Restaurant Revisited: Monkey Business at Spunky Monkey Bar and Grill

by in Shows, January 15th, 2014

Restaurant: ImpossibleFrom a filthy interior to seemingly indifferent management, the problems at Spunky Monkey Bar and Grill in Auburn, Wash., were many, and it was up to Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team to decipher and ultimately fix them one by one if the business was to have any chance at future success. Over the course of two days and with a budget of only $10,000, Robert overhauled the interior of the eatery, redesigned the menu and worked with owner Donel Brinkman to implement positive changes that ultimately allowed her to reopen Spunky Monkey to a packed crowd. Read on below for an exclusive interview with Donel and find out how her business is faring a few months later.

“Customers are thrilled with the design (as are we),” Donel says of the diners’ reactions to Spunky Monkey’s transformation, “and we are receiving great commentary on the transition.”

Since Robert left, Donel says that her own role at the restaurant now includes everything from buying and communications to general management of employees. “I tie in daily with staff, the kitchen, marketing and social media, and am an integral part of all purchasing, inventory management and marketing efforts,” she explains. “I also am present for a large bulk of evenings, and sometimes overnight in an effort to assure the cleanliness, organization, inventory management and overall function of the business.”

Employees are no longer focusing as heavily on servicing what Donel deems their “‘sections’” but rather have started to approach the restaurant as a whole. “We also work to assist in a team atmosphere, and run food collaboratively when needed, or assist on supporting customer needs (refills, etc.) for the entire floor.” She says the “staff has been intensely trained over the last month to act, engage and think bigger picture, always putting the customer and success of the restaurant as a first priority.”

According to Donel, Shannon “is assisting with management operations as needed, and acts in the best interest of the restaurant’s success,” adding that she “is not going home during her shifts, as the restaurant is staffed to operate at all times.” In terms of her relationship with Shannon, Donel explains, “Working together on management, training of staff, gathering feedback from customers and strong marketing has given us an opportunity to revisit our love for each other and the restaurant.”

Looking ahead to the future of Spunky Monkey, Donel says, “We hope to take Chef Irvine’s lead in redefining what is offered to the local market — adapting where necessary — to regain success and stability as a business while maintaining a commitment to our community.”

More from Restaurant Revisited:

Heather’s Country Kitchen (January 1)
Goombazz Big City Eatzz (December 18)
LBI Pancake House (December 8)
Ship Bottom Volunteer Fire Company (December 8)
Mike La Susa’s Italian Restaurant (December 4)
Seven (November 27)
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)

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Comments (105)

  1. guest says:

    Food Network, fix this in the 5th paragraph!
    " In terms of his relationship with Shannon…" It is HER relationship!!

  2. sherbear says:

    Robert was especially abusive during this episode. I think it is not necessary to berate restaurant owners in from of their customers. It is punitive and only damages their brand in the future. Also the smashing of their property, the way they dragged the pool tables out was brutal. What if they donated them to a youth center? or maybe the owner wants to take them home. I feel that Robert needs to have more respect for these people and not abuse them. This form of bullying for ratings is not right

    • Amy says:

      I was actually thinking that he was pretty rude, starting when he told Shannon that she sucked. I thought they covered that she was doing more than Donel thought or expected. So she sucks because she isn't taking care of everything?

      And talking about the kitchen conditions if he isn't going to close it down is just bad for business. If I had been there, I don't think I would have wanted to go back, at least not after the original opening.

    • SF2OAK says:

      They deserved much much worse endangering tge health of everybody who walked thru the door ( and paid for the priveledge. Why weren't they shut down by public Heath dept. ape/monkey who cares not a zoological society. Luckiest 2 ladies to be given this 2nd chance.

    • Jess says:

      I think he should have been more upset.Indangering peoples lives is no joke. Its his money
      and his time, so if you want the help then get a backbone.

    • mstep says:

      shut up there is so much we dont see and the owner agrees to all this u dont like it dont watch

    • JenP says:

      I grew up in Auburn and have been to Spunky Monkey. They were ok when they first opened years ago, but they deserved the berating they got. That place was nasty.

    • Ann says:

      Rude? Are you serious? They both had blank stupid stares on their faces and should be ashamed of themselves for letting it get that bad. It was their fault. No one elses. Dealing with peoples lives here. He was more than cordial than I would have been

    • jessica says:

      People know what theyr getting themselves into when they sing up for the show.

    • Jerry says:

      Really sherbear? Maybe we should call the wambulance for you. What a cry baby, did you know the show sunk $10,000 of their money into that grease tap? Waaaaa!!!!!!

  3. Justme says:

    I cannot believe that no one on the production team, or in the restaurant, pointed out that those "monkeys" that Tanya hung up were actually apes! Monkeys have tails and apes don't. Chimpanzees do not have tails. I'm just a 3rd Grade teacher and I know that.

    • PetPeeve says:

      YES! I've been lurking waiting for someone to point this out (except the tail thing isn't the defining factor and there are tailless monkeys). Having chimps on the walls is such a blatant display of ignorance. I just couldn't believe it.

    • Bill Heuber says:

      Actually sent the same thing

    • Sarah says:

      When Tanya pulled out that first design of a "monkey," I literally cringed. It would have been such a simple thing to correct. The only thing that apes and monkeys have in common is that they're both primates. I hope the owners have the good sense to correct the error or — trust me — it will come back to bite them. And I hope they really didn't bring back the pool tables. Why mess with the fantastic design (sans the chimps)?

    • Whocares? says:

      Seriously? Who cares if it's a chimp or monkey on the wall. It fits the name of the restaurant.

      • Dan says:

        No, it doesn't. How does a chimpanzee fit a restaurant named "Spunkey Monkey"?? I suppose they could put gorillas on the wall as well and it would be fine with you.

      • LizS says:

        Except, it doesn't fit the name of the restaurant. The name is Spunky Monkey, not Spunky Primate. Chimpanzees aren't monkeys.

  4. Shampoonah says:

    One of my favorite designs ever, hands down! Great job RI team!

  5. Barker 62 says:

    I can't believe the restaurant section wasn't required to be ADA compliant. That, along with the liquor board issues would seem to be a big problem Pretty sure there is a legal advisor with the RI crew or with Food Network, so why wasn't this checked out ahead of time to make sure the owner HAD all the paperwork and the renovation WAS compliant?

    I do like the new decor though, MUCH better than the previous one which came across as a filthy, sleazy dump.

    • Dave says:

      These issues with ADA and the liquor board have been addressed under pre-existing conditions years ago and cosmetic improvements under a capital improvement dollar amount can allow one to side step some of the issues that you would run into with a new project or a substantial remodel, no real trick to it.

  6. Bill Heuber says:

    Hey Robert, I love the show!! You do a wonderful service and a beautiful thing for the restaurants you help!! Thank you for that!! But one little mistake at the Spunky Monkey, your designer had a great idea, but she used chimpanzees instead of monkeys! But other than that, keep up the great work!!

  7. Bill Heuber says:

    Here's another comment! You idiots that are posting stuff, really need to read what you send!! This comment section doesn't have spell check!! Here's 2; " in from of " and " I've been lurking "!! Those 2 mistakes on lettering aren't even close to what they're supposed to be!!

    • Joanna says:

      Um, I am sure the correct term is "mistakes in spelling", not "mistakes ON lettering". Also, when writing the word "two" it is spelled out unless you are writing a contract or a monetary amount. Pot=Kettle=Black.

  8. Althea Craig says:

    Robert, The Spunky Monkey used to be a western clothing and tack store.

  9. Unie says:

    So what if it isn't monkeys…It looks a whole lot better…get Hopefully, this will give them a new chance to succeed!!!

  10. LindaB says:

    Knew one of the first things I would read in comments. " Monkeys aren't chimps!"
    Get over it, now it's a nice " Chimp Bar and Restaurant." Something north Puget Sound needs. I grew up one town over in Kent. As we all know, monkey goes as Boeing goes….I wish them the best of luck.

    • Dan says:

      For all the talk Robert does each and every week about paying attention to DETAILS, you think his design staff would do the same. A mistake that should not have been made, period.

    • LizS says:

      Actually, someone who understands the issue would say, "Chimps aren't monkeys."

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