Restaurant Revisited: Father’s Second Chance at Old World Italian Restaurant

by in Shows, April 21st, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: Impossible“Old, old, old, old” were the first words Robert Irvine said after arriving at the drab, outdated Old World Italian Restaurant in Murrells Inlet, S.C., a 16-year-old eatery owned by George Hayek Sr. and Teresa Hayek. This husband-and-wife duo started the business with their son, George Hayek Jr., after the latter had graduated from culinary school. In the last five years, they’ve noticed a steep decline in customers, which ultimately has resulted in losses of nearly $1,000 per day and the complete elimination of their retirement savings. With just two days to work and a budget of only $10,000, Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible team tackled fresh, modern updates to Old World Italian’s old-fashioned decor, its bland menu and unstructured management in an effort to give the Hayek family a second chance at success. FN Dish checked in with George Sr. a few months after the transformation to find out how his business is doing today.

“I am happy to report that the makeover has been a smashing success,” he tells FN Dish. “Our sales are up 35 percent since the show has left.”

They’ve since hired a manager to run front-of-house operations, and “George Jr. has taken the reins in the back of the house,” George Sr. explains. The kitchen is now far more effective at handling a high-volume of orders in a little time, he adds, noting that “Kitchen times have been cut by half, and the food looks great coming out of the kitchen. Doing 135 plates an evening used to be taxing, but now, with a much more efficient kitchen, 135 plates is done smoothly.”

All aspects of the renovation have been well-received by much of Old World Italian’s clientele, as George explains that “9 out of 10 [customers] have said that our food, service and atmosphere have greatly improved.”

The employees are also pleased with changes at the restaurant, said George Sr., noting that “the staff feels like there is clear direction and accountability.” They’ve taken steps to ensure that “people are now welcomed with a smile at the door, served with a smile and are given a warm ‘thank you’ for spending their hard-earned money” in the restaurant.

George Sr. tells FN Dish that he and his wife “are enjoying their semi-retirement and can breathe again.” To Robert and the entire Restaurant: Impossible team, he says thank you “for injecting life and vigor back into our operation.”

More From Restaurant Revisited:

Joe Willy’s Seafood House (April 14)
Sweet Tea’s Restaurant & Catering (March 24)
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 (108)

  1. kraft says:

    It is interesting that many of the RI makeovers involve pretty messed up families and/or familes where the parents have spent all their retirement money on a losing restaurant for their children. On this episode George Jr (who must be around 35) said he wants to be like his father "when I grow up." I am not sure he was joking. Mr Irvine needs to quit playing therapist…it is beyond his skill set.

    • Colorado chef says:

      Look at it another way: if Robert were to show the owners new recipes, modernize the decor and then ignore the problems with leadership and dysfunctional relationships he would be doing the owners a disservice. With rare exceptions, in a failing restaurant there are problems with leadership and most times there is family interaction that needs to be addressed. The stress is enormous and many times family will try to help and end up making things worse.

      That is the reality of the situation. Robert does a great job at seeing the problems and making the owners aware of them. After that, it is the responsibility of the owners to do the hard work of fixing the problems.

    • MattfromWA says:

      I noticed George Jr.s comment too and also didn't think he was joking, but I agree with what the Colorado chef says.

    • Colorado chef says:

      Re: George Jr's "when I grow up" comment.
      That was a highly emotional scene, George was crying. I took it to mean that he wants to be like his dad; not that he thinks of himself as a child.

      When I watch RI I often wonder….How would I react if my restaurant were failing and Robert and all the cameras and crew were there, I was miked up and the lights were blazing on me? I honestly don't know if I'd be angry, defiant, depressed………..probably a mix of a lot of emotions.

      I'm thinking that George Jr was not speaking as precisely as he would in other circumstances. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

      • lmw says:

        Colorado Chef,
        I am not in the restaurant business and know little about it , unlike yourself but I believe you hit the nail on the head with your comment to "kraft". Like everything in life if you don't get to the underlying issues dig a little deeper you will end up back in the same ruts with or without a makeover etc.
        Another key issue is that ANY business is twice as difficult when you combine family and business, so much more involved and impossible to separate personal life or emotions with work life.
        Cheers to you!

      • Sasha says:

        I think it is great what Robert does. If he didn't help them with their family issues then it would NOT solve the problems. You don't have to be an expert to help someone. I guess you must go through life a poor sole never being able to help and give advice to those who might need a push in the right directions to get things on track. We should all have the compassion in our lives to be willing to give of ourselves to others in hard situations. Anyone with a brain should be able to comprehend the fact that he was talking about being a child but, that as he goes though life and gets to be his fathers age, that he is just like him.

      • MattfromWA says:

        Well spoken C.C.!

    • Viv says:

      @Kraft, I too caught that, I think he was emotional and didn't realize what he said. I agree 100% Irvine needs to quit playing therapist, and needs to evaluate his own actions, because he treats his crew like crap and then turns around and tells others what they are doing wrong!!! One more thing, a restaurant, no matter how wonderful the food is, if people can't afford to go out and eat in economically down times, Irvine is not going to make a difference. Also, Irvine never won once on Top Chef, which I find absolutely hilarious that he is telling other people their food is bad!!! Not impressed with him, there are people that can do the show so much better, find them please!!!!

  2. Donna says:

    The transformation to this restaurant was remarkable. We have been going to Old World for the past year everytime we visit Myrtle Beach. About every 6-8 weeks. We knew Robert had been there as soon as we walked in the door this past time and looked forward to seeing the episode. George Jr made my daughters favorite entree even though it is no longer on the menu and the lasagna was excellent. We did miss George Sr but we're happy he's enjoying semi-retirement. We plan to go back. Thanks Robert!

  3. sam says:

    The make-over design was fantastic !

  4. MattfromWA says:

    I missed the show before this one, but have been hearing people complain about the restaurants who are picked. I hope this talk starts to go away because I don't see how anybody complain about this family.

  5. Don Feliciano says:

    I confess to have lived in Murrells Inlet, worked as a cook for the Hayeks, and think of Old World Italian as the only Italian restaurant in the Myrtle Beach area worth eating at. These people are my friends, and I would do anything for them. Had they called me instead of Robert, I likely would have grabbed my apron and headed out the door for Murrells Inlet. I haven't wathed the episode yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

  6. KDeers says:

    The restaurant did need a makeover, the food did not. Old World was one of my favorite in Murrells Inlet/Garden City area. I dined there several weeks after the makeover. Our server/cooks were extremely slow and inattentive. The portions are smaller. The menu selections, service and taste of the food was better before the makeover. They are limited to one fish for their fish dishes. (Seriously in Murrells Inlet with all the fresh fish being caught locally) My family does not plan to return.

    • MattfromWA says:

      Don't let the thumbs down faze you. I found your post to be very informative. I think everybody wants this family to succeed, but if the food and service was as bad as you say, well, it is what it is. You didn't attack anybody personally or make sarcastic comments so I respect you for not getting caught up in how everybody is trying to feel.

      • Anonymous says:

        Matt, you're a fool for taking KDeers seriously. The episode clearly showed many things were wrong before RI arrived: Raw shrimp improperly prepared, red sauce in the Veal Marsala, substitution of fish listed on the menu with another type, veal cooked twice in both the marsala and picatta dishes. Even both George Sr. and Jr. agreed that their red sauce was bland, and George Jr thought RI's marsala (prepared the classic way) was far better than his own. KDeers obviously paid no attention to the facts revealed in the show, has poor taste in food, or may even work at the Carraba's next door.

  7. organicgirl says:

    Second time watching this makeover for the Hayek family restaurant. Theresa is one of the sweetest person I have seen on RI ever! I wish the best for this restaurant…just keep kicking it up a notch every time you can George Jr. You all don't give up! For George and Theresa you are the sweetest people, enjoy the grandkids!!!! Thanks Food Network, Robert and crew for helping the Hayek family.

  8. Marketa says:

    wow that's great yea I just watched the show I hope they can do even better that's so wonderful I cried when Teresa I think her name was when she opened her eyes oh my gosh…and when they were telling the father that they wish they had the old him back that's great you guys keep it up i'm so happy for you :)

  9. Carrabbas opened up next door about 6 years ago. That's why Old World Italian went down hill. Besides the food.

  10. Jim says:

    The Ole World Italian Restaurant episode was one of the best ever. Robert did an amazing job and I hope the makeover is successful. The Hayeks are such a great family. We will be checking the restaurant out.

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