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. Kelly says:

    I don't have anything to say except that I am a faithful Food Network viewer who will not be watching Restaurant Impossible from now on. Robert Irvine (or his character) does not need to be shouting in people's faces and throwing dinner plates around to make a point. His attitude and behavior is mean and abusive. This used to be one of our family's favorite shows. No more. I'm voting with my TV remote.

    • Guest says:

      He has to be tough to get through to the owners of the failing restaurants-if they want his help, they have to be prepared to deal with anything.

      • GiveARat's says:

        He doesn't HAVE to be anything, and he was not tough on this program. He was an abusive jackass. If you think that is the price to be expected for his help, you are wrong. The dumbest, most stubborn, most useless restauranteur on the planet does not deserve to be treated that way.

        • Colorado chef says:

          When I got my first job in a kitchen, at 19 years old, I was subjected to far worse. The chef cussed at me, insulted me and cast aspersions on my ancestry all day long for 3 months. It was brutal. The wait staff had wagers if I would last one week or one month

          I didn't like it one bit, but it toughened me up for all the crazy stuff I would witness in the coming years.

          By the time I left, 6 months later, I was running the kitchen on chef's day off.

          Tommy needed to have someone in his face for serving the crap he had on his menu and for having a filthy kitchen. I would have done the same, probably worse.

          • winoceros says:

            Exactly. These namby-pamby watchers have no idea what it's like in a real kitchen. These owners are usually either lazy or drunk or arrogant and have not taken to heart what it means to be responsible food service providers. Health and safety first…food standards and consistency next = profit.

        • Bob Jones says:

          You're an idiot! You live with your head in the sand. Tommy is so stubborn even getting in his face may not wake him up. He is the type that never learn, repeat the same mistakes and eventually close.

    • Rob says:

      I have been in the construction industry for 20 years and Irvine's behavior would still be considered unacceptable in that industry. As a manager myself, I would consider his lack of control a big weakness and a liability as well as a safety issue in terms of workplace violence; I would have to tell HR that I need to fire him on the spot due to his anger management issues. Irvine talks about leadership, but if his behavior is the example, then I think we'll pass. These restaurant owners are in real trouble financially and the last thing they need someone pointing their finger in their face, I would file assault charges and attach a restraining order in Irvine's case. Finally, his new prices are way out of reach for the average family – who doesn't drive around in a Lexus!

      • MattfromWA says:

        You would file assault charges and get a restraining order? Really!? Don't you think that is overreacting? I echo the sentiment of the Guest above. Robert only has a short time to get through to these people, don't you think that it was more constructive that they got their disagreement out in the open and settled early on so they could concentrate on fixing the place? One thing to remember is that these restaurant owners sometimes become king type personalitys in their own little insulated fiefdoms. Some take awhile to get used to the bluntness that Robert brings while he is trying to help.

      • THX-1138 says:

        That is why you are manager and not an owner. First off, this restaurant was GIFTED a $10,000 makeover (which covers materials only). The actual value of the makeover is more likely several thousand dollars more. Secondly, THEY CALLED HIM. What were they expecting, that he'd show up and say, "Wow, it sure is a mystery why you don't make more money in this filthy little hole of a restaurant?" And thirdly, the prices are out of whack? Are you serious? Tell me what the food costs were? If you can't afford to charge enough money in order to pay your costs, bills, and make a profit, then you shouldn't be in business. I am honestly astonished at how ignorant some people are when it comes to business ownership and the theories of how you make money.

    • Scott says:

      Get over yourself. You obviously don't have to watch. He's not running a business, he's trying to help someone save theirs…and changing attitudes is often a part of that! But always keep in mind this is all in the name of entertainment. If they didn't do a lot of what they do these shows would never keep people's interest!

    • Jepchamp says:

      Fine, but they're not really going to miss you.

    • Get over it says:

      I guess you have nothing better to do than gripe about it online. Like you said, just don't watch. You are one person, you really don't matter. The majority of us love it.

  2. Lisa says:

    If the restaruant was in that great of shape, why did you call RI to come and help? Oh, just wanted that little bit of TV fame! If you don't like what you got- whose fault was it? Just saying! If you people are not willing to take advise given, then stop crying when you go broke. Oh, by the way, they did a great job on the decor!

  3. Natalia says:

    I admire Robert Irvine, he is a true leader and a model for me I learn a lot from him. I am tired to watch how unprofessional and sensitive employees are, come to work to be productive not to give excuses. GO ROBERT.

    • Dawnskye says:

      Yet another restaurant redone by Chef Irvine who took advantage of a free makeover to get his restaurant sold! This makes me sick and someone needs to kick the owner's butt! He asked for help and has the nerve to tell Chef the food is good??? How ignorant can you be?? If a world class chef says your food stinks, guess what, it DOES! Rip the blinders off the owner's eyes! SHEESH!

  4. MattfromWA says:

    Like I said in a reply to Kelly, sometimes these owners become insulated in their restaurrants where they call all the shots and develop God complexes. I can easily see that happening with Tommy. I would not have used the p word in any post like you did, but yeah, I could especially see the arrogant part real easy.

  5. @saabrian says:

    These complaints are really stupid. All you need to do is watch two or three episodes of RI to figure out Robert's way of doing things. You know what you're getting when you're not getting touchy, feely hand holding when you ask for his help. Don't complain when you get what you ask for.


    complain all you want, pay RI back for all the money they spent of fixing your broken and dirty rest, I notice in all your nasty remarks about RI not one bad word for all the money spent cleaning up a pigsty

  7. bill says:

    If Robert is so concerned about hygene, why did he ask Tommy to taste the food after he SPIT in it!!!

    • MissGlam67 says:

      He was trying to prove a point. If he wouldn't eat his own food why would he expect paying customer to eat it? Especially because its no good.

  8. Barbara says:

    I love the show, I understand exactly why Robert is so picky, you are dealing with peoples health and you can't afford to lower your standards one bit. He has to be good at his job to come in and do what he does in just 2 days!!! Keep the shows coming….

  9. orth2013 says:

    The place looked beautiful when Robert left it-what I can't figure out is why the owner Tommy is selling it for twenty grand less on Craigslist-twenty thousand less than he told Robert he was in the red for! Others may have done everything possible to make it work.
    Maybe it was all too much for him psychologically. That type of business, the economy, owing money can really bring you down. Here's hoping Tommy that you lead a happier and less stressful life. God Bless

    • jay says:

      It has already been established Tommy don't know math so selling the restaurant for less than the amount to cover his debt is not surprising.

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