Restaurant Impossible - Juju Bag Cafe Update - Open or Closed?

Restaurant Impossible Juju Bag Cafe

In this Restaurant Impossible episode, Robert Irvine visits the Juju Bag Cafe in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Juju Bag Cafe is owned by Tommye Myrick and Phylus Johnson.

She explains that the space was intended to be a barbershop and a bookstore.

Phylus was going to run the barbershop and Tommye would run the bookstore.

After a while the bookstore turned into a cafe because the community needed a shelter after Hurricane Katrina.

Neither of the pair have ever worked in the restaurant industry.

They suffered two more disasters after this including a storm and an oil spill.

They lost their roof in the storm and the oil spills contaminated the area.

Their business suffered and never recovered from these.

Tommye is spending from her savings to keep the business afloat.

They have never made a profit from the business.

Robert arrives and he is confused by the entrance, which is identical to the barbershop.

He enters the restaurant and sees household equipment in the kitchen rather than industrial equipment.

The kitchen is also dirty.

Robert goes into the Barbershop and meets Phyllis and Tommye for a brief.

They purchased the business seven years ago.

Phylus is a barber with over thirty years of experience and Tommye is an educator.

They are life partners as well as business partners.

They explain how they started their businesses and how the restaurant was an unintended business.

Locals came looking for coffee and sandwiches and they went from there.

It shows Robert that they do not know what they are doing when they cannot tell him basic finances.

The service begins and customers comment that the space is cluttered and confusing.

They say that the reason for coming there is that it is convenient for them.

Robert observes Tommye and the staff in the kitchen.

it is crowded and chaotic with the limited space.

Robert comments that he has never seen so many people in such a small space.

Most of the customers know the owners and are regulars to the cafe.

Robert does not trust them to be objective in their feedback.

He asks three of his team including Tom and Lynn to try the food.

They hate the food, they think the presentation is poor and find it inedible.

The catfish meal is a generous portion but it is bland.

Robert gives Tommye feedback on the meals and her performance in the kitchen.

He tells her that she is a micro manager and is driving her staff up the walls.

There is some commotion in the kitchen as the sous chef Whitney is complaining about Tommye.

Robert sits with the staff and tells them the blame is on all of them.

The kitchen is dirty and they do not need to be told by Tommye to clean it.

The staff then complain to Tommye directly saying they are underequipped.

They only have three knives and are missing other pieces of equipment.

Tommye is reminded to let them run the kitchen so they can be held accountable,

She also needs to train them to be able to have some faith in them.

Tommye complains about the staff being late and failing to show up for shifts.

The meeting shows Robert that Tommye and the staff have communication problems.

Tommye has her own frustrations that she projects onto them.

Robert is close to giving up on her and Phyllis is called in to help talk to Tommye.

She is angry at the interaction she had with Robert and the staff.

Robert watches them talking but he is behind on building and has to leave to talk to his team.

The barbershop is not just linked physically but also financially so they have to renovate both spaces.

The team with the staff has to clear out not just the cafe but also the barbershop.

Almost everything cluttering up the space is junk.

The electrics are burned out, the kitchen is not up to code and the plumbing needs to be fixed.

There is grease under equipment, slime in the fridge and the food is undated and stored in a fridge full of bacteria.

Tommye complains as they are throwing out $500 of food she has only just cooked due to the contamination.

By the end of the first day they have made hardly any progress.

Robert arrives the next morning and they have made very little progress.

Robert leaves his team to meet with Tommye.

He takes her through some basic financial numbers she should know about her business.

He believes that the menu is too large with 93 items and it should be cut down.

Robert helps her with costing her food better to save money on food costs.

He takes Tommye and her kitchen staff through making some delicious gumbo.

A few hours later, things are finally coming together but they still behind because of the extra work.

By night the design team have finished.

The owners are taken in to see the barbershop first.

It is now crisp and clean with a picture of her father in his barbershop on the wall.

Next they are taken into the cafe, which is warm and sophisticated.

It less cluttered with traditional dolls on the walls offering a hint of New Orleans.

Tom and Lynn are introduced to the owners.

On relaunch, the customers are let in.

They love the look of the new space and the taste of the food, especially the new menu items.

Whitney is in charge of the kitchen and she does a great job without Tommye hanging over her.

The relaunch is a success and the locals promise to return.



What Happened Next at Juju Bag Cafe?


Two months later, the restaurant has better systems in place.

They have kept to having a smaller menu.

Tommye led a full day training for all of the staff.

She has hired an experienced restaurant manager.

The JuJu Bag Cafe closed in 2017.

They closed suddenly and it wasn't announced on social media.

Reviews were mostly positive after they appeared on Restaurant Impossible.

Juju Bag Cafe was Restaurant Impossible season 11 episode 8 and aired on 13th May 2015.

Click for more Restaurant Impossible Restaurants

Next episode - Theresa's Restaurant

Previous episode - Tornatore's Pizzeria

This post was last updated in December 2022.

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