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. charlie says:

    Alot of folks take Sundays to worship, and not make money JMHO

  2. defuniak resident says:

    thats how this old town wanted it old ways they liked it that way an stated to stop coming unfortunatly defuniak is old stuck in the 50s

  3. I think they hold the results until the show has aired in all time zones.

  4. charlie says:

    Nate- Alot us "regular folks" can figure out how this site works week after week when it comes to the comments so it cant be all that hard right?????

  5. charlie says:

    Flash- There are a couple Chuch's with-in 2 miles of my place and YEP I tried it for a couple of Sundays but my GUT feeling told me to shut it down. Hey even God took a day off ;) My attitude is if I have to work Sundays to make this place work then it ISNT worth it JMHO ;)

  6. Jon says:

    Lol not for long.

  7. Jon says:

    Lol not for long.

  8. Jon says:

    Lol not for long.

  9. @NysGyrl says:

    Way to go Jim! A man who knows his scripture! It is amazing how many people get that wrong and it is really simple if you look at the etymology of the word WEEKENDS. The word is a simple compound word that any 3rd grader could figure out! A week is like a sting it has two ends the beginning (Sunday) and the end (Saturday). No matter how a calendar lines it up (because so start the week with Sunday) the ends of the week are always the same. So DBock – – Keep the SABBATH (SATURDAY) HOLY! If you were Jewish you would already know that!

  10. PssttCmere says:

    Could not agree more….she might be better off opening Sundays and closing on Mondays. If her real goal is to get out of debt and keep her restaurant open, she should, at least, give it a try. As nice as she is, she should concentrate on NOT shooting herself in the foot!!

  11. Marjorie says:

    Rather than opening on Sundays they should consider lunch service once they are more stable and Carolyn can find a competent assistant manager and staff to help during that time. I never advocate a business opening on Sundays if they do not wish to do so.

  12. frances says:

    thank you for the times I just seen it on the show today i record it every time it is on.and I recognized the name and outside since people usually don't eat dinner by 2 pm I figured it would be open to like at least 7 pm.and it seems like we are just coming after it is already closed oh well seems like they would rather be closed more then open no wonder they are doing bad .

  13. Nonnie says:

    I was not mocking, I was stating my honest opinion; of which I am entitled. Further more, it was regarding the shutters and nothing more.

  14. Valley girl says:

    Well Chuck, if he goes in there sugar coating it (much like others have done already) they want wake up, and realize the problem. In your face is the whole purpose. He is not there to babysit. These are adults not babies, so they can deal with it.

  15. @Local_Man says:

    Another thing to remember: This is a TV show. It needs TV worthy moments to be entertaining. The restaurant owners get $10,000 in materials and who knows how much labor, plus Robert's hard work and expertise to turn their restaurants around, plus a huge amount of publicity. Without the entertaining TV show, they would get nothing. Part of the appeal of the show is how Robert is tough with people at first, then brings them along as the show goes on.

  16. Aaron says:

    Valley girl is 100% correct, it may seem heartless but in Valley girls statement. The owners have already tried to do things their way and it's been proven it doesn't work. By doing this in your face type of approach it opens the owners eyes in a way they can not deny whats going on.

  17. April says:

    No kidding! Biggest bunch of cheapskates ever. I guess they figure their server will get their reward in heaven.

  18. LLF says:

    Colossians 2:16,17, Romans 2-4 (Law of Sabbath), Romans 14:5, these are just a few scriptures but according to the Bible, there is not only one day but EVERYDAY God deserves our time and obedience. No day is holier than another for true christians. Sabbath was first a law so that people would take the time show love and deserving obedience to the creator all of us. That law was null, according to the Bible, with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

  19. LLF says:

    As only a single day that is, not null in our obedience to God.

  20. Mike says:

    Imagine if if were a black church……………………..

  21. GoingHomeOneDay says:

    This is not true. As a Christian, I am commanded to keep the Sabbath. But back to Mission: Impossible….

  22. Cindy says:

    SDA do too!

  23. Rob G says:

    What do you mean by that Mike?

  24. E. Chesser says:

    No Norma, they don't open until 4:30 P.M. They don't take reservations so just come on over. It's a great place to eat. Closed Sunday and Monday.

  25. mad as hell says:

    this womens husband ran the biz i live in defuniak springs an u better watch who ur calling an idiot ur an ass

  26. angel says:

    definatly i agree my husbands family have lived here for several generations an the outside world of defuniak just wont understand

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