Restaurant Revisited: Drowning in Debt at Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant

by in Shows, May 12th, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossiblePerhaps one of the most-persistent restaurant owners ever featured on Restaurant: Impossible, Carolyn Cuneo from Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant in DeFuniak Springs, Fla., admitted to Robert Irvine early on that she is “not very good with change.” After her husband, George, passed away six years ago, she’s been hesitant to make any updates to the eatery, a dark, wood-covered space serving mediocre Italian-inspired food. Carolyn was in thousands of dollars of debt, which Robert realized could be attributed to the large amount of free food she regularly gave away to her staff and customers alike. In just two days and with a $10,000 budget, Robert and his team worked with Carolyn to rethink her management habits and ultimately reopen Mom & Dad’s as a thriving restaurant worthy of a second chance. FN Dish checked in with Carolyn a few months after the renovation to find out how the eatery has been doing.

Immediately following the overhaul, Mom & Dad’s saw a 67.7 percent increase in sales. Although the growth has since slowed a bit, “business is still good and it will be a much higher percentage than prior years,” Carolyn says, adding that she’s making stellar progress on paying back her debt.

While some returning customers have been resistant toward the updated decor and menu at the restaurant, first-time diners are pleased with what they’re seeing. Among the list of offerings at Mom & Dad’s are a few original menu items plus the dishes that Robert created. “Customers seem happier with the mix,” Carolyn explains, noting that they “really love the Alfredo, Sausage and Peppers, ’Shrooms, Fried Cheese and Caesar Salad.”

The restaurant staff is no longer giving away salads for free, and they’ve begun to charge for bread by factoring it into the cost of the meal, but Carolyn admits that “[she] still give[s] away cake to people that are having a birthday or anniversary.” Her employees are able to enjoy a free shift meal, although they must choose from specific dishes in order to receive the allowance.

Looking ahead, Carolyn is considering opening on Sundays, but she hasn’t made that transition yet. She’s currently confident in the business and feels good about the changes that were made. “I definitely feel that I am moving forward now. I was stuck in the past in so many ways and without George was not really sure of what to do or how to move the business ahead into the future,” she tells FN Dish. “Restaurant: Impossible and Robert helped me to leave the past behind while keeping George’s spirit and love in my heart.”
Mom and Dad's Italian Restaurant

Mom and Dad’s Italian Restaurant before the renovation
Mom and Dad's Italian Restaurant

Mom and Dad’s Italian Restaurant after the renovation

More From Restaurant Revisited:

Smitty’s Restaurant (April 28)
Old World Italian Restaurant (April 21)
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 (64)

  1. Mitch says:

    She is still closed on Sundays despite what Robert told her. Missed opportunity.

  2. ohjennasaidquoi says:

    There was such a huge transformation in the restaurant and the owner, but those shutters on the wall were absolutely hideous.

  3. charlie says:

    I own a restaurant and I am closed on Sundays as welll and I don't care about "how much I could make" period…… I use Sundays for something other than making money.

    • Ashley says:

      Yeah, but when you owe taxes and money to the government you have to do whatever you can to make money. So if that's opening the restaurant on Sundays for a year then you have to do whats need to keep your business.

  4. DoubleJ says:

    They went right back to the old way after 2 days. Kept the new menu style but scrapped all the new additions. Brought back old items Chef Robert said to cut. Still no Sundays. Basically a free renovation. Big disappointment, except to those "regulars" getting all this free meals.

  5. nate says:

    well it took me way too long to find out what is going on here at this place. Food network should work on this website a little bit before being so critical on individual restaurants…

  6. Teresa says:

    Every time I go by there it's not open. Any one know the Hours??

  7. stenogurl says:

    I grew up in DeFuniak and actually worked at Mom & Dad's for the original owners, Alex and Katie Hinote, so when I was back to visit in March, I was able to stop by and see the new changes and meet the ower. I was so happy to walk in the kitchen early afternoon and still smell the wonderful smell of bread baking. The new decor is beautiful and I pray a blessing for Carolyn and her family. I know that when Alex and Katie sound the restaurant they were so happy to be able to sell it to a couple who would love it as much as they did. The food is still just as wonderful as ever!!

  8. Nancy says:

    And she still giving away desserts for free and not open on Sundays crazy

    • grrrr says:

      thats the way this town runs love yes free desserts but she knows defuniak likes that an it keeps her open ms sassy quit casting first stone

  9. dbock says:

    im glad she is still closed on Sunday… the Lord will bless her. There is a Sabbath for a reason.

  10. Shannon says:

    There are some false comment on here. I have been to the restaurant and the owner has made many changes that Robert requested, she has not made all of them and was never required to make all of them. She made the ones that she felt were in the best interest of her customers and her business. Her loyalty to her customers and their experience was obvious. You can tell by the way that Robert reacted to her that he liked her and concentrated on the changes that needed to be made the most. She has adjusted her menu cost, made menu changes, the restaurant looks the way it did not the show, they charge for salads, bread is not free etc… She is not open on Sundays and she will give a slice of cake for special occassions. Other than that it seems the place is doing a good business and the owner is happy with that. Wish her well, she is a good person with a kind heart trying to make a business work in a horribly tough economy. While many have closed she is still there. Keep your judgements and nasty comments to yourself unless you are in her shoes.

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