Restaurant Revisited: A Lot to Lose at Tootie’s Texas BBQ

by in Shows, March 12th, 2014

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: Impossible“There’s nothing that says, ‘Welcome to a barbecue place,’” Robert Irvine said after surveying Tootie’s Texas BBQ, but it turned out that what he deemed the “very, very bland” decor was just one of several problems plaguing owner Eileen Smith’s Cathedral City, Calif., restaurant. With unexceptional ‘cue coming out of the kitchen and mediocre management at the helm of the business, Tootie’s was losing nearly $3,000 every week, so Eileen looked to Robert to reinvigorate the eatery as well as herself, after she’d endured a string of personal losses and devastating struggles. With only two days to work and a budget of just $10,000, Robert indeed fulfilled his Restaurant: Impossible mission, reopening Tootie’s with an updated menu and a comfortable, lively interior. Read on below to hear from Eileen in an exclusive interview, and find out how she and her business are doing today.

“Our sales are up 30 percent,” Eileen says, adding, “I know I have a ways to go before I am making a profit, but the gap is closing. I am working my tail off to ensure success.”

Both Eileen and diners have been wowed by the updated decor at Tootie’s. “Customers love the new design and are constantly taking pictures in front of the bottle flag,” she notes.

In terms of the menu at Tootie’s, it’s now a combination of the restaurant’s long-standing items plus dishes that Robert created, according to Eileen. “I let his menu run for five days. I visited every table and asked each customer to please fill out a comment card and be brutally honest; this was how I was going to know which items worked,” she explains. “I took all the feedback and reworked the menu, taking our original top-selling items along with the new items introduced by Chef Irvine.” She adds, “With Robert showing me how to calculate food cost, I was able to make my menu work profitable.”

Since Robert left, Eileen says, “Employees have definitely stepped up, especially Tanya, who has conformed to my new policies,” and her own management skills have improved. “Sounds silly, but I’ve learned that I’m the boss. No one else signs the checks — or sits up late stressing about the bills. I still am probably too nice, but I get my point across and work gets done.”

Editor’s note: The Restaurant: Impossible team is sorry to report that in a tragic and heartbreaking turn of events, Eileen passed away several months after filming.

More from Restaurant Revisited:

Mill Creek BBQ Restaurant (March 5)
Estrada’s Restaurant (February 5)
Hillbillies Restaurant (January 29)
Spunky Monkey Bar and Grill (January 15)
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)

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Comments (133)

  1. Miguel says:

    What was the wood recommended by chef RI to use to smoke the ribs?

  2. Suzy says:

    I have watched Robert's shows for over four months and enjoyed watching this one, as we live near the restaurant. We have never been there before and decided to go there for lunch today. When we walked in, there was only one table of four occupied and we were told we could sit wherever we wanted. We sat there for over five minutes before the girl came back to see what we wanted. Not friendly at all and acted like it was a real pain to be waiting on us. We did not wait long for our food after ordering but was very disappointed after ordering the special of barbecue and chips. The bun was hard and dry and the meat had some kind of funky, not barbecue taste and the "homemade" chips also had a funky taste. the waitress never came back to see if we needed anything else until we were almost finished and she brought our bill (again not being very friendly). If that was one of their "old recipes" they should take it off the menu again. The décor was very cute but the bathrooms needed a lot of attention: no paper towels, full waste basket and dirty. Shame on you for not cleaning up the restrooms after your restaurant got an incredible makeover. I will not be going back again.

    • Jeanne T says:

      I want to thank you for trying to support Tooties. The management is doing the best they know how without Eileen. It saddens me that when I wrote Food Network to tell them about Eileen, I got only the "standard" return e mail. I thought Robert would wnat to know but I guess he is very busy.

  3. Joey says:

    Eileen's health remains a challenge. Two people have stepped forward to run the restaurant in her absence, and after a few shaky times, they seem to be 'getting it'.
    When the RI crew left, while it may appear that everything is fixed and ready to roll, it's actually the beginning of a change, not the end of a change. Owners and staff have to re-learn a lot. Sometimes staffing changes have to take place. Not everyone can adapt to the new ways of doing things. Sometimes recipes have to be dropped and others changed as a practical matter. For example, Eileen had to drop one of the fried items because the kitchen only has one fryer, and the flavors would mingle, and timing was a problem.
    The RI cast and crew did an amazing job, taking a restaurant that couldn't make it, and creating an opportunity for success for someone whom we in the neighborhood have a great deal of affection.
    We still hope for Eileen's recovery and for the eventual success of Tooties – but whatever the future holds, it was amazing having RI here, and Eileen was overjoyed at the changes they brought about.
    Special thanks to Lynn, the designer, and Tom the builder, as well as to all of the friendly and hard working crew behind the scenes.

    • Jeanne T says:

      Thank you Joey for the update. I e mailed Mr Irvine but never heard back from him. I am keeping Eileen in my prayers.

  4. Jeanne T says:

    Dont know if anyone will see this but…Our sweet Eileen passed away last night. My hear and prayers go out to her family and friends. She will certainly be missed.

    • charolette says:

      So sad. I am glad her spirt was raised before her time past. Bless her friends and family.

      • Jeanne T says:

        I dont think Eileen ever got to see the show. She was hospitalized three days before it aired. BUTshe did get to see all the changes. God bless her and her family. I hope she has been reunited with her dear husband.

    • nelson says:

      im very sorry to hear about Eileen's passing.

    • Jon L says:

      I'm really sorry about her passing, it was awesome to see her smile on this show. Prayers to family, friends and coworkers

    • Anna says:

      Just watched the show! I'm so very sorry to hear of her passing!! God bless her and her family. She looked like such a sweet wonderful and bubbly person! I'm sad :(

    • ronnie says:

      sorry to here this that little lady had a big heart poor girl she with her family now god bless her

    • Yom Bonnell says:

      So Sad

    • Carol Y. says:

      SO SORRY…she should rest in peace knowing too, she was doing well with her restaurant… hope you all are ok and being sure her dream moves forward…. bless you all!

  5. Helen says:

    My heart goes out to her family and friends. We are so very sorry for your loss.

  6. Jcooney65 says:

    Why does the food network feel the need to air a rerun of this episode at this time when the family and friends are mourning the loss of the restaurant owner. This is totally disrespectful.

    • Jeanne T says:

      I was hoping FN would run a little "In memory of" after last nights show but I guess they dont know. I tried reaching out to them, their reply was they *would* tell Robert but "they" dont know his e mail address.

      • Faramentha says:

        They had an "In memory of" after the episode I watched tonight.

        • Brian says:

          Yeah, I saw it too. It was there.

          As for playing it, there was nothing disrespectful in the episode. I don't see the conflict really. She was portrayed as a caring owner looking for help to make her business succeed. Thumbs up to the FN staff and Chef for doing what they could.

    • Frank Quinn says:

      I watched Tootsies Texas BBQ last night and assumed it was a first time run. I really loved it and fell in love with Eileen. Was shocked this morning when I clicked on here to see a followup of the show only to learn she had passed away. So sorry to hear of this. Rest in Peace Eileen. We all love you.

  7. Kevin Gilbert says:

    Hey Chris Rogers, I was a friend of your Aunties late husband Matt and knew them both when they had all of their hotdog stands. I was sad to hear of her passing. God Bless, she was such a sweet person.


  8. Cornell Washington says:

    Mesquite was the wood used in the program.

  9. justmynose says:

    The picture with this should have Eileen in it, to honor her memory!

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