Restaurant Impossible - Secret Garden Cafe - OPEN

Secret Garden Cafe Restaurant Impossible

In this Restaurant Impossible episode, Chef Robert Irvine visits The Secret Garden Cafe in Jacksonville, Florida.

Secret Garden Cafe is owned by Zack Nettles and Michael Williams, who have owned the restaurant for six years.

They opened the restaurant as it was a lifelong dream for them both to own a restaurant.

Michael cooks in the kitchen and manages the kitchen and Zack manages the front of house.

They had high hopes of success when they opened but they haven’t been successful and the business has continued to decline.

However, their debt is at an all-time high.

They currently owe $30,000 to their parents, £70,000 to the credit union and $22,000 on a bank draft.

They have never paid themselves a salary and they can only stay open for another three months.

Robert arrives at the restaurant and meets with the owners to discuss the restaurant.

Michael knows the restaurant industry as he has worked in different restaurants and hotels.

Zack has no restaurant industry but has worked for more than 20 years in customer experience.

When they opened the restaurant they planned to have a breakfast and lunch service and they were making $30,000 a month.

Their expenses however were $25,000 so there was little to no profit from the services.

They tried to add a dinner service but this failed as they didn’t have the money to market or advertise that they were opening in the evenings.

The pair have invested around $100,000, they haven’t taken a salary and the restaurant is propped up with credit cards.

Robert looks around the restaurant and isn’t impressed and hates the three sections the restaurant is split into.

He orders a range of menu items, which causes the owners to argue and shout at the staff and he receives the food after waiting 30 minutes.

The food is poorly cooked using packet sauce, is covered in greens, piled up on the plate and inconsistent.

Robert isn’t impressed with the look or taste of the food.

He asks Michael to try the food for himself and Michael tells him that he is proud of the food.

He is clearly in denial about how bad the food is and this is something else that Robert will have to fix.

Customers complain that the restaurant is cold and the owner tells them to put on a coat.

Robert goes into the kitchen and speaks with veteran cook Ingo.

Chef Ingo doesn't take the criticism well so Robert teaches them a fresh hollandaise sauce and compares it to the packet sauce.

He compliments Ingo on his perfectly cooked poached eggs.

Robert meets with designer Vanessa and the rest of the design team to discuss plans for transformation of the dining room.

He calls the staff together to let them know his plan of action to improve the restaurant and asks them to help clear the restaurant of furniture ready for the transformation.

Robert thinks he can make changes in the kitchen by simply reorganising the kitchen, moving around equipment and the fridge

Back with the designers he takes a sledgehammer to the wall to open up the space in the dining room.

They are unable to remove the wall due to plumbing and electrical issues but they are able to cut out windows.

Robert reveals that he has made calls to a local radio station and they will be appearing as guests on their morning show the next day.

Next, Robert attempts to teach the kitchen new menu items but they struggle and Robert has to teach them basic cookery skills.

Robert checks in with the design team and questions whether the kitchen team will be ready to be able to learn a new menu by the next evening.

The next day, Robert takes the owners to the local radio station and they do a 10 minute segment about the new Secret Garden Cafe.

They feel it was successful and will bring new and existing customers back to the restaurant.

Robert checks in with the designers and is impressed with the progress and urges them to be finished by the deadline.

Robert thinks that based on the cookery skills he saw the previous day that the kitchen would not be able to cope with a full menu relaunch.

Although he isn’t a big fan of them he decides that they would be able to handle a hot buffet and serve pre-cooked food.

This will allow Robert to be able to monitor the quality of the food and ensure they don’t get too overwhelmed.

To be able to deliver a buffet he will need a buffet station and needs to take $2500 out of the design budget for this.

He tells the designers and puts in an order for an urgent delivery of the buffet station.

Robert works with the kitchen on new dishes for the buffet including a Spinach and Mint-Basil Pesto-Stuffed Pork Loin and BBQ Glazed Salmon with Black Bean Compote.

The redesign is in limbo as the paint is still wet and the floors are still wet too.

They have to wait for it to dry out before they can move in the buffet table and Robert asks Tom to make creative design choices around the table.

A few hours later, everything is dry and in place and the transformation is revealed to the owners. They love the colours and cut out windows.

On relaunch night, customers are queuing and first impressions of the new decor are great.

The gourmet buffet and the new menu is a big hit with the customers and the servers feel more organised in the new dining room.

The relaunch is a success and customers are eager to return.

The owners hug and appear to be getting on much better.



What Happened Next at Secret Garden Cafe?


Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews are mostly positive since Robert visited the restaurant.

Business was up 50% after the show was originally aired and their website has seen a huge increase in traffic.

They returned to the original opening hours and only briefly opened for dinner but have been able to open a second location.

In 2017 they were briefly closed after failing a health inspection because of roaches due to a faulty door.


Secret Garden Cafe was Restaurant Impossible season 1 episode 6 and aired on February 23 2011.

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This post was last updated in February 2021.

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