Restaurant Revisited: Feathers Fly at Ducky’s Family Restaurant

by in Shows, October 30th, 2013

Robert IrvineFacing nearly $230,000 of debt, 33-year-old Ducky’s Family Restaurant in Kokomo, Ind., desperately needed Robert Irvine‘s help if the business was to have any chance at future success. Not long after Robert arrived, he realized that poor-quality canned food was among the largest issues plaguing Ducky’s, as was its drab interior decor akin, which Robert’s designer, Taniya Nayak, deemed “a cafeteria nightmare.” Together with Taniya and the rest of his Restaurant: Impossible team, Robert re-launched Ducky’s after two days of work on a $10,000 budget, and he helped owner Bill Duncan and Bill’s family learn essential skills for managing their family-run eatery. FN Dish caught up with Bill to find out how his business is doing a few months since the show filmed.

“Since the shooting of our episode, we have doubled our weekly sales,” Bill said. “Everyone loves the remodel.”

Ducky’s has brought on additional team members who “are doing a wonderful job,” according to Bill, who added that “Amanda has stepped up to the plate, working longer hours and putting organization to the business in just about every area.”

Once Robert left, Connie and Jason began to oversee “back of house” operations, according to Bill, who added, “This seems to be working very well.” Additionally, the restaurant has established regular meetings with the staff, including “weekly manager meetings and monthly mandatory store meetings that give [Ducky’s] grounds for improvement,” Bill said.

Although Ducky’s is now offering thicker-cut french fries, they are still serving the dishes that Robert created, Bill notes. “The biggest surprises are the blackened catfish and the turkey sliders …. The reviews are mostly favorable,” he said, adding that they’re no longer relying on canned or frozen goods.

More from Restaurant Revisited:

Mama Campisi’s Restaurant (October 23)
Aponte’s Pizzeria (August 25)
Benner Street (July 28)
Hurley’s American Grille (July 21)
Kalico Kitchen (July 14)
Angelo’s (June 23)
Pier West Restaurant (June 16)
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)

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Comments (138)

  1. Mexlinda says:

    Well, well, If you have the opportunity to Robert come with his team and fix the whole restaurant and make your dreams come true why not? I believe that out there are millions of restaurants in the same way with high debts and not customers that all, but I do believe that they know if the bank is going to take the place, just they trying to help them, but they don't promise them to pay their debts.
    If they were waiting for R.I show up and they got it , and they sold it, well good luck for the new owner,probably with the money that they got after pay all their bills the girls can have their own hamburgers carts! LOL

    • CasualObserver says:

      The new "owed" is the IRS.
      Apparently you haven't followed the updates. They lost the business to the IRS for back taxes. The "girls" don't get a penny. No one but the IRS will have access to the proceeds of the sale of this restaurant.

  2. Thank for sharing this blog with all of us. Of course, what a great site and informative posts, I will bookmark this site. keep doing your great job.

  3. hoosierman says:

    Ducky's has closed due to not paying taxes…..duh

  4. Brew says:

    If you all knew the truth, you would quit judging. This family tried their best to keep this place going, if you need to blame anyone, I would be pointing fingers at the govt intities, they forced the sale of this business due to back taxes, Our GOVT is to blame, they seem to ever give folks a hand up, just a hand out!!.This is what is sad. I live in Kokomo, Ducky's was fabulous and my little girl was so excited to eat there especially after the show aired, The owner and the staff couldn't of been any nicer, and the food was hot and good. The owner also gave us samples of Robert Irvines recipes . You all need to be ashamed that are damning this family, they are good people that fell on hard times, The City of Kokomo was hit very hard during the automotive crisis and just about went under . Much needed help came from the govt to help salvage our city, but it seems that the small business owners suffered the most. Very sad. I hope and pray that these people don't get down on their selves. They did try to make this work. It didn't. pure and simple….no fault of their own in my opinion.

    • Jack Meehoff says:

      thank you for shedding fact to all of these clowns on here who are ignorant and presumptuous.

      • Purpeagle says:

        As a small business, as with ANY business, the owner is responsible for witholding tax and FICA from their employees paychecks and depositing that witholding with the employers matching share with the US Treasury. It is a matter of trust between the employee and the employer. If an employer is witholding taxes and spending their employees money on things other than taxes, it is just damn wrong, That being said, one of the major pitfalls of small business is not properly paying and reporting their employment taxes. Once you fall behind, it is very hard to catch up. But remember the employee entrusts that their employer is properly depositing their money for taxes. I know it's difficult to understand, especially with this toxic anti-government atmosphere being drummed up by a certain cable network and conservative hate radio, however it is not the Government, it is the LAW. Remember we live in a civilized country where we can't pick and choose which laws we obey and which laws we choose to ignore. Better communicatiobn between the IRS and small business owners should exist, especially when someone dives into a business uninformed. The SBA, lenders, etc shud educate a small businessman. Hopefully the family is doing well.

        • Maxie CPA says:

          Absolutely right! I get very aggravated when I hear about employers failing to remit withholding and FICA taxes. Guess what–if your employer doesn't pay withholding taxes, YOU haven't paid your taxes and the government is going to expect you to cough them up! This money does NOT belong to the employer. I hear this all the time on these shows, and it makes me furious!

    • Pegy says:

      I live in Kokomo and there are a lot of small businesses in this town and I make a point to frequent them if they are good. I can think of 2 excellent family owned restaurants that I eat at where I know the kitchen is clean and the food is good. Cleanliness in an eating establishment is the most important thing to me and it is not hard to do, if you care.

    • Kari says:

      It's the GOVT's fault? Seriously "Brew"? Most other small businesses meet their tax obligations — and know the consequences if they do not. Why should it have been any different for Ducky's? A tax sale is the very last resort for tax collection. Ducky's knew full well their obligation and the deadline to meet it — and failed. Ultimately it is their fault. To blame anyone else is foolish. I'm truly sorry for them but felt at the time I watched the episode they were asking for help too late.

  5. Scott says:

    Do all of these restaurants fail after Irvine's whirlwind 2 day fixes and his unpermitted building modifications? It's clear that the management issues require more than a few tear jerking comments and slaps on the rump to fix. That the kitchen staff needs time to be trained and a new menu developed. That can't be done in a day or two. And that the work done in the restaurant requires permits and inspections that must take more than 48 hours. (And we never see the dozens of untrained locals pitching in to get that work done. It must be fine work with so many untrained but enthusiastic people.)

    This show is all about bandaids and formulaic kumbaya mumbo jumbo. In the end things go downhill and the restaurants fail.

    Irvien is looking for failing restaurants so that he can strut his b.s. And then the restaurants fail anyway.

    What a pathetic show.

    • tomywrek says:

      ur the pathetic piece of dog sh*t… stop watching the show dumba$$

      • CasualObserver says:

        Exactly right. Some people are so pathetically insecure that they only feel good about themselves by denigrating others. These restauranteurs get ten grand of makeover, some guidance and mega publicity. If they don't make it, how is it, Irvine's fault? Only in in Scott's pathetic world it would seem. He watches the show because… it gives him someone to hate on. How pathetic is that?

    • fabuloso says:

      There is no fact to your statement that the changes that are made are un permitted. All of the necessary permits are obtained prior to the filming of the show.

    • Paul Buhl says:


      it's TV entertainment, and that's all it has to be. The other aspects of whether it really helps long term is up to the restaurant owner's passion and future efforts, some it will, some it won't. As far as the permits, do you have evidence it's not by the book? Do you really think The Food Network would put illegal building renovations on TV? Of course there's more to it that makes it into the final edit, it's not a long form documentary. How is what you see from Robert B.S.? Sounds like your a bitter wannabe, what's the deal?

  6. @goofy173 says:

    Ducky's did close. The IRS would not wait for their money and the government was the one that closed it. Remember that the chef comes into already failing restaurants. How many of you could go into a failing business and more than 50% of the time keep it operating?

  7. Elia says:

    I know this is superficial, but Amanda was really hot. That piercing was super sexy.

  8. Guest says:

    Restaurant impossible did not do there homework . Bill Duncan was not the owner never has been ,this mother owns it. There is a sister too. She worked there over 30 years .the business went down after she left and she was never even mentioned. As for bill and his girls we never seen them till the last couple years ,not there whole lives …lies !

    • CasualObserver says:

      When the going got tough, aka the economy and complacency, they bailed and led the other family members to pick up the pieces and face the hard times. How about the lie that… the sister deserved to be mentioned. RI came in to try and help and you blaming anyone other that Bill's sister for running away and quitting when things got tough is BS!

  9. Phil Shiffley says:

    From the

    Ducky's is Done

    Posted: Wednesday, December 25, 2013 6:00 am

    Changes at restaurant ‘too little, too late to spare the tax man’s axe

    Bill Duncan knew the end was coming, and not even a national television show could save him. His restaurant, Ducky’s, was shuttered by the Indiana Department of Revenue on Dec. 17, leaving employees and owner alike without a job just days before Christmas.

    “We were actually paying some bills, but it was too little, too late,” said Duncan. “The state of Indiana Department of Revenue came and closed us because we owe back taxes. Anybody who knows us knows they didn’t need to do that, but I met them and shook their hands and said I was sorry.

    “They said they were sorry that they had to do it, but it’s OK. They were just doing their job.”

    Duncan owned and operated Ducky’s for 34 years after assuming the business from his parents, and for years the Markland Avenue eatery survived on a loyal clientele that showed up regularly for chicken and noodles, fried chicken, or ham and beans. But times changed, and the business couldn’t adapt.

    With mounting tax bills and business expenses, Duncan turned to The Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible” show for help. Over the course of a few weeks, Ducky’s was modernized in its appearance and menu. The old staples were replaced with new and unique menu offerings. This ended up being good and bad for business, Duncan said.

    “The old clientele that loved the old chicken and noodles and ham, beans, and corn bread, they don’t come in anymore,” said Duncan. “But the people who were coming in now really liked us. They’d say the steak is awesome or that the hamburger was the best in town. We were developing a following. Had we had another year, it might have turned around.”

    The problem with not paying taxes is that the state won’t give a business owner another year to turn things around. When the Howard County Sheriff’s Department showed up at the door with the department of revenue, there was no delaying the end. Unfortunately, the closure came as a shock to some Ducky’s employees.

    “We’ve kind of known this might be inevitable and let some of them know,” said Duncan. “Some of the employees we released and let them go find jobs elsewhere. There were others who learned about it today for the first time. I’m pretty sure they all knew it was coming. It’s going to be tough for them. It’s going to be tough for us.

    “If we could pay the taxes today, we could still do business. But you don’t get on ‘Restaurant: Impossible’ just by owing a few dollars to the state. There was a lot more behind it — years of debt accrued. We made the changes necessary to be successful too late.”

    Duncan explained that Ducky’s failed for no other reason than people didn’t eat there. It is a problem that faces many local restaurants as big chain eateries continue to command the market.

    “The hardest part for the Duncan family is that we won’t be able to serve the community anymore in this capacity,” said Duncan. “We had a lot of people wish us well and pray for us. If people came to eat, that would have been enough. They didn’t want to see us go away, but they didn’t want to eat here on a regular basis.

    “There are some local restaurants doing well, but the rest of us struggle. Mom and dad struggled here for years. And when a recession hits, people don’t eat out as much. Or they go get the dollar meals at McDonald’s. It’s hard to compete against big restaurants with a lot of advertising.”

    Despite the closure, Duncan is hopeful that there may be a future for Ducky’s, be it a new owner or some other circumstance.

    “There may be some things we can do,” said Duncan. “Maybe I’ll figure something out and be able to re-open. We’ve always treated the restaurant as an extension of our home, and we wanted people to feel like they were home when they ate here.”

    • Guest says:

      Duncan was never the owner this parents were. Does anybody do there homework . He never worked there 34 years either.

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