Restaurant Impossible - Whistle Stop - CLOSED

Whistle Stop Restaurant Impossible

In this Restaurant Impossible episode, Chef Robert Irvine visited Whistle Stop Cafe in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Whistle Stop Cafe is owned by Linda Todd.

Linda worked at the restaurant and bought it five years ago after the owners decided to close the restaurant.

She bought the Whistle Stop because of her relationship with other staff members.

She was concerned for them being out of a job if the restaurant closed.

The restaurant means everything to her as she has worked at the restaurant for the past 9 years.

She has desperately tried to make it work after buying it.

Linda’s ex husband passed away and she was left an inheritance of $65,000 for the children.

All the money has been invested in Whistle Stop and there is nothing for the children.

She has not made a profit or paid herself in the four years since she purchased the restaurant.

Linda is $200,000 in debt, used up all of her savings and has borrowed money that she is unable to pay back.

Often she will sit in the parking lot outside the restaurant thinking about what will happen to her and the staff if she has to close the restaurant.

Robert arrives at the restaurant and thinks that nobody cares about the restaurant as it is dirty.

There appears to be no pride of ownership in the restaurant.

Robert meets with Linda who tells him that she started as a catering manager and has no experience on running a restaurant.

Business was initially food for the first two years, although she does not know the revenue for these years.

She is now losing $15,000 a month and can only stay open for another month before she runs out of money.

Robert wants to see a service to see the issues with the restaurant.

As the service gets underway he speaks to the customers who aren’t complimentary about the food, decor or service.

He also notices just how dirty the restaurant really is.

The customers have also noticed it is filthy too.

Robert isn’t a fan of the buffet due to the risk of flies in the restaurant.

There is also the health risk if the food is not kept at the correct temperature.

In the kitchen everything is frozen including the corn on the cob, crab leg, catfish, bread and turkey.

All of thees items should be fresh as they don't taste as good frozen.

The kitchen is also dirty and need of a deep clean.

Linda assures Robert that her staff do care about the restaurant, something he doubts.

Robert doesn’t trust the food on the buffet table and refuses to eat from it and instead chooses to order from the main menu.

The dishes are disappointing and tells Linda and head cook Brett how poor the dishes he tasted were.

Robert tells her that it seems like she has given up.

She needs to decide whether to close the restaurant or prepare for a complete transformation.

Linda tells Robert that it is hard when you have worked hard, are burnt out and give instructions to staff but they don’t listen.

Robert tells her that she needs to stand up and run the restaurant and not act like she is everybody’s mom.

The staff are taking her for granted because of their relationships.

It is time for her to step up as a boss and deal with those who are not listening to her.

Robert meets with designer Lynn to discuss the changes that are needed to the decor and they share ideas on how to proceed.

He asks the staff to help with emptying the restaurant ready for the design team to be able to get to work.

Robert meets with Linda to discuss the finances and asks to see the accounts for her yearly statements.

The numbers that she presented don’t make any sense to Robert and they are losing a lot of money.

Lisa doesn’t know her income or expenditure and the menu prices were decided by her guessing the costs for the dishes.

Robert gives her homework to go through her financial records and they will speak again about the figures.

He meets with the designers to see their progress and ideas for the renovations to the dining room.

The next day, Robert stops in to the dining room to see the progress of the design team.

He is impressed with the progress they have made so far.

Robert meets with Linda, who tells him that she didn’t sleep well as she felt down about the situation at the restaurant.

Linda finally understands that Robert is on her side and will do anything to turn the restaurant around.

However, Head Cook Brett has been bad mouthing Robert since he arrives and is being negative about the process.

Robert asks to speak with him about it and he apologises to him about his behaviour.

Robert creates an entirely new menu for the restaurant.

The new dishes include Slow Roasted Fried Chicken, Turkey Gumbo, Crisp Onion Rings, Spiced Ketchup and a Seared Salmon with Pickled Watermelon Salad.

He teaches both Linda and the kitchen staff the new dishes that are quick and straight forward to make.

Next, Robert asks the staff to meet to address issues with the staffs attitude.

He tells them that they have to respect Linda.

She promises to offer the same but they need to be ready for changes.

Robert commends Brett for his changed attitude.

It is evident in the improvement in his performance in the kitchen and the improved food.

Linda gives the staff a pep talk and that they need to be professional rather than casual and she will be acting the boss.

The design team has completed the transformation and it is time to reveal the newly decorated dining room.

The redesign is dramatic and it looks like a different restaurant with a new bench, new buffet station and a new colour scheme.

On relaunch night, the customers love the new decor calling it refreshing.

They also enjoy the new menu and the new food.



What Happened Next at Whistle Stop?


A few months later, Linda had started a breakfast service.

Brett is no longer working at the restaurant.

Yelp Reviews after Robert's visit were poor with negative comments on the buffet in particular.

Whistle Stop closed in February 2013.

Owner Linda posted the following on Urban Spoon following the closure -

"For all you haters of The Whistle Stop Restaurant in Hot Springs ...you won't be able to write ugly reviews anymore cause I (CLOSED) the doors ....

I got tired of working 7 days a week, and you didn't appreciate it...

Worthless employees didn't show up and didn't bother to call in and they go out and talk about you behind your back....

but you know who they call when they are in jail or need money ...

Maybe you should all go out and put in your own restaurant and then people will complain about you cause nothing you do is ever good enough for people....

you are the biggest whiners in the world....

go anywhere in town and see if you can eat good food for 8.00 for lunch and 11.00 for diner.

I am glad to close the doors maybe I can have a life just like you do...

I can spend time with my kids and grandkids instead of being up there working my A.....off cooking for you while you are enjoying you family,

I feel sorry for all you people that only think of yourselves and never anyone else and complain all the time...shame on you for being such unhappy people."


Whistle Stop was Restaurant Impossible season 4 episode 11 and aired on October 03 2012.


Click for more Restaurant Impossible Restaurants

Previous episode - Maple Tree Cafe

Next episode - Valley Inn

This post was last updated in January 2021.

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