Restaurant Revisited: Sink or Swim at Pier West Restaurant

by in Shows, June 16th, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossibleDespite the picturesque view from its waterfront location, Pier West Restaurant in Twin Lakes, Wis., couldn’t escape serious issues indoors, among them considerable debt and drab decor. With just $10,000 and two days to work, Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team relaunched owner Chip Walmsley’s business with a new menu and an updated design, plus gave Chip the support he needed to manage the restaurant and the foundation to mend his relationship with his family. FN Dish checked in with Chip a few months after the renovation to find out how the eatery is doing today.

“Business has been great since the filming [of the show]. We have definitely seen about a 25-percent increase in food sales,” Chip tells us. “We are taking things one week at a time … [and] following the standards Robert set up for us.”

Chip says “not one single customer misses the old look” of Pier West, and in terms of the new space’s features, his favorites are “the lighting and the floor.”

The dinner menu, which “is currently the exact same as it was when Restaurant: Impossible left,” has garnered rave reviews from diners, Chip says. “The kitchen staff has had to adapt somewhat to longer prep times, but the difference in the quality and response has made it an easy effort.” They’ve since instituted a children’s menu and are using Robert’s dinner menu to inspire the list of lunch offerings. “I am thrilled people’s experiences here are now positive.” Chips adds, “It’s a treat to walk the dining room now instead of hiding out from complaints.”

While Neal remains in the kitchen, many employees, including Debbie, have left Pier West, according to Chip, who notes that his new staff members “are doing well” and have “signed contracts.” As for Woody and Jeannine, they “are especially excited at their friends’ positive responses.”

Chip tells Dish that he and his father are slowly making progress on their relationship, now attending meetings together with front-of-house management. “I am paying him rent for the first time in six months, so that is a positive.” Chip adds that he’s “getting along well” with Brian, who’s working on menu development and inventory.

Looking ahead, Chip says, “I would like to create a legacy and a business model [my sons] can perhaps carry into the future.” He would consider launching a second Pier West location, but not until the current restaurant runs “perfectly, like a well-oiled machine.” He adds that he’s genuinely “happy,” and that he is”excited to keep things heading in the right direction.” He says he has “a real positive attitude for what is to come.” And he tells Dish: ” I loved the experience I had with Restaurant: Impossible. Being able to go from a nightmare and wondering how and when to close the doors to having a place people love and rave about … is surreal, to say the least.”

More From Restaurant Revisited:

Pinehurst Country Lodge (June 9)
Bryan’s Smokehouse (May 26)
Wagon Wheel Family Restaurant (May 19)
Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant (May 12)
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 (253)

  1. MissWendee says:

    Anyone else take notice of the Ice Queen in this episode?? It was borderline spooky, I must say. I came away from this episode feeling badly for Chip, feeling badly for everyone really…even those of us at home. So I was really happy to read that the restaurant was doing well, and that Chip described himself as "genuinely happy." After listening to some of the remarks made by his family, I can't think of anyone who deserves success more. Way to go Chip! :)

    • Angryman says:

      Yea, the mother was a real a-hole. How would you like to have been raised or should i say sent to a nanny or daycare by her?

    • SuzySez says:

      Glad to see your post- the main reason I came to this page was to post something similar. What surprises me is that Chip did not turn his back and walk away from this obviously dysfunctional family long ago.
      I mean who names their kids Woody and Chip?
      Seriously those parents need to be packed up and put away.

      • Viewer says:

        Totally agree. The parents, especially mom, looked like alcoholics complete with gin blossom noses. A boozy couple for sure.

    • Running Rita says:

      I think that's a little harsh. I've been in restaurants for twelve years now and honestly, they can be money pits without proper management. I could imagine the strain on a marriage, heck the strain on life, by having my husband sink tens of thousands of dollars into a restaurant that my kid clearly doesn't know how to run. Not only does he know nothing about management, he had no drive or ambition to make it better. He needed a kick in the pants to see it right. Im hoping he can continue on a good path and maybe make some of that money back for his parents. They may never see a retirement if he continues on his previous path.

    • Ree says:

      Wow poor Chip. His dad paid for all his bills, he lives rent-free and his family loans him cash. Boo hoo, Chip. I can understand he lost his passion but he basically seemed like he is irresponsible. I would not fault his mom for not having faith in him anymore.

  2. Gen says:

    Wow people, settle down, give the man a chance to prove himself. It doesn't matter how old you are, if your heart is not in the game, you will not succeed. I wish them the best of luck and plan to ride the Harley up to visit and check out the new "changes". Take care of this business for your family, present and future.

    • Used to be a fan says:

      Bro, ride into town from south, on Lake Shore drive, very nice little putt from south end of Lake Elizabeth and past Lake Mary into town.

      I heard Chipmeister is history. The bar is great, good cocktails, view is great – looks over Lake Mary.
      I went there about six weeks ago, food was Meh!

      I'll try again, since like I said bar/view A1. I hope the service and food get back to how it was when it was Fitzwoody's – about 6 or 8 years ago.

      P.S. Ate breakfast at Manny's Snack Shack sometime, in Twin Lakes too.

  3. CHIP says:

    CHIP THE PARTY BOY LOL

  4. jeni says:

    RI is my new favorite show!!! Very few shows are we able to sit down and watch with the entire family even my 8 year old loves it!! We DVR all episodes so we can tune it at anytime. The show is wonderful!! Thank you!!

  5. Teri says:

    I really enjoy the show as it is basically "making a purse out of a sow's ear" and he does appear to really care about helping these people succeed. I also really enjoy seeing the transformations of the actual surroundings and on occasion learn something new about food preparation.. It is like HGTV and Food Network rolled into one! You can definitely tell Chef Robert was military trained ala the tear them down before you build them back up model he uses.

    I have also realized since watching that the dream I always had of having a restaurant is probably a bit unrealistic for me. lol Thanks for saving me boat loads of money and lots of humiliation Chef! :)

  6. Wooster says:

    One point that I think no one has really addressed yet is that Chip's father is the one (and his wife) is the one that initially made the bad investment for buying the restaurant in the first place. He himself stated that there were a string of managers that couldn't make the place work either. Perhaps the location is bad and there just aren't enough customers in the area to support a restaurant of that scale.

    Whatever happened between Chip and his parents before the restaurant really doesn't concern anyone but that family, but the level of frustration displayed by the parents can't all be pinned on Chip. It was a bad investment from the start on the part of the parents. I do hope that Chip can make it work, but with parents like that, it's no wonder that he's not firing on all cylinders. Notice the younger brother that moved AWAY and out of the orbit of his parents seems successful. Perhaps the environment with the mother is just toxic?

  7. Used To Be a Fan says:

    Post part 1:
    I've been going there for several years. When it was Fitzwoody's it had an interesting menu, paella, bluegill, artisan sausage, etc. Very tasty food, nice variety and great cocktails. We've noticed the quality go down over the years, especially after the name change and multiple menu changes.

    So, I saw the show today and a few of us rode up and stopped in. First went down to the Tiki Bar. Kind of cheezy and small, no room at bar in shade. Sat at less than ideal plastic table and waited…. and waited….
    We finally gave up on a server coming over and went back to the desk and put our name in to get a table on the shaded upper outside deck, behind the restaurant bar wall. We told the hostess we'll wait in the bar. Sat at a table in the bar. No one came by, so I went to the bar to order drinks. Only a few patrons in bar… I wait and wait while bartender was more concerned about washing glasses and not so much as a "can I help you with something".

  8. Used To Be a Fan says:

    Post part 2:
    Finally the barman looks at me and asks if I want something. Me? No, just admiring your washing skills. So I said yes, some drinks but I see a server come in to another table and said I'll just let her get us. She walks away! At last some woman comes from behind the bar, takes our order – we ask for 4 waters too. THEN the server comes by to take order….

    Anyway, we get called to deck table, had at least 6 different servers drop by and say they'll be taking care of us – one twice (it was going to be her, then not, then it's her again). Asked ALL for the water, none came. My buds wife finally flagged the busboy for water THEN a manager says she'll get it – which she did. After that it was "bottomless glasses" as every few minutes the bus kid comes by with pitcher.

  9. Jared says:

    Their food staff needs a ton of work. We ate there last night, they were out of half the menu at 6 p.m. on a Sunday. The hostest, when we entered must have thought that we asked something difficult because of the look we got from here, but actually we just asked to be seated… food took forever, over an hour for 3 burgers and one salad. Burgers were better at my kids baseball game. Sorry, we tried, not going back. Get people that want to work for you. Your bus boys were the only ones that actually looked like they were working and happy. The women waitresses were not good. Too bad, it is an awesome spot.

  10. Mary says:

    Well, I have a friend in Twin Lakes, WI so I thought I would take him here for lunch because of the show. It was this past Saturday, nice sunny day in a resort town. Decor was very nice, it was 5:30 p.m. (dinner time?) and the place was dead. The only thing we could afford was a $12 burger, so we did. We both received PLAIN greasy burgers and not the ones we ordered with extra items on them from the menu. I asked for the bill to be corrected accordingly so we only get charged for what we received, that didn't happen. We took it out of her tip because she was a whispering timid waitress who is far from approachable. We will NOT be going back here even if we did bring more money.

    • Tori says:

      Just to let you know, most busy dinner times are between 7-8pm. And if you saw the episode, you should already know why the menu items are priced the way they are; paying for food cost, employees, and utilities. If you do not want to pay $12 for a decent meal, then go to McDonalds or do not go out at all. Since you had problems paying $12 for one meal at a nice restaurant, I doubt you ordered extra items that would up your bill. You are probably one of those cheap customers that try to complain about everything so you can receive discounts, then justifying your actions by intimidating the staff in order to get your way. You cheated your server out of their tip probably because you are intimidating, making her timid. Servers work really hard, many times behind the scenes, and have to turn the other cheek when faced with difficult and mean customers. I have high standards for servers, since I am one, but I also keep in mind how physically and mentally taxing the job can be.

      • $12 for a burger, in a small town in Wisconsin, is too high. And 5:30, in Wisconsin, is definitely not too early. In many places 5:30 on a weekend is standing-room only! But agreed, shortchanging your server, provided they gave good service, is not cool.

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