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 (102)

  1. Angela H. says:

    I had heard that Bryant's seafood was "not any good" since it had changed owners. After watching the transformation on Restaurant Impossible, I will definitely make the drive from Walker County to give it a try!

    • Krissy says:

      I feel like everyone says that any time a restaurant changes hands. "Oh it's no good since the Johnson's sold the place… blah blah blah"

      She seemed really adamant that she never changed the recipes that the previous owners sold her. Yet those owners sold and opened up another place nearby. Maybe as someone previously mentioned those owners fudged the recipes and kept the real ones all to themselves??? I mean why would you just hand over your famous recipes that everyone says "are like heaven in your mouth" when you're still in business yourself??

      • Narwal el Sancehz says:

        Why would the former owners only move to a new spot?
        Was it a rent issue, or was it a neighborhood issue?
        Anyone know the reason?
        Maybe the restaurant is built on a toxic waste site or a graveyard
        or something? Just wondering.

  2. D w says:

    I do not live in the area but if I did I sure would stop in.robert is the best

  3. Howard R Ordemann says:

    He does it the way it should be done

  4. Realist says:

    What part of nobody likes the hushpuppies does she not get?

  5. Kelli K says:

    Things going back to the same way just nicer and cleaner the place sucks went there a week ago and owner went back to her old ways food has no flavor, Dinners are higher, hushpuppies are dry. But there was a difference in servers they hired new staff and they make you feel welcome and care about the customers not like the servers that have worked there before

  6. MBaswell says:

    I can't speak to what this lady was serving, but years ago, before the sale of the restaurant, the hush-puppies truly were like heaven in your mouth, and they were practically biscuit sized if memory serves.

    • David Beorn says:

      Couldn't agree more – and the catfish was great before. It's been a while since I've been there, so I never ate "her" food. I'll have to go back and try it again 'cause I told my wife "that's a great seafood place" when we happened to drive by a couple weeks ago, not realizing it was under new management


  7. Alexinawe says:

    I enjoyed the episode. The owner's reaction when she saw her store and the hug between her and Robert amid tears really drove home what he does for these people. Robert, you rock man!

  8. Guest says:

    I'm going to the Birmingham area in July and I'll be sure to try out the restaurant.

  9. russ says:

    Robert needs to make sure he keeps his current designer she is great and half the show. As far as Bryants I have traveled and eaten in the south a lot while in the Army and hush puppie s have flavor and texture and if not then dont try to push crap off on the dinner. The owner appears to have he head in the cluds and not want to hear anything except what she says. If she was corporate like she said then I hope I dont have stock in her past employeer as the place was a pit and run like a rookie.

  10. Peggy says:

    I did not appreciate this episode! I felt for the first time I have ever watch the entire series of Resturant Eposible, which I adore watching Robert really help people, like the First Lady President, was a complete fake! I was totally surprised that a woman making over a 6 figure dollar previous salary could not have failed like this! Other episodes really showed folkes in trouble with financial, health, family & down right "know how" to make a dream come true for a Resturant to make it. This was a totally a let down! Robert go help the real working class folks who really wants to make a Resturant Possible!

    • Keep It Real says:

      Before you start criticizing a business owner or their livelihood..let alone the FIRST FAMILY OF THE UNITED STATES, learn how to speak freakin' English!!!

      • crzylinks says:

        I agree…my comment to Peggy was going to be…WHAT??? Either learn how to put together a sentence,or don't post.It makes you look really stupid and decreases any credibility!!

    • Showstoppa99 says:

      Your grammar is a let down!

    • Mark says:

      Peggy, please bear in mind the new owner was a corporate officer accustomed to commanding subordinates who had the authority to delegate further In order to achieve the outcome desired, with a small restaurant that level of delegation is impossible to accomplish. Ms. Cox did state she had never operated a restaurant before, much less owned one. Sadly, she seems, on the show, to fail to grasp the "jack-of-all-trades" requirement a small business requires, maybe because she has been to immersed in the corporate style of business? It is interesting that with her background she did not take time to consult with, or hire individuals experienced in the restaurant industry to guide her. Oh yea, I use to eat at Bryant's Seafood World a minimum of twice a month upon returning to the Hueytown area after having been gone ten years. Since it was sold I have been in there a total of six times before the show, and once since the make over. Point? It has changed a great deal on many levels.

      Hopefully she will be able to turn it around and re-achieve the level of sales the business once held, truthfully I do not believe that will be achieved if the current close mindset, arrogant (corporate induced) attitude and selfish-ness does not subside. I do wish her success with this business for many reasons.

      • Dave says:

        She didn't "need" consulting 'cause "anyone can cook". Well anyone can clean, too, but they didn't do that very well either.

      • Hans says:

        Corporate officer my behind. Mark, are you a friend of hers, or do you just kiss ass out of habit?

      • Annie says:

        I have often thought that the white-collar business folks that decide to buy a restaurant figuring it's an easy thing to do think that way due to some inherent, sometimes subtle but sometimes overt, elitism.

        They seem to think that if people making minimum wage can do this job, then it must be easy, right? And there also seems to by a common attitude among these folks that most people who work in restaurants are uneducated, ignorant or just plain stupid. After all, if they were educated or very smart they'd have a better paying white-collar job, surely. So, if these uneducated folks can make do working in a restaurant or owning a restaurant, then educated, smart, well-informed me should be a huge over-night success!

        I ran in to these kinds of attitudes often when I worked in restaurants and I've seen it every so often on RI and similar shows.
        I hope Gail is realizing that the owning your own small service-industry business is a completely different world than white collar corporate work. I also hope she's able to adjust her methods accordingly.
        She seems smart and very capable, but man, sometimes during the show I just wanted to shake her and say "open your eyes, woman!" Hopefully she can pull herself out of Gail-world and really use the feedback she gets here in the real world.

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