Restaurant Revisited: Sweet Tea’s Restaurant & Catering

by in Shows, March 24th, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossibleAt Sweet Tea’s Restaurant & Catering in Pineville, N.C., problems started almost as soon as they opened for business. After just six months in operation, owners Dana and David Cohen were facing losses of nearly $8,000-$10,000 per month at their Southern-style restaurant, and if drastic changes weren’t made, they’d be forced to shut down in a matter of weeks. Lucky for them, those much-needed updates were made, thanks to Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team.

Even before arriving at Sweet Tea’s, Robert knew one crucial reason the restaurant was struggling: its extreme out-of-the-way location and absence of street-side advertising. It was his mission to brand the eatery as a comfortable, welcoming restaurant with Southern food to match, and to accomplish that, Robert would have to remake the menu of what he deemed to be D-rated food. With just two days to work and a $10,000 budget, he reopened the doors of Sweet Tea’s and gave the restaurant — and the Cohen family — a second chance at success. We checked in with Dana a few months after the renovation to find out how the business is doing.

Since Robert left, Dana and David have noticed an increase in revenue at Sweet Tea’s, and they are now “trying so hard to catch up” on bills, Dana tells us. “We need to catch up on rent, and that is the only thing holding us back.”

Returning to the restaurant after the renovation, customers “seem very excited when they come in,” according to Dana, and they have been pleased with the changes to the interior decor and menu. “I feel like the food is excellent,” she says of the updated menu, which now features a combination of original dishes as well as a few changes.

Sweet Tea’s has implemented what Dana calls “a new training program,” complete with “menu testing” to ensure that service is efficient, and she says it “seems to be working very well.” Although “the service is always a work in progress,” she adds that “most servers are doing amazing.”

While filming the episode, David vowed to become a better listener and respect Dana’s voice in business decisions. Since then, he and Dana have indeed become “equal partners at Sweet Tea’s,” she tells us.

As for Dana, she no longer dashes to the supermarket several times a day. “I have a rule,” she tells us, “once if necessary, but no more. (I haven’t been in a long time.)”

In an effort to promote the business to the local community, Sweet Tea’s recently became “a partner with the main street chamber” and has also “sponsored some breakfast meetings,” according to Dana.

Looking to the future of her restaurant, she says: “I pray every day we will make it. This business means so much to our family.”

More From Restaurant Revisited:

Soup to Nuts Diner (March 17)
Caseyville Cafe (March 13)
Maniaci’s Italian Restaurant (March 10)
Dinner Bell Restaurant (February 27)
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 (176)

  1. Deb says:

    I hope they make it. I thought the disappearing and reappearing earring on David after the reveal was interesting. Normally I don't notice those things, but this time it caught my eye.

  2. Mike Bloomberg says:

    Southern Fried Snapper should be on the menu

  3. TVBull says:

    My wife and I enjoyed this episode. I may have spotted what may have caused the error in the sign dimensions . The shot of the outside sign width on the plaza marquee appeared to be shorter by about six inches, which is what the interior sign was wider by. Someone didn't check both signs before choosing which one went where. I think Tom is in the clear here, but I am still a big fan of Tanya.

    Also, Sysco is no different I than what other sponsors of other shows do, they provide money to produce the show, and help the owners of restaurants make their work easier. ook at how ADT now sponsors Restaurant Stakeout. many other makeover shows also have sponsors who provide products or services to the shows.

    I hope these owners keep the momentum moving forward and if we get to Charlotte soon, we'll stop in to see how they are. (we live in upstate NY)

    • Epic Fail says:

      I thought it was funny that the designer and the construction guy couldn't figure out on their own to make the piece of plywood bigger, Irvine having to giving them the solution. I'm not buying it!

      • pretendernx01 says:

        I don't think they couldn't figure it out so much as were stuck pinning the blame on each other.
        Kind of like little kids, so daddy Robert came in and said "I don't care who's fault it is, fix it!"

      • SirCooksaLot says:

        Ya, I think they turned it into a little manufactured conflict to add some drama. They need stuff like that to add to suspense in the previews. It does look like "acting" ins some of those exchanges.

        And I wish them well. I see a lot more promise with them than some of the restaurants we have seen lately. I can't say that the dishes Robert created for this episode got me too excited. I like southern food, but, ehh.

    • Epic Fail says:

      And…no sledgehammer this remodel!!

  4. B-common says:

    These guys are already down the tube. Anyone who has spent time in the business could see the very real implications facing this couple. Irvine strolling in and spending ten grand ain't going to fix anything when the owners are so far into debt and losing money every month. The fact that they are buying their supplies from the grocery store is a major issue.

    The funny thing is Robert shilling for Sysco to this business. I am more than intimately acquainted with Sysco and how they operate. Altruists they are not.

  5. Jerry says:

    Great show. I liked the scene of Robert sampling the menu in the kitchen with the chef versus in the dining room screaming and hollering of how horrible the food tasted. If I were a visitor to the town and saw the "Sweet Tea" sign in a strip mall I would think it was a place offering tea and coffee, not a restaurant. They may want to consider adding "dining" or "fine dining" to the sign. Who cares if its Sysco or Lexus being mentioned in the show its no different then the corporate sponsors we see on the uniforms of the major and college sports teams.

  6. EZ Bake Oven says:

    Good Luck Sweet Tea! Awesome job Tanya, Tom and Robert. I hope the owners continue to follow your advice and remain successful!

  7. chocopoppy says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how most of the show's restaurant owners invest their life savings without ever having worked in the business before. Are people that dumb? Actually, from watching most of these shows, I do believe most are that dumb!

    • Colorado chef says:

      It's not that they are dumb necessarily. They just don't know any better, and they can only see the upside.

      We have a regular customer who wants to open a restaurant and asks us about it all the time. He is not in the restaurant biz in any way shape or form. Totally clueless.

      I asked him once if he knew how to price food, what percent his mark-up should be, if he understood any of the health regs, if he could price a menu, create a menu concept, use foods in more than one type of application or cook in quantity. He knew nothing.

      Yet he still felt that he couldn't miss, would be wildly successful.

      I don't get it.

      • Don says:

        LOL.. I know so many people like that and more that have opened restaurants thinking the same thing……and they failed. Miserably. I raise a glass to your friend, a future Restaurant Impossible or Kitchen Nightmares is in the works for him……………

    • Tia Cat says:

      Yes, evidently they ARE that dumb – lots and lots of them! If I was to do open a restaurant, I'd at least get some kind of training first. Business classes, some culinary school, etc. None of that would hurt! I mean, DUH!

  8. Joanna says:

    Why is the fact that a lot of these female wait staff (not just on this episode but many) are wearing their hair long and LOOSE in the dining room not being addressed? I mean Robert often goes off on the kitchen issues the health department would have so why not the dining room? This is gross. I mean there was one girl last night flipping her hair around.

  9. Leslie says:

    Best design ever on RI! Taniya is my favorite designer because she never does nutty colors or unchangeable decor. This design was cohesive, warm and inviting! She and Tom are a great team! This was one episode where I really felt the restaurant had a good chance of success because the owners seemed rational and reasonable without huge egos or personality problems. Wish them the best of luck. And as far as grammar is concerned, why can't the name Sweet Tea show ownership? It isn't a tea shop.

  10. Gussie says:

    Great episode. Deserving family. Love the decor and menu! If I ever get out there I would stop in. Carolina is below the Mason Dixon Line, hence southern. I grew up in Maryland and on southern food (comfort)!

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