Restaurant Revisited: Unlucky Number Seven at Seven

by in Shows, November 27th, 2013

Restaurant: ImpossibleWhen Robert Irvine arrived at Seven restaurant in La Porte, Ind., he found that the restaurant was suffering from the trifecta of issues: poor food, drab decor and weak management. Owners Tonya and Chad, who are engaged, named the business after their blended family of seven children, including Tonya’s son Jake, who’s a cook at the eatery. It was up to Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible team to use their $10,000 budget and two-day timeline to overhaul both the menu and interior design at Seven, and work with the family to give the business the second chance at success it deserves. FN Dish checked in with Tonya a few weeks after the restaurant reopened to find out how it’s faring since Robert left.

“The first week we tripled our sales and have nearly doubled our sales every week since the show,” Tonya explains. “While everything is amazing, our favorite part of the renovation is the sevens in the foyer and the lights above the hostess station that all seven kids got to paint.”

Since filming has ended, Seven has continued to serve Robert’s menu, although Tonya notes, “We have added a few things for lunch.” They add that going forward, “We will keep a lot of what Robert implemented but will try to switch it up to keep things fresh.”

Diners have taken to the new menu prices, Tonya tells FN Dish: “It is more affordable and there is a diverse choice of menu options. Customers think the pricing is very reasonable.”

Although Tonya has hired a new chef, Jake is still cooking in the kitchen, and is more comfortable there now, according to Tonya. “He has the new menu down pretty well. His confidence is there now that he knows the menu.” She adds that Jake is committed to pursuing a career as a chef and continuing to work at Seven.

In terms of the front-of-the-house staff, Jo is still in charge and she “is continuing to prove what an important asset she is to Seven,” Tonya says. “Chad has stepped up a little more in a leadership role and we are now having weekly meetings.” She adds of their new ways of keeping staff accountable, “We have put in place a new disciplinary plan for those who break policy rules. This is going into effect with both front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house employees.”

Check out Restaurant: Impossible’s top-five video mash-ups and see the dirtiest restaurants, the best sledgehammer moments and the most-unforgettable meltdowns.

More from Restaurant Revisited:

Georgia Boy Cafe (November 20)
Coach Lamp Restaurant & Pub (November 13)
The Windsor 75 (November 6)
Ducky’s Family Restaurant (October 30)
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 (91)

  1. guest says:

    The restaurant is up for sale

    • GiveARat's says:

      Which, in and of itself, is completely meaningless.

      By no stretch does it mean that the owners are bailing out or cashing in on the R:I makeover. It may well mean that they simply hope to show that the restaurant is undervalued and could provide them with an extended credit line if necessary.
      Chad is an accountant, after all.

      • Colorado Chef says:


        I don't understand your point.
        When you are trying to sell a failing restaurant you are not in a position of strength. You don't go on RI if you are successful with great recipes, a loyal following and lots of good will. Having been on RI is not a selling point to me, it's a negative.
        So, what have they got? A building with some used equipment. The Seven name and recipes are essentially worthless. Putting the place on the market tells their customers they are not serious and will drive people away, not bring them in.

        Who would want to give them MORE credit?

        I have experience both selling and buying restaurants, and I am not seeing your point. Perhaps you are seeing something I am missing. maybe you could explain. Thanks.

        • GiveARat's says:

          The simple fact that Seven is listed as for sale doesn't mean they are earnestly trying to sell the restaurant. They may only be trying to establish a new market value. I don't know if there are currently any mortgages against the restaurant, but if Chad has borrowed money for the restaurant against a home or other property, then establishing a higher value for the restaurant may allow him to borrow more against the restaurant and release any other liens. A building and used equipment in good condition should be worth more than they currently owe, and post-R:I, the Seven name and Chef Irvine's recipes should have some value.

          "Who would want to give them more credit?" Umm… a bank? That's what banks do.

          I agree that this could create some stigma with prospective customers, so maybe it isn't completely meaningless or without some risk. But it certainly does not mean that the business is finished.

          • Colorado Chef says:

            OK, I see where you are going. By putting the restaurant up for sale they can get a new appraisal with, hopefully, a higher value. Why not just get an appraisal? I am guessing the value of the building has not increased because of RI. If Chad has his house guaranteeing the loan on the restaurant it will be tremendously difficult to convince a bank to release that lien.

            Here's the thing: Banks want to see cash flow and income. So, to get a bigger line of credit Chad will have to show more income, some improvement in sales.

            My guess is that Chad wants to cut his losses. Tonya stated in the newspaper that even if they got full price they would still lose money. My take is that they want to sell while they still have some good will from the TV show. If I'm right that would be the smartest thing they have done so far with this restaurant. Get out before it buries you.

            The building and the business are two separate entities. The building has intrinsic value based on the condition, the location, the contents, what the city might make you do to bring it up to code, etc. That would not have changed since the TV show.
            The business' worth is based on sales, a good reputation, workable recipes and a good management plan. If you have those things you have something to sell.

            One of the hardest things to do when buying or selling a business is to leave the sentiment out of it. It is a numbers game. The fact that your grandma opened the business and raised her kids in the restaurant means nothing to a prospective buyer. And if you are buying you must leave your excitement at home and look at the building/business from a neutral perspective. Believe me, it is hard to do.

            Nice chatting with you. Forgive my digressions. I watch the show and comment here because I love the business. Robert's show is pretty real as TV shows go, he is one of "us". I'm hoping people will watch this show and realize they probably should NOT open a restaurant.
            Maybe I should get a life, LOL.

          • GiveARat's says:

            All good points, CC. Thanks for sharing your experience in the restaurant business — it is valuable and appreciated.

            Bank appraisals are nearly always based upon the application amount. If you ask the bank for a $100,000 mortgage, they don't appraise actual property value; they only appraise to try to ensure that the value is at least $100,000, and will make the appraisal amount match the application amount, even if the actual market value is clearly much higher. Professional appraisers (usually realtors) generally appraise based upon the sale of similar real properties in the same area, and don't include any intrinsic value of a business. Often the only way to get a true valuation is to offer a business for sale and see what offers are received.

            I don't know if this is in fact what the Seven owners are doing. Maybe they are testing the waters. Maybe they really are hoping to bail out while the tide is high. My original point was simply that the fact that the business is for sale should not be an impetus for judgements and forgone conclusions, which so many people on these boards are prone to make.

          • JZZZZ says:

            As a state certified commercial appraiser, I have to say you're wrong.

          • Guest says:

            Dude, what are you talking about, "the only way to get a true valuation is to offer a business for sale and see what offers are received"? Your statement begs an interesting question: how do the people making the offers determine how much they're willing to pay? There are ways to value a business and pulling a number out of your arse isn't one of them, or at least not a very good one.

            According to you a bank doesn't appraise the actual property value, they only try to ensure the value is sufficient to cover the principal? Again, interesting thought, but how would they determine whether there's sufficient value there to serve as collateral without doing an appraisal of the property's actual value?

            Cash flow is pretty much king when it comes to business valuation and to that end Seven's building, equipment, and fixtures have some value. No one is going to be willing to pay anything for the Seven name or the kid's interpretation of Chef Ramsey's recipes because they are a failure. There is no goodwill; any potential buyer would almost certainly want to start fresh.

            I read in another article Ramsey told them to put it on the market and I don't blame them one bit for taking the advice. They made an incredibly uninformed decision by underestimating the difficulty involved in running a restaurant while overestimating their own abilities to successfully manage such a venture. Trying to get out before they completely lose their shirts is just about the best decision they could make.

  2. lori says:

    Why did Robert care if Tonya and Chad are married? At the beginning, he asked if they were married. Then in the part where he is investigating the problem, he called Chad "your boyfriend or fiance or whatever he is" like he was stressing that they were not married. We are watching to see the restaurant being fixed — not to see a lecture about getting married.

    • JanetPlanet10 says:

      Robert was saying that Chad's screwed if the place goes under because he put so much more money into it than she did.

      He wasn't really talking about marriage, he was talking about Chad being SOL if the place goes under and they're not legally bound by marriage or partnership etc.

      • GiveARat's says:

        That was clearly the point to me, too. Since they are not married, if the place went under, Chad would lose $160,000 and Tonya would lose $10,000. If they were married, each would assume half the debt even if they split up — better for Chad, but not so great for Tonya. I think Chef Irvine's point was to drive home how big a deal this was for Chad, since Tonya didn't seem to be grasping the gravity of the situation.

        Ultimately, the point was well taken with me. Poor Chad… Whether the restaurant succeeds or fails… poor Chad.

      • lessonlearned says:

        I agree with you. I started a business with my fiance' and when we split, I got nothing but screwed up credit and a lot of wasted time. Lesson learned. Clearly, they're not being married is a business concern. Chef Irvine addressing this was completely appropriate.

    • Jake says:

      Lori get off your progressive horse and wake up, i didn't pick up any hostility what so ever toward them not being married. Stop trying to throw gas on a fire that doesn't exist, Al Sharpton Jr. over here with your ignorant comments.

  3. JanetPlanet10 says:

    Tonya's delusional thinking is an epidemic in our culture right now.

    We're constantly slammed with the notion of always thinking positively, never negatively. But you can't fix anything if you're deluded into thinking everything's great when it's not.

    Just being positive doesn't get it done. Realistic thinking, preparation, knowledge, skill and organization get it done.

    • Beth says:

      And prayer… it's well worth seeking the Lord on His direction & plan for our lives… it's a real time saver.
      Try it!

    • Beth says:

      And prayer… it's well worth seeking the Lord on His direction & plan for our lives… it's a real time saver.

    • Queenmumto2 says:

      JanetPlanet10…well said..well said indeed! Reminds me of the "walk the talk" and "actions speak louder than words" phrases.Also the comment made by an audience member years ago to a woman on a talk show that was deluded about her talents..delivered in a VERY southern drawl…."HONEY..someone LIED to YOU".I still laugh to this day about that!!

    • Rhonda says:

      Tonya wanted her dream so badly, and felt guilty (she admitted as much during the show) that Chad had put a second mortgage on his home for $50,000, plus put up $100,000 on the bank loan to purchase the restaurant, where she only put up $10,000 towards it. So, it was denial on her part, because she didn't want it to fail at all. If it did, then it meant that Chad lost his home for himself and his 3 children. That's what blinded her to the restaurant's failure. Also, just because she at one time was a server at the previous owner's business does not qualify her to be management. That business failed, tpo, and that should have been a red flag to her and Chad. That's why Robert was shaking his head in disbelief when he heard their story. He has a heart, and wasn't going to let them hang themselves and help Chad lose his home, too. Chad admitted that "reality bites" and accepted it! Tonya needed to be hit over the head with a frying pan to get her to see it.

  4. Cynthia says:

    I think that Robert tried to inspire Jake to do what he knew he could do and to me one day Jake will be a great chef if he does one important thing Have faith in yourself believe you can do anything.

    • Slicky says:

      I agree. Jake is obviously driven: he's been carrying that kitchen all this time with very limited skills and scant guidance. I hope he comes out of this proud as heck and ready to tackle anything. He's such an appealing young man, I hope he does well in life.

  5. Epic Fail says:

    I'm sure this will get deleted for mentioning a non-FN show, but I'm going to put it out there anyway.

    Anyone, experienced or not, thinking about buying or opening any kind of restaurant should watch every episode of the BBC version (not the US version) of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares they can find. That show was a much more realistic look at failing restaurants, why they were failing and how to fix them. Plus, Ramsey always went back after filming for an update in the same show, something I would rather see R:I do instead of pointing us here, for a glossed over update.

    If watching that show doesn't convince them what they are planning is more than likely a bad idea, maybe they'll glean enough from other owner's mistakes to not make the same ones themselves.

    • buxx says:

      Ramsey is a fake and a ten-cent big mouth punk

    • Sandy says:

      I think they both have good insights. I watch Ramsay's Hotel Hell and his attention to detail comes through there as well. I'm currently doing a web site for a hotel client, in 2014, and the owner doesn't want a reservation system or even email. It's crazy. I feel like buying him both seasons of Hotel Hell before I have one more meeting with him.

  6. Suzanne says:

    I agree that they could have kept the beautiful stained glass windows, and just worked around them. The front entrance with the sevens did come out very nice. I think they should sell, and get out of that business. I think that they were unprepared, and sometimes the best course of action is to sell. They have seven children! The time that a restaurant requires is extensive. I hope they can sell, and at least recoup some money.

    • Slicky says:

      They probably can't sell until they show a track record of pulling in revenue. It would be wise if they brought in a really good manager to promote the place and get that bar packed. Since liquor is 87% profit and food is usually about 45-55%, maximizing a bar that size would be a smart thing to do.

  7. Slicky says:

    What a handsome, adorable young man Jake is. His pep talk moved me to tears. I can't imagine what he was facing, when most people his age have never faced that kind of workload or criticism or change-up.
    I hope this family pulls it together. They seem like really lovely people.

  8. DisapointedLP says:

    Its sad that as a LaPorte resident I feel that they are doing this just to sell and not lose money. There are some good restaurants in town but seven has missed the mark. I feel bad for JoJo because it seems she has the brunt of the weight on her. I hope this doesnt make Jake give up his dream but make him stronger as a chef.

  9. help please says:

    i am stationed in Germany an was wondering how i can watch this episode because i live in laporte and my sons girl works there

  10. sammy says:

    I was brought to tears when Jake had his meltdown. Robert helping him get past that was fantastic. Too bad it seems that they couldn't make it work even with RI.

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