Restaurant Impossible - University Grill - CLOSED

University Grill Restaurant Impossible

In this Restaurant Impossible, Chef Robert Irvine visits The University Grill Restaurant in Burlington, North Carolina.

University Grill was opened by siblings Eleni, George and Manny in order to support their parents financially in their retirement.

Their parents had come to the country from Greece and had worked hard to put them through college.

The siblings wanted to pay their parents back by providing them with a comfortable retirement.

Their parents already owned the building so they built it into a restaurant, costing $500,000 to open.

Eleni and her parents currently owe the bank close to $300,000 and George had invested his time rather than money in the first few years.

George and Eleni worked together in harmony for the first couple of years but the relationship declined.

The constant squabbling between the siblings led to George having to step away from the restaurant and he now only helps on days off.

He didn’t really want to quit and always wanted to come back as he didn’t want to see what his parents worked so hard for go down the drain.

Their fathers health has declined and he is now suffering from dementia.

The family is hurting as they are unable to help or protect their parents the way that they have since they were young.

Robert arrives and thinks the restaurants exterior is uninviting and it looks like a factory.

Inside he thinks it looks clinically clean and unappealing.

Robert meets the owners to learn more about the restaurant.

George was cooking and cleaning to help with the running of the restaurant but after three years of the restaurant doing well he went back to his old job.

Robert finds it hard to believe that they were doing that well and he claims they were making $300,000 a year in revenue before he left.

He says that he left because there was no room at the restaurant for both him and Eleni.

Robert wants to know what the issues are and it appears that they disagree on pretty much everything.

George wanted to delegate to the staff whereas Eleni wanted to do the tasks herself.

Eleni’s job was to pay the bills but she would wait tables if she needed to and even cook in the kitchen.

George felt like Eleni had no place to cook in the kitchen.

Eleni thinks that the restaurant is now failing as she cannot run the restaurant without George and she is tired of running the restaurant alone.

Robert wants to observe a service and

The customers don't think the restaurant has a personality and is boring.

They serve a buffet as it is quicker and they think the customers like a selection but the food has issues and the buffet food is sitting at an incorrect temperature.

The food would make diners sick and Robert thinks they would fail a health inspection if they came in now and temperature probed the buffet table.

He samples the food and finds that the salmon is frozen, the steak is unseasoned, the broccoli is over cooked and the casserole is over floured.

Robert thinks that with a local university just two miles down the road they should be jam packed.

With Elon University just 2 miles down the road, the restaurant should be jam-packed.

There are multiple problems Robert has to deal with including owner stubbornness with Eleni refusing to accept Robert's criticism and serious food safety issues.

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

He asks the staff to help empty the area ready for the design team to be able to get to work on the transformation.

Robert asks to meet with the family to discuss their relationships and Eleni is defensive.

He knows that Eleni needs to relent and give some control over to her brothers for it to work.

Robert thinks that if things don’t change she will get burned out and her kids will suffer.

He thinks that she needs to step away from the restaurant and spend more time with her children.

George and Manny will have to step up and take on more jobs in the restaurant to allow her to step away.

Robert asks Eleni and the brothers to write down everything that they do every day and these tasks will be split between them.

Robert checks in with the designers and is impressed with their progress so far.

An argument breaks out between Eleni and George as she becomes frustrated that she will be giving up control.

The next day, Robert checks in with the design team and is pleased with how it is taking shape.

Robert meets with the owners and cook Rich who tells Robert that he cooks whatever he is told to cook.

Rich shows Robert all of the bad practices of the kitchen that he is asked to do every day and the issues he has with the food including the huge menu and reheating of food.

Robert decides to remove Eleni from the kitchen due to the bad practices and shows Rich the new menu using fresh ingredients.

There are new dishes added to the menu including Lamb Poppers and Pan Seared Salmon and Haricot Verts Potato Salad.

The dishes are fast, simple and profitable. The staff taste the new dishes and love the taste.

The owners go to the nearby university to speak to marketing students to discuss ideas to help promote the restaurant to the students.

Back at the restaurant, the owners sit down to work through the list of tasks that they do and to split them up.

George is assigned as General Manager and the remaining tasks are divided between the owners with Eleni agreeing to take two days off per week.

The design team have finished with the transformation and it is time to reveal it to the owners.

The owners love the new exterior and interior decor and they love the new booths and bar.

On relaunch, the customers love the new modern decor and the new food and the relaunch was a success.



What Happened Next at University Grill?


After Robert visited, Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews were mixed and it appears that the restaurant went down hill in 2013 with a decline in food quality and service.

Robert revisited and sales were reported to be up 15% with the salmon dish proving popular with customers.

University Grill closed in June 2013 and was sold so that the owners could spend more time with their family.


University Grill was Restaurant Impossible season 3 episode 11 and aired on May 23 2012.

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Next episode - Pollard's Bar-B-Que

This post was last updated in February 2021.

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