Restaurant Impossible - Sweet Tea's Restaurant & Catering - CLOSED

Sweet Tea's Restaurant and Catering Restaurant Impossible

In this Restaurant Impossible episode, Chef Robert Irvine visits Sweet Tea's Restaurant and Catering in Pineville, North Carolina.

Sweet Tea's Restaurant and Catering is owned by Dana and David Cohen, who opened a catering service about three and a half years ago.

They decided that they wanted to open a physical restaurant about six months ago for people to be able to enjoy what they provide via catering in a restaurant setting.

Despite their extensive experience in marketing and large mass food sales they are close to closure after just two months.

David's father ran a successful restaurant so he has grown up in the industry and it is in his blood.

He has spent his time in and out of different bakeries since the age of six.

His father sadly passed away a few years ago before he went into the restaurant trade himself.

David loves to cook and is passionate about the business but they didn’t expect for the business to be doing so badly and can’t understand where it is going wrong.

They are currently losing $8-10,000 per month and do not have the funds to be able to stay open for much longer.

David has a son currently in college and a daughter Abbie due to start in a few years and he needs the restaurant to be able to secure their futures.

Robert struggles to find the restaurant using the GPS on his car and there are no signs outside the building to help him find the restaurant.

He enters the restaurant and finds the decor bland and is confused with the tea themed decor as to whether it is a tea house or a restaurant.

He sits down with the owners to learn more about the restaurant.

They reveal that they were in the catering business before the branched out into owning a restaurant.

For the catering business, Dana oversaw sales, orders and booking and David did the ordering, prepping and cooking of the food.

David hasn’t been culinary trained and is a self-taught chef and learnt from working in restaurants.

They bought the restaurant six months ago for $50,000 and they are in $20,000 of debt.

It is located in a prime location due to the hospital and busy intersection but the business has been making losses since it first opened.

They are losing $9000 a month but David doesn't know why as he thinks the food and service is good.

Robert observes a service and the diners think that the restaurant is cluttered and needs more light.

The food is branded awful, especially the chicken and waffles, which was served raw to one diner.

The service also reveals that the wait staff are untrained. They look busy but really they are running around doing nothing useful.

The staff are inexperienced in cooking high volumes for a busy service.

Robert wants to sample the food but is not impressed with anything he tries.

He gives David a D grade for his food and thinks that the food is part of the bigger problems of the restaurant.

Robert meets with designer Taniya and the rest of the design team to discuss the changes needed in the dining room.

Designer Taniya thinks the decor is bland and Robert reveals that he wants a comfy southern vibe for the dining room.

Robert asks the staff to help empty out the restaurant, ready for the design team to be able to get to work.

Next, Robert asks all of the staff to meet outside to talk about what is going on at the restaurant.

They tell him that the owners don’t know how to communicate with each other or the staff.

He asks to meet with the owners and Dana feels like the partnership is equal but she would like David to be a better listener.

He has never been a good listener and has promised to change many times but he never comes through on this.

Dana has lots of ideas of how to make changes at the restaurant but Robert can see that David ignores her suggestions.

He tells David that her opinion in making decisions are important in order for an equal partnership.

David apologises to Dana and promises to change and to listen to her thoughts and ideas on the restaurant.

Robert checks in with the design team and they have made great progress so far and encourages them to rush to meet the deadline.

For homework for the next days Robert tasks Dana and David with ideas for increasing business and to turn around their $10,000 monthly loss into profit.

He suggests that they reach out to local hotels and concierges to help them draw new people to the restaurant.

The next day, Robert checks in with the design team and is happy with the progress that they have made overnight.

Robert meets with David and Dana who had got some numbers together and planned to do some marketing.

Robert meets with Dana as after digging through their paperwork he had found something interesting that they hadn’t revealed to him.

The restaurant frequently runs out of ingredients for their dishes, meaning that they aren’t properly doing inventory.

When Robert pushes on this he finds out that Dana runs out to the local stores to buy produce, sometimes two to five times a day.

This is wasting so much money as the local stores are more expensive than the wholesalers that they should be using.

Robert proves this point by showing them the bag of receipts and highlighting some of the purchases that they have made.

When calculating the time, he thinks that she is spending roughly three hours each week going back and forth to the local shops.

He introduces new technology that they will be using for inventory control and it keeps a record of what you have and what you need.

This will save them both time and money and Dana won’t have to keep running to the shop whenever they run low.

It ensures that they won’t run out of produce if they use it properly.

Robert and David head into the kitchen to cook some new dishes for the menu.

There will also be some improved versions of their usual dishes including the Chicken and Waffles.

For marketing, the invited local business leaders and well appointed locals to come and try the new menu.

They sample the new menu and the fresh seafood gumbo and deep fried catfish are a big hit with them.

David and Dana mingle and sell the restaurant to the guests and they love it and promise to return to the restaurant to eat.

Robert reveals to the owners their new signage so that customers can find the restaurant, something he had struggled with the previous day.

The design team finished and it was time to reveal the new restaurant to the owners.

They are happy and overwhelmed with the new look of the restaurant and they loved the new fireplace.

On relaunch night, the customers love the new decor and the new food is a huge hit


What Happened Next at Sweet Tea's Restaurant and Catering?

There was an increase in business from the show but they struggled to repay their debts.

Yelp Reviews seemed to be mostly positive after the show with compliments to the decor, food and service.

Sweet Tea's Restaurant and Catering closed in August 2014 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. We will miss everyone terribly!"


Sweet Tea's Restaurant and Catering was episode 13 of season 5 and was aired on March 24 2013

Click for more Restaurant Impossible Restaurants

Previous episode - Soup to Nuts Diner

Next episode - Joe Willy's Seafood House


This post was last updated in February 2021.

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