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. kate says:

    HOW DO THEY DO IT? The restaurant looked way bigger once the the remake was done. Outstanding interior design and construction. Love the wooden spoon lights. Spoiled in our area have fantastic community college program with Hospitality and Culinary ARts program( College of Dupage in Chicago suburbs)HOw do these other states get away with opening to the public without standards of credentials?
    How do families go into business with so little understanding of what makes a business work? I love Robert's concern and compassion for these folks and basic good sense. BRAVO for his shows effort to help the little guy. So happy too see big sponsors recognizing his good work. BRAVO for Sysco supporting his compassion and family businesses.

    • Guest says:

      SO DO WE – we have three Culinary Programs here in Charlotte 15 minutes from Pineville, CPCC, Johnson & Wells and the Art Institute. We have wonderful restaurants here. This family is not from the south and we do have high standards here in the Charlotte, NC area.

      But I do agree, if you don't know what you are doing – choose another business…

      By the way; US Foods is the biggest food supplier in Charlotte.

  2. Ivy says:

    Hi Robert,
    You're a man of honesty and truly a caring person. Lots of time the truth hurts. But with a short grin of smile on your face you make them realize that you mean well. Good Job!!!! Your helper Tom and Tanya are the most awesome people. Their creation to make their renovation are so creative and outstanding. They make you look so GREAT and responsible for your duty. Too bad the health inspectors don't do their job to keep the restaurant more sanitary and health safe. Thank you for doing this program and recipes.

  3. Ann Proctor says:

    This was the best make over to date. It is truly beautiful! Sysco provides fresh food to restaurants at wholesale prices. Robert is trying to help restaurant owners make a profit. I love this show!

  4. NovaZembla says:

    WOW I just submitted a comment about Chef Robert and Sysco and it was deleted by the administrator.

  5. Tanya says:

    Because of your episode on this restaurant, I went to Sweet Tea for lunch today with some co-workers! We were sorely disappointed! The decor is ultra chic and the restaurant looks so inviting! But, the service was definitely not chic! We sat there for 15 minutes before anyone spoke to us. When the waitress finally came, we went ahead and gave her our lunch order thinking this would speed things up. Five minutes later she returned with our drinks and asked if we were ready to order. We told her we gave it to her when she brought our drinks. She said, "Oh, I forgot!" In total, it took over 30 minutes from the time of our arrival to get our food! She never came back to the table with refills nor did she ask if we needed anything! This was seriously the worst service ever! My co-worker said that the last time he was there it was super crowded – today not so much! Anyways, they need to step up the customer service if they intend to succeed! I would rather go to a not so classy restaurant with good service anyday!

    • guest says:

      Because they are not southern who in their right mind would come from the north to open a southern restaurant in the south???? their food still isn't that great…. I work in Pineville.

    • B L says:

      NO way would I have waited 15 minutes for someone to even acknowledge my presence. I would have walked out and let them know I was leaving because of them not paying attention.

    • Susan says:

      Don't waste your time. Saw the restaurant on the show so took my mom since she loves the show. I got the stuffed burger which was dry and cooked unevenly. Pink on one side and overdone on the other. I had to ask for condiments and it was in small packet. Ordered sweet potato fries which were covered and honey. They brought me a fresh order which turned out to be the best thing at our table. My mom ordered the meat love with mac and cheese and neither had any taste. Mac and cheese was very bland and dry For some reason the floor was very slippy. the wait staff was nice and seems to help each other out It wasn't crowded and the owner came out to talk to one table and totally ignored our table. Was considering ordering dessert but was so dissatisfied with the food didn't want to waste our money. Will not go back.

  6. Thomas says:

    I am 10 years old and will have my own restaurants some day. RI is a great way for me to learn the right way to run a restaurant. This is my favorite show ever.

  7. Robin says:

    Robert I have watched your show and other from food network for a while now. Low and behold i became a cook at a very small restraunt . Well this place needs seriuos help , they have said that if cutomers dont come they may have to shut down the business. they have had the washington house for over twenty years. Ester and Don are getting up in years. Their health is not the best. I would really hate to see them go under nowing that this business was to be their retirment. It has about 8 tables, and two bars…..I would love to go thru that place with the spirit Of ROBERT IRVINE and turn it into a place with a simpler menu than it has and put it back on the map. I dont know if you would or could help in this matter only God know.

    • Colorado chef says:

      If you click on the tile "shows" and scroll down you will see Robert's picture and a link that says, "Be on Restaurant Impossible". Click on that and the application is there. Maybe we will see you on TV along with your bosses. Good luck.

  8. RoJo says:

    Hey Robert. Love your show. Much better than your arrogant fellow Brit, Gotdo Ramsay. I had dinner at his new Steak place in Vegas at the Paris. It was awful and it came with an insulting high bill. He could probably use your help!

  9. Phil says:

    Thank God Robert set them up with Sysco, Dana's running to the grocery store to supply her restaurant was awful. I eat at a restaurant to pay for food quality i can't buy at the local store. If I couldn't get better quality food, I'd eat at home. some people don't realize you can't buy Prime at local stores. It's mostly standard and choice. Restaurant quality should be better than the local grocery. Again, Sysco supplies a great level of quality in all its food.

  10. Monica says:

    My mom and I ate at Sweet T's last week. The food was great – very tasty – and the serving sizes very generous. Even though every table was full, the service was friendly and fast and our glasses were never empty. This is going to be my new weekly go-to for my lunch break!

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