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. Pamela says:

    Love Robert. Maybe these people shouldn't call for help if they can't handle the criticism. Suck it up and act like a professional. You'll never learn. Maybe if you have a fantasic career like Robert, you can throw stones and insult.

    • Lala says:

      I totally agree. Don't ask for his help if you can't take it.

    • Wanda says:

      My Biggest issue with Robert is he needs to learn the local pricing before setting menus. A price that is cheap in NYC is way too expensive for most areas of the country. You have to adapt for the local areas on some things, Robert

      • shorty says:

        for the millionth time, the pricing isn't based on where the restaurant is located. it's priced to pay the restaurant's bills, labor, and food costs.

        • GiveARat's says:

          Shorty, your point is valid, but so is Wanda's. Wholesale food prices do vary greatly around the country, as do retail food prices, and pricing is, to a large degree, dependent upon location. Labor costs and utility costs also vary with location. But the bottom line is dependent upon designing a profitable menu that will bring in customers at prices they are willing to pay… and that is Wanda's point. I would say that although chef Irvine is a talented guy, surveying the local market is not his strong suit. Maybe he did the best he could, and even knew that the local market would not bear the required prices, and the restaurant was indeed doomed to failure… but that wouldn't make very good television.

    • steve says:

      They should expect and be able to handle criticism but sometimes it goes beyond that to the point of verbal abuse.

  2. Mark H says:

    They Are Now Closed……….

  3. Susan says:

    Robert showed what a complete a$$ he is on this show, challenging the owner to fight with him. I used to like and respect Robert but after this show, no way.

    You're nothing but a bully Robert. If you're there to help, act like it and stop screaming at people. I stopped watching the show after this episode and after learning that Robert left his wife for that bimbo he married.

    No respect for someone who says they respect family values and then cheats on his wife.

    • Melissa says:

      It wasn't Robert that challenged the owner, Susan. It was the other way around.. If you watched the show and were paying attention it was Tommy that said, "If Robert doesn't get out of my face we're going out back!" and I am sorry but if Tommy would haver really tried to fight Robert he would have gotten his ass kicked!

    • angmas77 says:

      Robert is there to HELP not sugar coat the situation and dry there noses..get a grip crybaby…;;))) If someone cant afford a seven dollar sandwich maybe they shouldn't
      be going out to eat!!!!

    • Peter says:

      Robert responded to what the owenr said, not the reverse. What is the evidence/proof that he cheats on his wife?

      Robert was pointing out the health code violations and the filth in that kitchen. Have you seen Gordon Ramsay in Kitchen Nightmares or John Taffer in Bar Rescue? They make Robert Irvine look courteous

  4. Mgcurry says:

    Was visiting relatives in the goodlet like/Hendersonville area the dinner bell is closed sign on door said it may open under new management soon so much for the revamp…..

  5. Sherry says:

    Just drove by it last night and it is closed. Seriously, it is right next to Outback Steak House that is always crowded and food there is a lot more than $7!!!!!!!!!

  6. grannyof16plus says:

    The Dinner Bell in Madison, TN is closed. Giving the owner his due…His problems started when they tried to open an additional location that failed. He also lost his long time kitchen staff. We used to go there before the kitchen staff left, it was a really good place to eat. We started going else where, this had nothing to do with the food or place. When we came back, OBVIOUSLY after the cooks left Tommy, we did have a couple of things happen and the meals were comped. Not good for their bottom line! I believe their prices were within the local Meat n Three prices. The typical caters to an older crowd, (many widowers) so the prices have to go along with their, fixed income, budgets. There are times I don't want to cook and want really good veggies, for that you look for a meat and three. Typical Meat and Three's do tend to be a little more relaxed but not to the point of what was shown on Restaurant: Impossible.
    Defending the owners attitude is NOT what I am doing here, just giving a little more feedback. If you are in the Madison area and want veggies Blacked Eyed Peas in Hendersonville is a little more expensive than a Meat and Three but the food is great. Also Mallards in Hendersonville and on Dickerson Road in Bellshire are good. Jay's Family Restaurant and Charlie Bobs (Both on Dickerson Road in Nashville) are pretty good too.

    • grannyof16 says:

      Oops – The typical caters — They typically cater to….

    • guest trish says:

      we tried with the dinner bell-the one in donelson was good, and the madison restaurant was good when it first opened, but it kept getting worse and worse until we just gave up. sorry to hear they gave up too. we need places that have good vegetables, good service and good entrees (reference the loveless cafe, which is all the way on the other side of town from us, unfortunately. it's worth the trip for the biscuits alone, though not as good as when carol faye was alive.

    • Cindy says:

      Red Rooster in Hendersonville and Countryside Cafe in White House also are great. So is the Jamboreex on Long Hollow Pike.

  7. Bella says:

    The business world is different from people who sit home and judge. This man and his family contacted Robert for help to save a failing business that was on it's way out. The owners way of running his business did not work for him at all. His wife even gave her perspective on how he has deteriorated over the years as a owner and cook. A firm stern voice is always the answer for people who wants to run with the big dogs. His place sat next to a "Big Dog" chain. He should have asked Robert to go in hard on him to boost his confidence and get him back in the running. For the people who commented on not watching. You really didn't have to put that online. You could have simply stopped watching. I'm pretty sure ratings would have shown you missing. Robert was in the military and from the looks of how well put together he is and straight forward and to the point he is shows he served well and chose to keep that mind set when it comes to making people want to fight for their businesses.

  8. Bella says:

    The guy in Texas who took over his mom restaurant, guy with the roach problem, he dealt with Roberts attitude and comments. You know why because he was enlisted once before so he knew Robert was coming from a helpful place. I'm not military nor do I see eye to eye with their policies but I'm a big believer in if you bad enough to go make it happen then stay in the game & be strong enough to take the lecturing that comes from someone whose not there to coddle you but to get you back on that horse. Sorry about your business closing though. Your change were great, they just came to late.

  9. lynzmom says:

    We are in Oregon in a town of about 1500 people. We pay $7 for a BLT at the American Legion and don't think anything about it. For the Dinner Bell to reduce prices was a death sentence to them. They may have lost a few regular customers, but I'm sure if they kept the standards that Robert had set for them they would have a whole new group of customers. Robert is a little overboard at times, but afterall, they called him! They should know by now how Robert deals with restaurants in trouble. Suck it up!

  10. jessie says:

    Not often do I feel "touched" by the shows I watch but I must say, this episode featuring Tommy and "The Dinner Bell" did. I am glad to her that they are following Robert's advice and keeping the standards high. K think for those customers that expect a $4.50 BLT they are just nuts. Heck even a $7 BLT is cheap! Do these people not realize what a pound of quality bacon costs?!? Maintaining quality and reasonable prices will hopefully keep this restaurant afloat. :-)

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