Restaurant Revisited: Dinner Bell Restaurant

by in Shows, February 27th, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: Impossible

Not long after Robert Irvine arrived at Dinner Bell Restaurant in Madison, Tenn., it was clear to him that this mission would be unlike any he had done in the past. “This has got to be the most desperate restaurant I’ve ever been to,” he reflected after meeting owner Tommy Kirkpatrick. Before its Restaurant: Impossible experience, Dinner Bell was just two days away from closing its doors, so it was up to Robert and his team to rescue the eatery from the brink of financial ruin. Despite initial tension between Robert and Tommy, who was frustrated with the acknowledgment of his failures, Dinner Bell ultimately reopened to a full house after a much-needed deep clean, a revamping of the menu and an interior overhaul. We checked in with Tommy a few months after the renovation to find out how his business is doing today.

Dinner Bell remains “very clean,” according to Tommy, who, since the renovation, has held his employees accountable to excellence in both the front and back of the house. “Kitchen staff are expected to taste the food before each shift to ensure quality and expected to keep the kitchen in clean, working order,” he tells us. The servers “definitely look more professional than they did before the show, and Tommy is “ensuring [they] are consistently wiping the tables and table bases down, and guests are greeted with personality and friendliness.”

After the renovation, Tommy received some “positive” feedback from customers about Robert’s new menu — especially the Derby Pie, a favorite at the restaurant. However, they’ve since resorted to their previous list of offerings because the prices were too high for some diners. “Several long-term customers stated they would not return to the Dinner Bell because they could not afford a $7 BLT sandwich, which was priced previously at $4.50.”

More From Restaurant Revisited:

Nanny Goat’s Cafe & Feed Bin (February 20)
Sapori D’Italia (January 23)
Windseeker Restaurant (January 16)
Whiskey Creek Steakhouse (January 2)
Rising Sun Bistro (December 19)
Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri (December 9)
Bronk’s Bar and Grill (December 5)
Rohrer’s Tavern (November 28)
Poco’s on the Boulevard (November 21)
Oleander Bar and Grill (October 17)
Valley Inn (October 10)
Whistle Stop (October 3)
The Maple Tree Cafe (September 26)
Michele’s (September 19)
Paliani’s Restaurant (September 12)
Frankie’s (September 5)
Gusanoz (August 29)

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Comments (359)

  1. Jepchamp says:

    It always amazes me that Robert comes into these restaurants that are complete disasters, filthy, hemorrhaging money, days or months away from closing, and people want to go back to the way they were before. Why? Were things going that great? Were the $4.50 BLT people keeping this place in business? The truth hurts, and Robert tells the truth.

  2. Brandon says:

    They already have the place for sale on Craigslist for $50,000 advertising it as newly renovated. This guy was a scam artist and a joke and deserves to lose his business

    • Colorado chef says:

      What's he got to sell? A lease, some used equipment and a remodel of a failed restaurant. The remodel will remind people of the death throes of the previous owner. The Dinner Bell name is ruined. There's nothing there.

  3. Trevor says:

    This place is an absolute sh.ithole

  4. Jeff says:

    If a person can't afford a $7 BLT, where are they going to go to find one cheaper? And more importantly, after they put you out of business, where are they going to go next? They'll still be hungry. You'll have no restaurant. It's up to you as an owner to listen to customers criticisms on décor and quality. It's not up to them to tell you what to charge. For that, go around town, taste everyone else's BLT and see what it costs. If everyone else is selling it at $4.50 and it's as good as yours (not too hard to make a BLT) then either sell yours at $4.50, or change it up to be better and worth the $7 charge.

  5. Rachael says:

    I like this show but the more I watch it the more nasty and redneck Robert becomes. Robert could make his point as a mature adult without being a hateful jerk. If he acts like an a** just to placate the base majority, maybe he should try acting like a responsible adult and educate people as to how a decent man carries himself.

  6. James says:

    It is clear to me that the restaurant owners who invite Robert to their establishment have never, ever watched an episode of "Restaurant Impossible." If they had, they would not present a filthy kitchen, dirty restaurant, bad service, huge menu, bad and unseasoned food and all of the other common things you see on episode after episode. The show will burn out after another season or two, I think, unless they do something major like "Restaurant Impossible Revisited" where Robert goes back after a few months and sees what the owners have done with his changes, or not.

    • pmview says:

      I respect Chef Robert as he never waivers from quality levels of clean, modern evenronment, safe (ie , healthy) kitchen, staff roles with written descriptions and responsibilities, positive mental strength as leaders with loyal (ie, accountable) wait-staff and on top of all that, he ensures sound business management with financial analysis to the owners. It is an amazing case study each episode on how to identify, track, problem-solve and re-organize from the ground-up (literally) all in 2 freak'en days! This crash-course sets out to salvage, re-use and recycle as much as possible for $10M. What a bargain!

  7. I can't believe the idiot that owns this place went to the news (I think it was Channel 5) and complained about how he lost customers and employees, and he changed back to the former menu. He couldn't take criticism (very clear) and he was 2 days from closing! Robert helped him. I personally think the guy was just wanting to do everything he could to be on TV and makes himself look stupid in the process. I know I'll never eat there, especially after seeing the news story. Also who the heck can't afford a $7.50 BLT? I mean I know Sonic has them cheaper but thats fast food! So what, he lost customers to Sonic, then? Not saying much about his business sense right there. Some people just don't understand people trying to help them (WHICH HE ASKED FOR) and have no business running a business. I can't believe he's trying to sell it. I hope no one buys it.

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  8. Heidi says:

    I have been watching this show from the start and I have to say, anyone who has seen robert before knows how he is and therefore if u dont like his tactics call a different show or do it urself but dont call someone and complain later. Robert is brilliant and im sure for the show there may be things for ratings but 1- u get new place much cleaner and better than before. 2- he brings in new customers because his fame and new stuff its ur job to keep them and add to them. 3- Robert screams and yells but some of these people literally could make people sick or worse based on cleanliness and food prep. So just be glad u got yelled at and no legal action. 4- Its common sense the lower end is 30% so if it cost u 2 bux to make, u multiply and now u can pay ur bills for a change. If people cant pay that than let them go to mcdonalds. I would never pay 15$ for blt but id pay up to 10$ with sides and if it was fresh and great and im broke but when i do go out i want a great meal that i dont feel guilty about having paid for. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK ROBERT AND I WILL BE WATCHING CAUSE I AGREE WITH YOU 110%

  9. indyann64779 says:

    This was posted on Dinner Bell's Facebook page:
    To all of our Facebook friends and family. After 5 years of being in our Rivergate location, I have decided to close the Dinnerbell restaurant. Monday, April 15 will be our last day of operations. We will open at 10:30 AM and close at 3 PM. This was an incredibly hard decision for me to make. But with today's economy and rising cost of food, we've found it very hard to survive. This is a difficult time for me, my family and our employees, we ask for you to keep us in your prayers. Thank you for many great memories!

    • winoceros says:

      Doesn't it seem like the owner was more interested in acting as the low-cost charity to the community rather than running a restaurant? If he was going out of business at those prices, and he lowered the prices to help those who can't keep him in business, then he's running a charity…not a restaurant. He deserves to be out of business and should open a soup kitchen. He has the heart for it…just not the business sense.

      The shame of it is that he cared more about those low-rent customers than what will happen to his own family and employees by going out of business. Now no one is being served. Brilliant.

      • grannyof16 says:

        If you are not from the area you would not understand. Many people are on fixed incomes ad there are other meat and three's in the area.

        • steve says:

          Yes but Nashville is a vary large and diverse population with a wide range of incomes.

        • ray ayyeko says:

          "not from this area" and "you wouldn't understand" don't pay the bills, unfortunately. Dinner Bell is proof positive that selling food at a loss is um, BAD BUSINESS BECAUSE IT'S BAD MATH.

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