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. marie says:

    Just visited Sweet Tea and enjoyed my BLGFT (bacon lettuce green fried tomato sandwich. I marvelled at the Free Tea (lunch only). I plan to visit again. The service today was acceptable, and their was a continue flow of eaters, but place was never full at 3pm. Sizzle greens and black eye peas hushpuppies was different, but I enjoy different, at times.

  2. TOMCAT says:

    WOW,hope you guys can keep it together and your dream alive,i know it, takes more energy and detication and total sacrifice that anyone can imagine to achieve the ultimate outcome,but you must believe in yourself first anf

  3. Bill says:

    Sweat Tea is totally out of business (at least at the site where the show was taped). The restaurant at that site has been replaced with a new establishment with much better food and decor.

    • Bill says:

      Correction from "Bill" – the "Sweat Tea" referenced above is the one located in South Carolina for which Robert did an episode.

    • mary says:

      I was just by there yesterday and could not stay because they were so busy and I had to be somewhere at a certain time and could not wait for a table. Are you sure you were at the right palce?

    • Diane says:

      I was at Sweet Tea's (Charlotte, NC) this past weekend and it is open and thriving-we got the most fantastic food and the service was totally awesome! Bill, not sure you know what you are talking about since the place where I ate was the same exact location as the one Mr. Irvine taped the show from.

    • jhewitt says:

      Just ate there tonight and had fried green tomatoes and chicken with waffles. Maybe you have the wrong location?

    • Paula says:

      People need to listen to Mr Robert, he knows his stuff, in life some people don't really hear watch you are saying, the man is bomb. I Paula from Kentucky now live in Michigan love him. Ni would definitely call him, he has it going on!!

    • Bill says:

      Not true, was there last week and still going strong.

    • Eric says:

      Are you an idiot or someone trying to just trash the show?

      This one appears to be open. At least is was after your post, Bill.

  4. sour.p says:

    "It was an accident."
    "You said, 'It's not ALL my fault…' "
    "It's not ALL my fault…"
    "So whose fault is it?"
    "It's the mouse in my pocket…"

    This was the most adorable interaction on the history of the show.

  5. Louis says:

    Since the R.I. makeover I have been there about eight times. The food is always fantastic. I had company visiting me from Pennsylvania and I took them there for lunch. They loved the place. The only negative that I can think of is that it is a little slow at the register when paying the bill.

  6. Thank you for a job well done. Everything was so exquisite!
    No one provides better, more beautiful food and service than you. You come in quietly and efficiently to my kitchen and produce the best offerings

  7. Barry says:

    My wife and I went there this afternoon Nov 21, 2013. The food was EXCELLENT. Hot and flavorful. I had the Shrimp and Grits – and while I am not a grits fan, it was OK, BUT the shrimp was outstanding!

    My wife had the fish and chips – and that was great as well. The décor was inviting. Very warm.

    I can see why the restaurant was struggling. It is SOOOO out of the way and on my own, not only would I likely never to have seen it, but I would have walked right past it and never considered going in. That would have been a mistake.

    The price was very, very reasonable. Under $25 for the 2 of us.

    I can not recommend this restaurant highly enough. It's a true gem.

  8. Andy says:

    We went there because we wanted to experience a place that had been on the show, and this one is near our house. Decor was great, service was very good, but the food, not so much. Stuffed burger with blue cheese and bacon tasted really bad. Infusing the middle of a beef patty with cheese and floppy bacon and then cooking it just didn't turn out well at all. Fries that came with it were hand-cut and very good. Meatloaf had good flavor but seemed like the meat was pre-formed-it was pretty dense. The mashed potatoes and gravy that came with it were really good. The "chicken pot pie" was creamy chicken soup on a plate with a piece of filo dough laid on top. We sent it back and got a kid's burger, which was good and was a normal (not stuffed) burger. Overall, the food was disappointing. Lastly, soft drinks by the can at $1.50 each with no refills is not cool; nobody around here does that.Wouldn't it be easier and cheaper to have a soda fountain? Then you could afford to offer free refills–which is the norm, at least around here–and you wouldn't have a bunch of soda cans taking up storage space.

    • Susan Keller says:

      Okay, I just saw this episode, 3/8/14. Is it open or not? Is it the same owners or not? I just wanted to comment that the decor is not southern, but Asion, and no tea pots in sight. The decor is nice, but what was Tanya thinking? She goes a bit wack sometimes. like the time she painted over a classic fireplace and the time she painted over old crockery jugs? She has no sense of antiquituity., it is all about cheap. She is great about using things from hardware stores and tag sales but she has no idea about reuseing things that might have real value.

  9. Rochell says:

    First of all, I'd like to complement the owner's and staff of Sweet Teas for working hard work and determination. Second, before all of the Haters begin to criticize let's see you successfully open, manage, and maintain a small business independently. Cudos to everyone. I do live in the deep south, below the Bible Belt and we honestly don't serve Collards with mashed potatoes, always rice. Nor do we put a sweet demi glaze on chops. Gravy only.what about stew, pot roast, or ribs.mostly fried,barbecued, roasted, or stewed.need candied yams,corn,and all the black eyed, Lima, and butter beans we can get. Where are the biscuits, ham,and other parts of the pig.we love smothered,covered, and bathed in the richest and thickest brown gravy we can consume. I applaud food network but price the owners with a "true" southerner for menus guidance.Sweet Tea's may God bless your business and staff. And may you thrive and flourish in prosperity, with everything you touch turns to gold, God Speed!!!!

  10. Janis says:

    First off all, Southern does not mean lard, fatback and bacon. It also does not mean Greek. Most southern restaurants will give you a heart attack.
    Now with that being said, I'm from the south and have visited Sweet Teas twice a week. I have steamed my friens, family, and coworkers there. None have been disappointed. A southern restaurant can serve fresh food and healthy without being condemned as not serving the traditional cook it in lard and covered with gravy.
    Lunch is eclectic e with sandwiches and meals, salads, burgers and the best shrimp n grits I've eating.
    The show did an amazing transformation. It is clean and well done. Southern does not have to mean dead animals on wall or tea pots all over the place collecting dust as Robert says.
    The only negative for them is there location. I have talked to Dana about this and she simply says that it will cost way too much to relocate and they don't have that kinda money. Making the best with what they have is honorable. Location does not change the quality of the food. Across the street is a restaurant referred to as southern, all out of can and frozen, for the haters go eat there.
    Dana puts her heart and soul into the restaurant and since the show it is always busy.
    I have never worked in a restaurant but it takes a lot of time and effort. When people complain via social media without discussing with the manager or owner, you have no soul.
    The show did an amazing job, it's still just a show. But Sweet Teas is thriving and there menu has taken some of the best southern dishes and brought them to edible levels without reprisal of heart attacks.
    So before you comment on location, use your head on how much that would cost. Before you comment one southern food, look around you there more to southern cooking the frozen, can, and grease.

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