Not long after arriving at Kalico Kitchen in Douglas, Mich., Robert Irvine realized that the negative tension and long-standing animosity between owner Catherine Wilt and her employees was as much of a problem at the restaurant as its dusty dining room and greasy kitchen. This over-30-year-old eatery was once making nearly $1 million in sales, but it recently acquired a $400,000 debt, something that Catherine learned when she returned after a four-year leave of absence. Over the course of two days and with a $10,000 budget, Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible team attempted to mend the strained relationships at Kalico Kitchen; plus, they gave the space a much-needed deep cleaning, design overhaul and updated menu with fresh, quality ingredients. FN Dish checked in with Kalico Kitchen, and a server, Laura — on Catherine’s behalf — shared how the restaurant is doing today.
“Business went from $200-$300 per day to $2,000-$3,000 per day,” Laura explained. Not long after reopening, Catherine “had made enough money to pay the mortgages to keep her from foreclosure.”
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In Woodstock, Ill., two cousins — Angelo Paloumbis and Angelo Mourelatos — have come together to run Angelo’s, their Greek-style restaurant founded by their fathers. Although this family business is now decades old, not much has changed since it opened 40 years ago; the unexciting menu, standard diner decor and family tension remain, and all are contributing to the business’ failure. Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team had just two days and a $10,000 budget to offer Angelo and Angelo a new outlook on their professional relationship, plus give their eatery an updated design and the tools to create fresh, flavorful food. FN Dish checked in with Angelo Paloumbis a few months after the transformation of Angelo’s to find out how the business is doing today. “Business is up 20 percent and is holding steady,” Angelo tells us, adding that the restaurant is now making at least a 10-percent profit. “We’re paying down debt with it,” he explains.
In terms of the decor, Angelo’s has taken advantage of the open floor plan Robert’s team created, even hosting large private parties in the redesigned space. Angelo adds that “the younger crowd loves” the updated style, and many of the servers have adapted well to their new station. The menu at Angelo’s is a mix of items from the original menu and the offerings Robert created. “We kept some things (sandwiches, salads, half the entrees, the appetizers) [and] added some of our prior entrees that people were requesting,” Angelo says. “The fried chicken, the roast turkey, the new hamburgers, the Greek lamb burger” are some of the most popular dishes. Many guests have been wowed with the fare at Angelo’s, and they’re especially pleased that they can pay with credit cards for the first time.
More From Restaurant Revisited:
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)
Despite the picturesque view from its waterfront location, Pier West Restaurant in Twin Lakes, Wis., couldn’t escape serious issues indoors, among them considerable debt and drab decor. With just $10,000 and two days to work, Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team relaunched owner Chip Walmsley’s business with a new menu and an updated design, plus gave Chip the support he needed to manage the restaurant and the foundation to mend his relationship with his family. FN Dish checked in with Chip a few months after the renovation to find out how the eatery is doing today.
“Business has been great since the filming [of the show]. We have definitely seen about a 25-percent increase in food sales,” Chip tells us. “We are taking things one week at a time … [and] following the standards Robert set up for us.”
Chip says “not one single customer misses the old look” of Pier West, and in terms of the new space’s features, his favorites are “the lighting and the floor.”
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Roger Murray, the owner of Pinehurst Country Lodge in Greeley, Pa., had no experience in either working at or owning a restaurant before he purchased the business just six months ago. Although he was once prosperous in the corporate world, Roger’s venture into the culinary industry proved less successful, and he was facing a $350,000 debt when Robert Irvine arrived to rescue him from despair. Strung with unattractive holiday lights and offering a menu of unpalatable food, Pinehurst Country Lodge was in desperate need of the design and menu revamps that Robert’s Restaurant: Impossible team was ready to provide. After just two days and with only $10,000, Pinehurst reopened to a bustling crowd and offered guests a menu of freshly prepared meals. FN Dish checked in with Roger a few months after Robert left to find out how his eatery is doing today.
“Business has picked up since the filming,” Roger tells us. “Overall I’d give it a 10 percent bump revenue-wise but consider my bottom line to be expanding more than that.” Pinehurst is indeed making more money than it was before its transformation, and Roger adds that he’s now seeing income from the bar.
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After more than six seasons of budgeted, on-the-clock renovations on Restaurant: Impossible, Robert Irvine has seen seemingly everything — the good, the bad and the ugly — in eateries across the country. From unpalatable food and unsafe cooking conditions to creepy-crawlies covering the furniture and floor, the scenes at some of these restaurants are simply shocking, to Robert’s Restaurant: Impossible team and at-home viewers alike. No matter how dirty or downright disheartening a situation may be, however, Robert has never walked away from a challenge, successfully transforming nearly 70 eateries to date.
Over the years, Robert has proved his trademark to be his ability to breathe new life into once-failing establishments and give them the second chance they deserve. In the form of revamped menus and updated designs, plus tried-and-true techniques for food buying, handling front-of-house management and overseeing day-to-day operations, he outfits businesses with everything they need to not just survive but thrive. And ultimately his commitment has led to awe-inspiring transformations, especially given that his updates must be started and completed in just two days and can cost no more than $10,000.
See before-and-after photos
Although Bryan’s Smokehouse in Lufkin, Texas, was a once-thriving eatery, it had fallen on hard times. Longtime owner Lynn Bryan struggled to keep up with new nearby barbecue spots, ultimately falling into debt. She looked to Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team not just to improve her meat-focused menu, but to help her manage her employees more professionally and efficiently. Not one to shy away from any challenge, Robert rose to the occasion, and with only a $10,000 budget and two days to work, he revitalized both the interior of Bryan’s and the core of its management, all in an effort to give the eatery the second chance it deserves. FN Dish checked in with Lynn a few months after the transformation to find out how the restaurant is doing today.
Immediately after filming, Lynn says business “was booming,” and while it’s since slowed down, she’s hopeful that it will pick up now that the show has aired. She adds that she’s pleased with the new design of the space, as well as with the changes to the menu. “We have kept everything the same and just added a couple of the old things back. Just a couple, let me stress,” she explains.
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In Smyrna, Del., the Wagon Wheel Family Restaurant is indeed a family-run business, owned and operated by three generations of women: grandmother, daughter and granddaughter (Patty Gallegos, Sheila Furman and Jessica Furman, respectively). Their restaurant is known for its classic preparation of a local delicacy — muskrat — but beyond that, it has struggled to succeed, serving primarily frozen food in an old-fashioned space. If their business was to have any hope of thriving in the future, Patty, Sheila and Jessica would need Robert Irvine‘s support to revamp the menu with crowd-pleasing dishes that go beyond muskrat and to enliven the interior with a fresh, welcoming design. In just two days and with a $10,000 budget, Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible team helped this family learn to work together and ultimately reopened Wagon Wheel as a made-over eatery that they could be proud of. We checked in with Jessica a few months after the transformation to find out how the business is doing today.
Her mother, Sheila, is no longer working at Wagon Wheel, so Jessica will be relieving Patty and running the restaurant immediately after her graduation later this month. “I am excited to get back to work, to do what I wanted to since the beginning: make the Wagon Wheel profitable,” she tells FN Dish. “I want to become more involved in the community and create a place that people can go with their families to have a nice dinner with a great vibe.”
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Perhaps one of the most-persistent restaurant owners ever featured on Restaurant: Impossible, Carolyn Cuneo from Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant in DeFuniak Springs, Fla., admitted to Robert Irvine early on that she is “not very good with change.” After her husband, George, passed away six years ago, she’s been hesitant to make any updates to the eatery, a dark, wood-covered space serving mediocre Italian-inspired food. Carolyn was in thousands of dollars of debt, which Robert realized could be attributed to the large amount of free food she regularly gave away to her staff and customers alike. In just two days and with a $10,000 budget, Robert and his team worked with Carolyn to rethink her management habits and ultimately reopen Mom & Dad’s as a thriving restaurant worthy of a second chance. FN Dish checked in with Carolyn a few months after the renovation to find out how the eatery has been doing.
Immediately following the overhaul, Mom & Dad’s saw a 67.7 percent increase in sales. Although the growth has since slowed a bit, “business is still good and it will be a much higher percentage than prior years,” Carolyn says, adding that she’s making stellar progress on paying back her debt.
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While there were indeed substantial problems with the food as well as the interior design at Smitty’s Restaurant in Clearwater, Fla., the gravest issue came in the form of bugs — an entire infestation of cockroaches, in fact. Overrun with these crawly creatures, husband-and-wife owners Gus and Evi Gialelis’ business faced certain closure if Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team couldn’t locate the source of the swarm. But to do so they’d have to rely on a professional exterminator, something that would significantly drain the overall renovation budget.
“I have never come across a restaurant this bad in my whole career,” Robert told Gus and Evi, who felt personally defeated in the wake of their struggling business. He initially questioned whether “this may be the one restaurant that’s too far gone,” but Robert’s not one to walk away from a mission, of course. And in just two days, he reopened the doors at Smitty’s to a welcoming, clean restaurant that was dishing out quality food. FN Dish checked in with Evi a few weeks after the reopening to find out how the restaurant is doing today.
Smitty’s has seen an increase in business since the show taped, and Evi says she’s noticing many first-time customers at the restaurant.
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“Old, old, old, old” were the first words Robert Irvine said after arriving at the drab, outdated Old World Italian Restaurant in Murrells Inlet, S.C., a 16-year-old eatery owned by George Hayek Sr. and Teresa Hayek. This husband-and-wife duo started the business with their son, George Hayek Jr., after the latter had graduated from culinary school. In the last five years, they’ve noticed a steep decline in customers, which ultimately has resulted in losses of nearly $1,000 per day and the complete elimination of their retirement savings. With just two days to work and a budget of only $10,000, Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible team tackled fresh, modern updates to Old World Italian’s old-fashioned decor, its bland menu and unstructured management in an effort to give the Hayek family a second chance at success. FN Dish checked in with George Sr. a few months after the transformation to find out how his business is doing today.
“I am happy to report that the makeover has been a smashing success,” he tells FN Dish. “Our sales are up 35 percent since the show has left.”
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