Robert Irvine focuses on the better in the new Restaurant Impossible


Robert Irvine and Restaurant Impossible have always focused on the positive in this Food Network show. During this interview, Irvine shared his views on committing to better.

For 13 seasons Restaurant Impossible and Robert Irvine engaged Food Network fans with stories of redemption. While Irvine might have swung a sledgehammer during a renovation and a delivered stern word during the transformation, the intent behind these restaurant make-overs always focused on the positive.

The premise of Restaurant Impossible is rather straightforward. In just two days and with a budget of $10,000, Irvine looks to transform a struggling restaurant. Beyond the décor and menu changes, Irvine looks to give the restaurant owners and staff the tools to become successful.

In looking at those tools of success, the transformation goes beyond the paint, food and smart budgeting, Irvine looks to get find the positive in the business as well as the people themselves. That tough love and positivity is part of why fans have and will continue to connect with this Food Network program.

Recently, I have the opportunity to chat with Robert Irvine about the new Restaurant Impossible season, his approach to helping these restaurants and his thoughts on the restaurant industry. As a successful businessman and restauranteur, Irvine understands the tools for success. He may not say what people want to hear, but he says the truth that they need to hear. More importantly those words come from a well meaning place.

Over the years, restaurant renovation shows have become popular and each show has a different approach to the transformation. While Irvine might show tough love, he doesn’t push these struggling owners down further. Although he is open to “disagreeing,” the intent isn’t to tear them down.

Robert uses pen and paper to illustrate an important point to Liz and Don, as seen on Restaurant Impossible, Season 14.

Irvine commented that he understands that these restaurant owners are struggling, they have remorse and they understand that they have messed up. Tearing them down further defeats the purpose.

He said, “My job is to build them up in order to teach them new tricks and new things about their business, about their relationships with the staff and their families.” In the end, he intends “to build them up to go on when I leave to do better than what they did before.”

For a restaurant to be and to continue to be successful, it needs a smart business plan. Sometimes people who have no restaurant background or knowledge about a restaurant think that this business is easy. As seen in Restaurant Impossible, running a success restaurant requires a smart business plan.

Irvine specifically stated that restaurants need to have a significant amount of money in reserves for the case of the “what if” scenario. From paying utilities to fixing that unforeseen broken appliance, having money set aside is vital. In truth, that required money is much larger than most inexperienced restaurateurs imagine. From six months of revenue to six months of costs, those dollar amounts are just the starting point.

Beyond those facts, the restaurant needs to fit in with the area and culture. Irvine said that you aren’t going to put a trendy sushi restaurant in an area where “the customer’s average age of 60 years old and they’re not getting sushi.” He takes those ideas into consideration during the restaurant transformation.

Irvine looks at the area, the customers and the community as he looks to make these restaurants and owners better. Surprisingly, he doesn’t scope out the restaurant prior to the intervention. He wants to experience it just like any other customer. That aspect seems to add to the show’s authenticity.

There are a few key questions that he tends to ask. Concepts like “what do they serve? who do they serve? why is it not working?” are balanced with “what do they do well?” The whole picture needs to be taken into consideration.

Robert and Tom listen as Taniya shares her thoughs, as seen on Restaurant Impossible, Season 14.

At the same time, these restaurants need to grow and adapt over time. The best restaurant 15 years ago might feel dated and bland today. Even if the guests have stayed loyal to the business, the owners need to adapt to secure their business viability.

Specifically, Irvine referenced millennials and their willingness to spend money on an experience. He said that people today “want more than just good food.” The job of restauranteurs is to give those guests an experience that is memorable and has them wanting more.

As people want to share their experiences, technology and social media plays a significant role in a restaurant’s success. That aspect is incorporated into Restaurant Impossible. Those shares are more than just a photo that entices you to order that picture perfect plate of food.

Irvine commented that he recommends restaurants even posting photos of people enjoying their experience at the restaurant. It provides a visual of the experience that anyone could have once they walk through the door. Social media is an extension of that restaurant community.

Looking back at previous seasons, some restaurants have gone onto great success. Unfortunately, others struggled. Sometimes Irvine may not be able to predict the outcome. He mentioned that there have been a few places that he would have predicted greatness and others that were unexpected. His predictions might not always be correct but there have been many successes.

For the successful renovations, it seems like those people were open and willing to heed the advice and make the change. It didn’t mean that the struggle wasn’t hard, but they saw the positives that could be attained.

It is good to know that he does stay in touch with some of the restaurants and restaurateurs. Like many Restaurant Impossible fans, the updates on the transformations are always important. Some fans even purposely seek out the featured restaurants on road trips.

Going into the upcoming Restaurant Impossible season fans should expect the premise that they have been wanting back on the Food Network since the show’s hiatus. A little tough love, rebuilding and a path that can lead back to a successful restaurant. Hard work is a given but that hard effort can pay off in the end.

Restaurant Impossible Season 14 will air on the Food Network Saturday nights at 9 p.m. ET. Robert Irvine appears on that Food Network show and other programs, as well. For more information on Chef Irvine, his restaurant, recipes and other endeavors, please visit his personal website.

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Are you ready to see how Robert Irvine can make it better on this new season of Restaurant Impossible? And, don’t worry, the sledgehammer has returned, too.