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. Mitch says:

    Only 6 months old and going broke is a bit disturbing. But at least no sledgehammers were needed this time.

  2. Mitch says:

    For all the people questioning SYSCO, I think the fact the lady was running back and forth to the grocery store and paying full retail price for the food was the point Robert was driving home. SYSCO happens to be a fine supplier as i have personally used them. High quality products and reasonable prices.

    • Epic Fail says:

      But, I imagine they are not overly accommodating when you have a $7000 outstanding bill.

      • VWI says:

        Go to and see Robert's face plastered on their home page. I've deleted the show from my DVR, its nothing but an ad for Sysco at this point.

        • Bo Knows says:

          So, do you have a problem with sysco or advertisers in general? Maybe both but either way I dont understand what the big deal is here. TV shows and networks need sponsors to survive and many celebrities have endorsement deals. Its not like he is plastered all over a website endorsing some irrelevant product like many celebs just looking to get paid. As someone highly successful in the food industry, it seems very appropriate forr Robert to be a spokesman for sysco.

          Deleting the show because they found a relevant way to incorporate a sponsor into the content of the show seems pretty ignorant to me….but whatever makes you happy! No need to post and tell everone though. Stop hating!

          • Suz says:

            Local is usually better and unless you are part of a large corp that negotiates a volume-based price, you can do better. I have a problem with a reputable chef, starring in a series to supposedly help ppl save their businesses relentlessly promoting a single distributor for money Period.

          • Grant says:

            You're an idiot. Shows need sponsors. Sysco is a reputable food service company. What's your problem?

          • Dave says:

            These people need organization first. The local thing is great until a season ends at the wrong time for you or you need too many things from too many different vendors. Besides, I have found the cups, straws and ketchup packets that are grown elsewhere to be of equal quality to those items grown locally. ; )

        • Brian says:

          That's just an absurd statement! So, you object to advertisers and/or product placement on a TV show? Well then, you better just stop watching television and read a book.

    • Pepper says:

      Actually SYSCO has different "tiers" of food that can be purchased, unless the business is purchasing the upper tier of food, they offer crap.

      • Dave says:

        Grocery stores have different "tiers" of food also. They don't have to get everything from Sysco. You'll go crazy trying to find everything with independent distributors, especially is a small town area like Pineville. They have enough problems presently that they don't need to be messing with so many vendors.

        I do agree that there are many things that can be better quality or price from other vendors, but these people need organization first.

  3. cherrycooks says:

    This was among the best of Restaurant Impossible. The Cohens were nice folks, appreciative of Robert's help, sincere and determined to make their restaurant successful.

    As for the name, I thought of Sweet Tea's as a play on words: "Sweetie's".

  4. shelly says:

    For all of you saying Sweet Tea describes a place that serves tea, we southerners know that means a down home cooking kind of place. Sweet tea is a vegetable in the south and there is no question what kind of restaurant this is. Remember, know your audience and they are in a southern city and we get it, even if you don't.

    • Heather says:

      The problem with the name is just what you said, only people from the south know the meaning. Visitors from out of town/state may not understand the meaning of Sweet Tea. Fortunately Robert addressed that when he added Southern Comfort Food to the plaza sign. Smart move to market to all possible clientele. A dollar is a dollar whether it be from locals or others.

  5. Kathy says:

    Great show. The owners showed appreciation for Robert's help. The staff were not a bunch of ungratful employees crying about not being trained. And there were no "relatives" to blame their failing business on. Best of luck. I live in Charlotte and never heard of this place they should work on advertising. I will visit them as soon as I can find them.

    • Don says:

      One of the biggest reasons restaurants fail, is because owners never figure in advertising costs when getting loans and buying a restaurant. They budget for remodel, kitchen equipment, food costs, utilities, labor costs, etc, but never for advertising. So then when they are ready to open the restaurant, they are almost broke at that point…..and dont have the money to do any advertising and then just figure open the doors and tell a few folks and word of mouth will work.
      Also these days, they should be using FB and Twitter to advertise. Its free and a great way to get the word out , until you can afford tv/print/radio advertising.

      • Colorado chef says:

        Right you are, Don.

        Under-capitalization and lack of due diligence sinks more restaurants than all the drugs, alcoholism, bad food, poor service, bad location and crappy decor combined.

    • Christy says:

      They are located across from CMC Pineville hospital. There's a Starbucks in the same parking lot. They are attached to a grocery store (Bi-Lo maybe?). Their food was delicious, and their tea is only $.99 with free refills, not that the refills do any good since no one bothers to check on you during your dining experience. The waitresses were TERRIBLE! My husband and I were the only ones there, and we still didn't see our waitress except when she took our orders and brought our food. Sweet Teas would be great if it had a staff overhaul. I don't have the heart to leave bad feedback anywhere else but here. They do seem to be trying to survive.

  6. softcrab says:

    Gosh, so many haters making comments. Just enjoy the show for what it is intended and keep your negative comments to yourself. These were some really nice people with nice polite children, just needed some guidance to turn them around and make them a success.

    • B L says:

      This is a place to make comments good, bad, or indifferent. As far as turning the place around from the comments it doesn't look like that has happened in this case.

      • Mike says:

        softcrab is talking about the people just rambling about the show they watched and not about their experience when they went there.

    • Douglas Widick says:

      I thought they were a bunch of creeps.

    • Flourchild says:

      It always amazes me that people go into the restaurant business without a clue about what they're doing. Why does everyone think it's so easy? If you read between the lines in the update, they're still having financial problems. I wish them all the best, but why do people keep sinking their money into businesses that are money pits? Cut your losses and get out!

    • bellascarbaby says:

      I agree. I love the show and snide/rude comments make people look DUMB.

  7. Nancy says:

    Enjoyed the show last night. We drove by the restaurant today to find exactly where it is. Even though we knew they placed a sign outside, we could not read it from the street. The letters need to be much darker. Now that we know where it is, we plan to go back to try, as we have a $5 coupon.

  8. Hot Otto says:

    Wow! The Sweet Tea's episode of Restaurant Impossible was a real break from the rest of the season, which featured filthy kitchens, disgusting food and ignorant/idiotic owners that seemed like extras from Deliverance.

    For once, it seemed like the show had some decent hard working people on the show who deserved a chance to become successful. I hope that they make it. The food looked damn good.

    • Dino says:

      Couldn't agree with you more, I'm thinking when the weather breaks its time for a round of golf and diner at Sweet Teas!

  9. yyyass says:

    Somebody got the memo from this board about Robert's overbearing hostility this season. This episode he was markedly more humane and encouraging and I think the show was much the better for it. I love Toniya's design , although I just don't see it as being a Southern Comfort Food place – more Asian in my opinon, but very stylish nonetheless. They still need to work on the flat cafeteria openeess and flat lighting schemes though.

    • Hachachacha says:

      I think Robert was less hostile this week because the Cohen's were a lot less in denial and had more on the ball than some of the other restaurants Robert's done over this season. Let's face it, last week's owners were deep in denial plus their food was atrocious and their restaurant filthy beyond any he's done so far. I don't blame him for being irritable with people like that. They need to be shocked into reality.

    • laloba says:

      Southern cooking is very special and unique. Most of it we might call "soul food", "southern comfort food", etc. You must cook everything with love. I didn't get the impression that this couple ate that style of food at home. Maybe that's why it was unpopular. The makeover was well done but incompatible with the food. This family might do better if they prepare another branch of food. They just did not give me the impression that they were even familiar with Southern down home cooking. Yes, it did remind me of an Asian restaurant. The owner would do much better if they opened a Kosher deli. It is not a good idea to go to the South and open a restaurant if ,the chef/owners weren't raised in the South and weren't intimate with the flavors and seasonings..

  10. Mary D says:

    So they pushed Sysco on the show just goes to show Sysco thinks this is a good advertisement for their company. No one says these people will be using them or even if they now have an account for them. Sysco is just looking for a different way to advertise their company and seems like they were successful.

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