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 (62)

  1. sandie says:

    Went to Smittys last week after not going for 10 years, we were hoping to try new menu items, they were no where to be found, got cold coffee, bummer. But i think the worst part is, after my husband used the restroom he told me to please not go there. Sad so much work and nothing seemed to take, the most redeeming part was that cute little boy who pre bussed our table for us. So sorry young man that your folks probably wont have a buisiness to pass down to you. Ten years and poblably wont be going back. Sorry Robert you did try though.__S

  2. Magicman says:

    Us Jews aren't the only ones who kept the Sabbath on Saturday.

    • dee says:

      ooohhh…stop…us jews, you christains…the woman owns the restaurant if she choices to close on Sunday for whatever reason is her business…as long as the food is good….

  3. Tom Eagleton says:

    I don''t understand how these idiots go into business not knowing a thing about doing business. it seems as if everyone just thinks, well, "i like to cook or eat so I should open a restaurant". i think all these losers deserve to fail. They are pathetic!!

  4. Tanika Reed says:

    I live in Defuniak Springs and have not personally been to Mom & Dad's, but I can honestly say that I have only heard good things about the restaurant. I think it is a personal choice, a religious choice, for Carolyn not to be open on Sundays that should be respected by all. I know if I chose not to work, why would I want anyone else to have to work. It just wouldn't seem right. I think she is doing the right thing by staying true to herself and her beliefs. As far as the remodeling done on the inside that is shown in the picture above, I think they stripped the place of it's homeliness and gave it a feel of a fancy school cafeteria. Although, I do agree with replacing the carpet for the fact of sanitary reasons. Down here in the south, we value the originality of our buildings, incase you haven't seen the rest of our beautifully historic town. Maybe next time, Mr. Fancy Pants could do a little research of the area before doing his "great remodeling".

    • lisa hall says:

      darn right i tottaly agreed she isnt open anymore that i know of an i blame it on the remodeling we both know how this town hates chang thanks for standing up for her to

  5. Mnegs says:

    People make comments about opening Sundays she needs to Clear her debt so why not try? The Lord would not look down upon someone trying to better themselves. You want to give cake away? What better then a Sunday! How about a percentage to the poor or charity? She's been blessed that Robert took the time to turn her business around? She seems to be a generous woman?

    • lablvr says:

      I totally Agree ! She should definitely try Sundays. The Donation Idea above is fantastic. That could be the trade off to the community in Lieu of free cake : )
      Best of Luck to the family, I feel really good about your future success

    • defuniakian says:

      in this town if your not in church ur going to hell

  6. Andrew says:

    I'm a pastor. I work very hard on Sundays. I take Friday as my "Sabbath".

    I think restaurant owners would do well to serve the church crowd on Sunday and enjoy a day of rest on Mondays. Of course it's their call and God bless Chik-fil-a for taking Sundays off.

    If we're going to be legalistic, then lets all take a literal Sabbath and not leave the house on Saturdays. If we're going to honor the principal instead, then it would make a lot of sense to serve the church crowd (as we pastors do) on Sunday and enjoy a day of rest on Monday which is typically a slow day anyway.

    • Mike says:

      Finally, a pastor that knows the "Sabbath" in the traditional meaning was SATURDAY, not Sunday.
      I agree, give the lord his time on an afternoon of your choosing and honor him through hard work the rest of the time.

    • lisa hall says:

      thier lying the resturant was shot down dure to lack of costumers here in defuniak the old timers run everything an they hated the chang a month after they remodeled it he didnt pay attition to the people that actually lived here no one that was on the show as a costomewr lived here we all know each other in this town an he screwed up

  7. Anthony Rago says:

    Only a Jew is required to observe Sabbath. Any Rabbi will tell you this. Christians chose to have a form of Sabbath by having Sunday. While there is nothing wrong with observing a form of Shabbat – only a Jew is required to. To Jews – Gentiles only have to do the 7 laws of Noah which does not include Sabbath. If she wants to have Sunday off because she wants to go to Church – she should consider having someone else open up and keep it running until she can come in later in the day. Serving Italian food on Sunday is a must in such a business. She would be much better off having the restaurant closed on Monday.

    • cat says:

      when ya come out of church ya are ready for a good lunch or brunch —some want b-fast; some want lunch — I try to only eat at local restaurants and not chains –the exception is Waffle House–geat consistant food with good coffee, hash browns with brown grilled onions and gravy!!!

  8. Mollie Meeks says:

    I haven't been there in a few years, but the last time I went the food was very bland, there was a musty smell, the decor was dark and dated, but the staff was very friendly. The next time we head home for a visit we'll definately be stopping by to check out the changes. I was happy to see something from DeFuniak make it on the Food network. I hope she does well and is able to pay off her debts quickly now and is able to continue to have the choice to be open or not on Sundays…..although something aside from JB's and Mclain's would be nice after church.

  9. Norma says:

    I would love to go to this restaurant. I live about 40 miles away. I have tried to call the restaurant but no one answers the phone so they must not be open at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.

  10. oldstylediner says:

    I , for one , miss the old style diners . The renovated version looks no more comfortable than the food court at a mall . I can understand why some longtime patrons complained . Robert and his crew do really well with severely rundown places , but this one did not appear this way . The should have just cleaned it and maybe added some classy lighting . Maybe I'm just outdated myself though .

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