executive chef at a popular restaurant in portsmouth NH. I cant stand 90% of owners who think they can throw a DINNER PARTY ,OR WHO HAVE WORKED AT ONE ONE PLACE ,AND THINK THEY WILL SIT BACK AND COLLECT A PAYCHECK. It sickens me that foodnetwork has turned everyone into a wannbe food critic. I like this show but, it seems to be an excercise in futility most of the time. Those of us in the bizz know that location and consistancy of the meals are the keys to a good business. I could do everthing that robert does and most skilled chefs could. These girls were clueless and deserve to fail without a TV show bail out.

    • Ike says:

      Portsmouth? I didnt realize that new lamesire was such a foodie mecca. What do you serve? Clams and lobsta? I'm pretty sure Mass and Maine does it better than an afterthought on I- 95. Oh, and Red Sox suck.

      • Daniel Rean says:

        Really? I am not saying the town is a foodie mecca. If you live around here, the after though on 95 is the place to go out to eat. I know ther are plenty of great restaurants in ME and Boston. There are also Good ones in NH seacost region. Take a trip to portsmouth and you wont be dissapointed. The restaurant is Radici, check out the menu online and the reviews. We are a good local restaurant. I have been there for ten years and we have never needed a bail out. The red sox do suck, take it easy on portsmouth Ike.

    • Isaac says:

      What a nasty outlook you have. Nobody DESERVES to fail. Everybody is entitled to their dreams. We all learn by doing, attempting, maybe failing and then learning from the experience. Maybe you are Mr. perfect, but I'm guessing your supercilious personality is the result of an inferiority complex. It usually is. Oh, and before you write publicly, learn some grammar and how to spell.

      • James says:

        You are correct on all counts, Isaac.

      • Guy says:

        No they are not. Just as my job is not an entitlement, no one is entitled to own and stay in business especially if they do not know what they're doing. Period.

        • Customer says:

          And that's why these folks called on RI to help them out.
          Big difference if you just sit on your thumbs and whine about not making it….but if you ask for help and change…that takes guts to admit you're wrong and change for the better.

        • The Dude says:

          This show is the epitome of modern "Conservative" mantra of not just giving a man a fish, but teaching him how to fish…WHILE sticking an awesome fishing rod in his hand. Of course one's job isn't "an entitlement". This show provides people with education, opportunity and charity. Are you honestly saying you're against these things?

    • Seamus G says:

      Ive been to radici it has good food im from manchester,nh. Portsmouth has good places to eat like most places in nh.

    • tootie says:

      Wanted to disagree with you're pompous statements, but for some reason it won't register-how many others had this problem?

    • Chris says:

      The TV show didn't bail them out. They still have to make it happen. They still have to prove they can do this. The show merely helped them out of a small rough spot. If they don't learn from the experience they will still fail. You should be applauding people trying to learn to do it right instead of berating them. No matter your level of knowledge you should ALWAYS welcome people who truly want to learn to do it right.

    • Ace says:

      Good thing you were born perfect, eh? You never have needed anything from anyone. Good for you! You've made it this far totally on your own. No mentor or school, or anything. No one showed you how to run a kitchen, eh? You were just born with the knowledge. That's amazing!

      People like Robert and the folks at the Food Network do a great service in helping out people who are clueless. So what? It works.

      It keeps people in their restaurants and keeps everyone working = it helps the community.

    • tarc says:

      Foodnetwork didn't turn people into food critics – they (in small part) taught them not to accept garbage for their hard earned dollars.

    • Rick says:

      Mr. Rean, I have to disagree about "…everyone into a wannbe food critic…" comment. Every single person that eats my food is a "food critic" and they review my performance as a chef with their business and their word of mouth reviews. I am hoping as a fellow chef that I misunderstood your statement as I have run across chefs that have the mindset of if someone has a issue with a dish it is because that person "does not know what good food is." I mean come on people know what tastes good to them and we as chefs should at least listen and try to understand their point of view. Sorry, I will stop ranting and did not mean to rant at you.

      • Karl says:

        Rick I am a culinary student in Baltimore and I couldn't agree with you more. The only thing that Mr. Rean wrote that was correct was that our food needs to be consistent as well as the service. Thats what makes a good restaurant. I think Mr. Rean needs an ego check

    • Joanne says:

      That is just mean, sounds like sour grapes. I do not know if the economy being the way it is has affected you or your area but with unemployment the way it is I give them credit for trying to improve their business instead of walking away. Small businesses are what keeps the economy going, if people like Yvonne & Evette did not try there would be no growth. I hope they continue to do well, I stopped in and got breakfast to go as I was in their neighborhood. I plan on taking my grandsons up there for burgers & fries soon. I wonder what in life you are "clueless" about. I hope Robert and the Food Network continue to help people fulfill their dreams and entertain the rest of us with cooking shows, competitions, and restaurant shows.

    • steve says:

      You can't stand that someone who invested money in a business got help? As if you never had help getting to where you are?

    • B. Siegman says:

      Not everyone is an executive chef. There are plenty of little restaurants in the world that fill a need for simple, unpretentious meals. These girls may have "deserved to fail" in your world, but in my world people should be allowed to grow and learn. I don't know how or if they did but they deserve to succeed if they can improve.

    • Ashamed of NH says:

      Wow. I lived in Portsmouth for years, and yet never made my way over to Radici because we couldn't afford it. Sake across the street was cheaper and not terrible Japanese food. I'm kind of glad for that now; what a terrible attitude you have. Will make a note to never eat there if we are lucky enough to return to the Seacoast area.

  4. Kathy says:

    I think the best thing for the restaraunt would be to put a sign out by the highway just like the one inside.

    • Ike says:

      I absolutely agree. Anyone who knows the area knows they are located near Interstate 97 between Annapolis and Baltimore. There are businesses in that corridor that advertise prominently. They could also seek to add their names to an exit sign or they could "sponsor" a mile of the highway. We live about ten miles away, but will be going soon for a burger and a milkshake!

      • Beverly says:

        I'm less than a mile away. Can't wait to give it a try. I think I want one of those Maryland Crabcakes. If they make great crabcakes, they could have lines waiting to eat there. I agree, obviously these ladies did nothing to market the site or get a chef or anything just as Robert said, but that ship has sailed already. I wish them well, but I never thought the chef would stay, probably left because they couldn't afford to pay him what he wanted or was worth. But, in impromptu situations like this, I wouldn't expect anything to stay the same. They're still in the afterglow.

  5. dave says:

    ten dollars the two ladies from Zandi's, will turn their place into a burger and beer dive inside six months.

  6. JavaJim says:

    First let me say that the show makes for 'entertaining television', however… Let's do the math a moment… This formerly "failing" restaurant now has a whopping SEVENTY customers a day (better than 30… but a "success"??)!! Even IF they were fortunate enough to NET (after food cost and overhead…save wages for later…) $3 per customer (which would be a miracle in and of itself selling burgers with gourmet ingredients…) multiply that by being open every possible day (THIRTY DAYS a month) 3x70x30= $6300/mo. Wages for the two 'owners', kitchen staff, waitstaff… where do you get the money to PAY a 'head chef' with 16 years experience?? Hey… but like I said… "entertaining"… and the purple looks pretty, right? (They'll have that debt paid off in no time! LOL)

    • Elaine says:

      Just be happy for them dude. What good does it do to post this? You're LOL-ing at the possibility of them not paying off their debt? Let's laugh at other people's struggles. Real patriotic of you.

      • JavaJim says:

        You're right Elaine, it's not at ALL "patriotic" these days to point out that 'propaganda' and FACT are two different things. We should all go on believing in people who make stupid decisions and LOOK for someone to 'bail us out'. (Isn't that what our government does?) With regard to the restaurant in the show, though… the FACT is that if you put lipstick on a pig it's still a pig. A poor location, total lack of any kind of restaurant skills, and a low 'customer count' (even after the publicity from the show…) may well be obstacles that are too great to overcome. I wish everyone made sound decisions in opening a business… some of them can be catastophic. (Perhaps the local community will 'rally' to their cause, though… I suppose stranger things have happened.)

        • Scottman says:

          What this show needs is commitment. If we could see how these establishments have fared over a year or two or more…now that would be interesting.

          • John Boy says:

            You're basing your calculations on the assumption that the number of customers will remain static. Going from 30 to 70 customers a day was a direct result of Chef Irvine and the show. The more time goes on and word of mouth spreads, the more customers will show up if the restaurant maintains its quality. I've been to restaurants just like Zandi's, out of the way holes in the wall that I never would have known were there but for being told about them, but there was plenty of business because they had a good reputation. Give the place a chance before you slam the lid on the coffin.

          • Dave says:

            I was wondering if someone would comment on that. Granted, 70 customers a day is not great, but it is more than double their previous attendance. However, they do need to continue marketing and increasing their customer base. There are usually seasonal swings in this kind of business so they need to get a large base to maximize profits on upswings to offset the slow periods. Also, JJ should keep in mind that he said 'net $3' meaning that the overhead, including wages, has been covered. In other words, NET is profit. IF they were getting $3 a customer profit, then they probably aren't doing too bad.

        • Ace says:

          yeah, so let's just crap all over everybody who asks for help, then?
          that might be your "better" version of a country, but it sure as heck isn't mine.

          you can call it all a "bail out"…. or you can call it what it is….people who have, helping people who have not.

          ever hear of "no man is an island"…. that means no one makes it alone.
          everyone needs of others.

          life isn't perfect and neither is the show or these restaurants or the people running them. but they are trying.

          if you don't like to watch people try to succeed, maybe you should watch something else.

    • ashley says:

      that didn't make any sense. I understand your point of view. that its for entertainment purposes, ok fine. Your calculations were strange. you put after food cost,overhead $3 net then later deducted wages.

      Roberts running formula for each show is 28-30% food cost of total overhead, 30% wage, 30% utilities. what is LEFT after that and whatever else they can mark it up for, is profit.

  7. John Smith says:

    Why haven't they updated their facebook page with the new look? And why do they have a picture of a pizza pie on their website? Ate there recently and the chipped beef gravy and breakfast potatoes tasted funny. Didn't take hubby's order correctly. Wish I could have tasted Alan's food.

    • Pete says:

      After the Chef left the decided to go back to pre-packaged food that is why your so called gravy tasted funny it is in a bag that is a powder mix made by the same company that makes Lever soap, also Sam the girl quit over a month ago cause she was loosing her passion again for food that she once had!!

  8. AFVet says:

    Every re-design has been tragic.
    Not ever taken into consideration is cleanliness & maintenance.
    She designs crap that retains dust, is difficult to clean, is a fire hazard, etc.
    "Pretty" isn't usually practical.
    She has NO talent in making use of eatery-appropriate materials.
    Bet she's glad she doesn't have to come back and regularly wipe that lattice!
    If those 2 sisters are having trouble now, wait until they can't keep staff who tire of the cleaning chores alone – like they don't already have enough to do in a kitchen!

    • Beverly says:

      You must not watch the show regularly, Robert has had huge fits over the flith he has found in some of these restaurant makeovers. This kitchen was obviously clean and thankfully not one of their issues. I live in this area and I plan on stopping by to see the quality first hand. Can't really judge things by looking at it through the TV.

      • jody4151 says:

        I think what AFVet was talking about cleanliness & maintenance AFTER the re-do. He's exactly right about the lattice. So many little crevices just waiting for grease & dust to settle.

    • Doc says:

      Says someone I'd bet ten bucks does not and never has owned and/or run a restaurant.

      • Ajk says:

        Everything needs to be cleaned in a restaurant or anywhere all the time…really!? All those parrots and other clutter didn't collect dust, etc? Hate to break it to you but cleanliness should be maintained every day ..especially in a restaurant!!! What made the 're-do' so difficult to maintain? Please elaborate! Would love to hear your response!

        • platy says:

          My job is to inspect food operations. The lattice is just an invitation for dust and debris and would need to be cleaned off regularly. (Can you imagine the pores on the wood and the bacterial growth? Yay, places for bacteria to set up shop.) Yes, walls need to be cleaned regularly. Nothing drives me insane faster than going to a restaurant and seeing dusty light fixtures or pieces like this. It was not thoughtful on part of the design team to instal this.

  9. sonia says:

    We love the improvements in zandi’s grill came out would love to visit one day my daughter loved the purple walls Tania picked would love to know what the name of the color it is so she could paint her room the same

  10. Sheryl says:

    As someone NOT in the food industry, it is interesting to watch this show's approach towards problem identification in the business world paired with the creating potential solutions fueled by the power of shifting one's outlook from despair to seeing the possibilities.

    FYI- to the Food Network PR department- having your viewers log into your site to view the restaurant updates is a major 'NEGATIVE'. For many, it is not possible to log in while watching your show to see these post production videos. Is it really your intention for us to stop watching and seek out a working computer? As a PR consultant…I highly recommend going back to the old format….it was working just fine!

    Good luck ladies!

    • Chuck says:

      Sheryl… If you do work in the PR field, you should know that identifying your customer is important. I am guessing that Food Network is looking to appeal to who brings in the most advertising money. That demographic has ipads, smartphones and wireless laptops with them about 75 % of the day. This format works for them. It probably doesn't appeal to many of the boomers though (I am one o them). I just happen to work in the IT field so I do have an ipad, laptop or smartphone around.

      • larissa_j says:

        Yes but if you work in the IT field, you also know that you can install adblocking software which sort of defeats the purpose of steering your 'viewers' to a web only experience.

        I see NO ads when I go to various websites so when networks force me to their sites for updates? They make no money.

        • tarc says:

          Just because the ad is blocked on your end doesn't mean it's not tallied just as it it hadn't from their end. They don't care oif you watch the ads – as long as the advertizer counts the attempted serve.

    • @Sheryl, you must be over 45 to make such a totally uninformed comment about going on the web to follow up on a tv show. How old school can you get? Laptops, tablet computers, smartphones and wireless networks are perfect for accompanying tv viewing. It’s so easy for me (and apparently hundreds of thousands of other people) to ‘log in’ (does anyone use that archaic phrase anymore?) to this site and read the follow ups. It adds a tremendous dimension to see up-to-the-minute comments from people who have actually been there. Doing so is an excellent, multi-platform reality tv concept. Even my 86-year old father has a laptop handy when he watches tv. Stay in the Dark Ages, but don’t be surprised when your clients leave you for a firm that comprehends taking advantage of the Internet and social media marketing.

    • ReturnEndings2Show says:

      i'm in Agreement that it is a big "Negative" to the viewers that rather be watching the entire story then only getting just a little of the show and have to come to the site to see the rest of it.

      So Please FoodNetwork change it back!

    • Jillian Symanowicz says:

      I agree. Loging in to get updated to the restaurant's success or failure is a royal pain in the butt. And many loyal viewers are missing out d/t inability to log on to a computer. They should return to the former format, and update on the show or the next show. I enjoyed this show, and wish good luck to the ladies of Zandi's.

    • CMY says:

      I agree with the 20 comments ahead of mine concerning having to log on to this site to see the follow up. Your prior format was much better.

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