Restaurant Impossible - Sweet Tea - CLOSED

Sweet Tea Restaurant Impossible

In this Restaurant Impossible episode, Chef Robert Irvine visits Sweet Tea, in Chapin, South Carolina.

Sweet Tea is a Southern style restaurant that is owned by Christine and Jeffrey Spence has been open for just nine months.

Before they opened the restaurant they had no experience in running a restaurant.

Christine worked in the medical software field and Jeffrey worked cleaning pools.

Christine always wanted to open a restaurant as her mother had run a restaurant and she had fond memories.

She came to work part time at Sweet Tea and three months later the owner put the restaurant up for sale.

They thought buying the restaurant was a good idea as they already knew that business was good at the restaurant.

The couple didn’t have the money to open a restaurant so they approached her father Mike to help them to buy the restaurant.

Mike has invested his entire retirement fund into the restaurant on opening it and keeping it open.

They are currently losing $10,000 a month and they only have money to stay open one more month.

Christine wants to do anything she can to be able to pay her father back the money he has invested in the restaurant.

Robert arrives at the restaurant and finds that it is dark and he is confused as to whether it is a sports bar or a restaurant.

He thinks that it is the dullest and drabbest place that he has ever visited in his career.

Robert meets with Jeffrey to discuss the restaurant and they thought it was a great business to get into as Chrstine’s mother used to run a restaurant.

He tells Robert that he runs the front of house and Christine is in the kitchen.

They have no other kitchen staff to cook the food other than Christine.

The couple initially put $20,000 into the business with the rest coming from her father and they are losing $10,000 a month.

It has been nine months and they haven’t been able to pay anything back to Mike.

Her dad has just turned 68 years old and should have already been retired but he has no retirement fund to do so.

Robert wants to take a look around the restaurant to see any problems they have.

He thinks the side tables are clumsy, the carpets are ripped and torn and the restaurant is generally quite filthy.

Robert wants to sample the food and speak to other customers to find out what they think about the restaurant.

Robert orders a variety of dishes from the menu and Sweet tea as the name sake of the restaurant.

He speaks to regulars and they tell him that the table and cutlery is dirty, the service is poor and that that the food is clearly frozen.

Robert suspects that the clam chowder has frozen clams, the sandwich tastes good but is piled with costly prawns.

The chicken tastes old and the Campero is too salty. The sweet tea he ordered was disgusting.

He finds that the fresh soup is actually canned soup and they serve canned green beans and pre-prepared mashed potato.

He puts a thermometer into the macaroni cheese but it isn't stored at the correct temperature and is dangerous to serve.

Sandy helps Christine in the kitchen to do 90% of the prep work.

Robert tells Christine not to feel too bad as no one has ever taught her to cook and he will teach her as much as he can.

Robert calls the staff together to discuss his plans for the restaurant so that they are prepared for what is to come.

Robert teaches them a chicken broth, which can be used as a base for bechamel sauce as well as for soups.

This will both improve the taste of the dishes and also save them money.

Instead of their weekly order of forty cans of soup for $240 they should make one big batch of stock and make soup using their existing produce.

Robert also teaches them a base sauce that they can use to make other sauces and they taste it and think it tastes great.

These small changes will save them thousands of dollars each month.

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

Robert asks the staff to help them empty the dining room ready for the design team to be able to get to work.

Their first job is to repaint the booths as it would cost double the budget to replace them.

Robert suggests that they remove the booths and take them to an auto shop to be repainted as it will dry quicker and only costs $900.

Robert wants to improve the management so he calls a staff meeting to discuss the issues with the owners.

He asks the owners to define their roles in the restaurant so that the staff also know what their roles are.

Robert thinks from what he has seen that Christine seems to be running the restaurant on her own.

Jeffrey should be doing half of the jobs in the restaurant but he is happy to coast and let Christine do everything.

Robert asks the staff to gather in the kitchen and he tells them he is going to create a new menu based around what they can deliver from their kitchen.

He plans to introduce new dishes including Brined Pork Chops with Apple Hash.

The staff taste the new dishes and are impressed with them and know they can sell them.

Robert meets with the servers to introduce the new menu and gives them a copy so they can learn the menu ready for the relaunch.

He will be testing them on the new menu the next day and anyone who hasn’t learnt the new menu will be let go from the restaurant.

The next day, Robert checks in with the design team to se how they have progressed over night.

He is impressed with their progress but there are a lot of unfinished jobs and he tells them to speed up the pace to be ready for relaunch.

After being disappointed with the sweet tea that he tasted yesterday he challenges the staff to recreate four sweet tea drinks.

They struggle to make sweet tea so Robert has to step in to show them how to prepare a base mix that they can use to create the drinks.

He reveals that they will have signature glasses that will help with marketing the restaurant.

Robert takes food and the new sweet tea including a new Pomegranate Iced Tea into the neighbourhood.

They plan to show off the new menu items and let the locals know that the restaurant is being relaunched as a comfort style restaurant.

The locals enjoy the samples of the food including the new meatloaf and sweet tea and promise to return for the relaunch evening service.

Robert returns to check in with the design team and was disappointed that more hasn’t been done. Krista promises that she will have the restaurant ready for relaunch.

As customers complained of poor service Robert needs to tackle this as they are losing money to this and the servers are also losing tips.

Robert makes the servers see that they are not only harming the restaurant but they are also losing themselves potential tips.

He puts them through an extreme bootcamp where they will lose dollars for each mistake they make.

Server Jenna owes Robert $45 by the end of the exercise but Robert feels it is simply the pressure of a test.

The booths have returned from the auto shop and they are fitted and the design team complete the last touches to the dining room.

The transformation is finished and it is revealed to Christine and Jeffrey.

On relaunch night, the restaurant is packed with a queue out the door. The customers love the new decor and are impressed with the menu.

The service is great and there are extra staff in the kitchen.

The customers love the food and the locals promise to return.



What Happened Next at Sweet Tea?


Reviews after Robert's visit are average with negative comments on service and food.

There are however noted improvements in the taste of the sweet tea they were serving.

Sweet Tea closed in the fall of 2011, posting the below on Facebook.

"It is with a very heavy heart and great sadness that we are closing Sweet Tea's. This was the hardest decision we have ever had to make. We loved that our customers became our friends and our employees our family..."

Ava’s Copper Pot Bistro opened it's place, reviews were very good but this closed in 2014.


Recipes Featured in this Episode

Pomegranate Iced Tea

Sweet Tea was Restaurant Impossible season 2 episode 3 and aired on July 20 2011.


Click for more Restaurant Impossible Restaurants

Previous episode - La Stanza

Next episode - County Fare

This post was last updated in February 2021.

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