Restaurant Revisited: Treading Water at Bryant’s Seafood World

by in Shows, April 23rd, 2014

Robert Irvine and Gail Cox“On a scale of one to 10 of disgusting, this is a 12,” Robert Irvine said not long after arriving at Bryant’s Seafood World in Hueytown, Ala. The decades-old fish house is known for its deliciously authentic hushpuppies, but what Robert found was underseasoned food, a grimy interior and a kitchen with off-the-chart levels of bacteria — not to mention Gail Cox, the owner who had little will to continue in the business. With just two days to work and a budget of only $10,000, Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible staff overhauled the menu and design at Bryant’s, and taught both Gail and her employees the importance of dedication to the eatery. Read on below for an exclusive interview with Gail to find out how her restaurant is doing today.

“Comparing January 2014 versus February 2014, business increased 32.3 percent,” Gail said, adding that she and diners have been wowed by the updated interior at Bryant’s. “The top-three things working well for us include cutting down the cashier counter to give additional access to that area (which really helps the flow of the servers), adding a hostess stand (which gives us order to the customers waiting to be seated on those weekend busy dinner hours) and removing the carpet.”

Gail explained that the updated menu has attracted first-time patrons, and she admitted, “Customers loved the Shrimp and Grits dish instantly.”

In terms of staff contribution, employees have begun cleaning the front and back of the house daily, according to Gail. “I’ve assigned certain tasks to the servers, and it’s rotated,” she explained. “The staff is working a little harder and appears to really want to do their part to make it work. We are in the process of hiring new staffers so we can stop working so many ‘doubles.'”

After learning from Robert during the course of two days, Gail said she knows now how to better manage her staff. “I have to follow through on my requests, and I need them to respect me when I walk in the room.”

Gail said she’s taking a temporary break from selling Bryant’s hushpuppies anywhere but the restaurant. “I have pulled back on continuing the hushpuppies until I can get a better package solely because … Robert and the focus group didn’t think the current package was eye-catching,” she explained. As for in-house production of the hushpuppies, that process has been improved, thanks to the new mixer. “It has allowed us to make the hushpuppies in larger batches, thereby relieving some of the pressures on the line cooks,” according to Gail.

Looking ahead to what’s next for Bryant’s, Gail explained, “My immediate plans for the restaurant are to continue to grow the business, install a patio out front that will allow customers to dine outside this summer and expand on the bar, making it a fully functional bar with a sink, under-counter cooler, dishwasher and draft beer if possible.”

More from Restaurant Revisited:

Urban Roots (April 9)
gratifi kitchen + bar (April 2)
Mama Della’s N.Y. City Pizzeria (March 26)
Pasión Latin Fusion (March 19)
Tootie’s Texas BBQ (March 12)
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)

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Comments (101)

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Is anyone familiar with the testing equipment shown in this episode to test for cleanliness of surfaces?

    • Charlene says:

      Yes it is an ATP tester that is used not only in the food industry but also healthcare to test the presence of andenosine triphosphate load on surfaces and in lumens.ATP is the basic building block of organic material. It is available from many retailers but I belive the one they used is from Ruhof.

  2. Glenn says:

    We ate there last week and its just like before just cleaner. Food was horrible and bland no flavor at all. My sons food was cold and our food was delivered at different times only 3 other customers. Floors are dirty Hear the cook yelling at employees from the back. Will not be back. RI wasted time and money there

  3. Hmm says:

    Well, if you find the experience less than ideal, don't forget to post your review on YELP. Yelp shapes their ratings by leaning on the side of the those who advertise on their site. What this translates to is that even if you write a bad review, your review very likely will be hidden in their "not recommended" area where it will be difficult to find and it won't affect the rating of the business. Conversely, if you don't pay Yelp, then the positive reviews will also be buried. In other words, don't trust the reviews of Yelp. Urbanspoon, Foursquare, and Trip Advisor are your best bets to leaving a review; however, I am seeing a similar trend with Trip Advisor where they too are seemingly shaping reviews on the side of those merchants who advertise with them.

  4. Obie says:

    I have eaten at Bryant's a number of times since the show aired. I have enjoyed each time and the food is good. I like the way they do their fried green tomatoes. I have found that most people who write a comment usually are negative all most things and really did not eat at the place. Unless you eat there I don't think you should really comment.

    • @anwaranasir says:

      I agree. I also look forward to giving them a try even though I can only do so while on
      vacation. It's been a while since I've been in Alabama. I live in Philadelphia and that's quite
      a drive.

  5. @anwaranasir says:

    I think that the problem with most of these post is that it's in Alabama. If a problem exist with the food then it can be fixed. If their is a problem with the decor it can be fixed. Gail should have a suggestion box and read every comment. That way she can gauge her businesses success or short comings. She just has to be willing to accept criticism and build on what she reads. As they say. Location, location, location and being a minority business person doesn't help in Alabama. I will try to get there on my next vacation just to visit Bryant's. If I can help in any way I will. I wish her much success. Being in business can be tough. And nothing beats a failure, but a try.

    • Gale says:

      You seem to have no idea how many minorities own businesses in Alabama, especially Metro Birmingham. I've eaten at Bryant's Seafood World many times and I don't give a flip who owns it or any restaurant I like.

  6. shannon says:

    Robert Irvine helps anyone that reaches out for help. I watched this episode as i watch all of this episodes he is hard working and I love his work ethics. I do not think this owner that intentions of going on tv for any kind of publicity, it was obvious she needed help. From the minute Robert entered the place was dirty. As far as Gail giving pushback to Robert have you not seen other episodes where owners give push back until Robert can finally get through to them, and for the person that made the comment about her getting her nails done- that is funny I am a woman you can manage to get your nails done in a half hour and did you ever think she wanted to look good for the first opening-come on give her a break, also lay of Robert hes out there helping people turn their lives around, Robert i wish you come teach me how to cook for my family, Kudos to you! Coming from proud daughter of a veteran- my dad was a Marine in the 1960's

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