Restaurant Impossible - Zest Bistro Update - Open or Closed?

Restaurant ImpossibleZest Bistro

In this Restaurant Impossible episode, Robert Irvine visits Zest Bistro in Downers Grove, Illinois.

Zest Bistro is owned by Shaun and Tim.

The bistro is located in the grocery store they own called the Lemon Tree Grocer.

Shaun is the produce expert and Tim is a culinary expert in fine dining.

They thought it would be a great idea to work together and combine their skills.

They originally set up a grab and go business with artisan food, wine and beer.

There wasn’t enough traffic to support this so they turned it into a full restaurant instead.

The business has put a strain on their friendship as they have focussed on the business.

Tim brought in his wife which has unbalanced their business relationship.

Shaun has sold his house to be able to invest more and the business is struggling.

Robert arrives and he sees that the business is in a great area.

There are many properties nearby so there are customers on their doorstep.

Inside he sees that the fresh produce that does not look fresh and is dirty.

There are empty shelves and the products are at premium prices.

There is just a curtain separating the restaurant from the grocery section.

Robert meets the owners and finds out they each put in $1m each and investors have put in another $1m.

They admit there is no ambience and their biggest seller is the burger.

Robert sees the ready meals and the food looks dry and unappealing.

There are bottles of wine ranging from $60-100.

There is also a corkage fee of $10 for wines bought from their grocery store to be opened in the restaurant.

Robert meets Tim’s wife Jessica, who helps with HR and paperwork.

She has experience in marketing and branding but they aren’t utilizing her skills.

She can tell what needs to change and Robert has her tell the owners and they agree.

The corkage fee was Shaun’s idea and he is reprimanded as this can alienate customers.

They are essentially paying twice for the wine.

Robert wants to observe a service to find out where the problems are.

The customers come in and they complain of how they cannot enjoy the space because of the busy atmosphere.

There is nothing to attract them in from outside and the prices are too high.

The customers love the actual taste of the food despite the other complaints they had.

Robert tries the food including a tuna niçoise, salmon, NY strip steak and short rib nachos.

He thinks that they all taste and look really good but the prices are too high.

Robert identifies that they need a marketing plan and they should listen to Jessica in that area.

She gives them some more ideas for change that Robert agrees with.

Robert brings in Tom from the design team and there is bad news.

They need approvals from the city for all they are planning to do.

They must also have a certificate of occupancy before the relaunch can happen.

They also cannot do any work past 9pm as there are residents living in the floors above.

Robert brings in his décor expert to decide on the changes they will be making and they begin to empty the place out.

Robert goes to the condos above the store to see what they think of the place.

They like the food on offer but do not shop there because the prices are too high.

Robert gives the feedback to the partners, telling them their prices need to come down or they will not get any new customers.

He has arranged for Phil, an expert in upscale grocery stores to come and help them.

Phil talks though how display and aesthetics can work to their favour in the grocery section of the business.

He tells them they need less stock on the shelves and less foreign over-priced products.

Some items that are commonly used together need to be grouped together for customer’s ease.

Robert checks in on his team to see how they are getting on.

They have spent more time on prep and that has delayed them.

The building inspector will be in the next morning to check on their work.

The good news is they have been allowed to work till 11pm so they can meet their target.

Robert leaves the partners with an assignment to decide on the direction they want to take the grocery store.

By 11 pm the staff are made to put their tools down.

The next day, Robert arrives and meets with the owners.

They have decided to leave the overpriced produce and stock regular produce.

Robert’s team cannot restock in time for the reopening but they will rearrange the current stock so it is more appealing.

The team is behind and they still need to repaint parts of the building.

The building inspector comes in to give their initial approvals on the work.

Jessica is working with Robert and the owners to rearrange the stock.

Robert meets with the owners and has them recreate a restaurant meal in a to-go format.

They will have the meals as a grab and go and it is simpler than what they had before.

Robert makes a pot roast dish that is cheap to make and can be made to go as well.

Shaun is emotional at what he has been shown so far and is finally confident they can make a profit.

The team are still hard at work and Robert decides to work with the three on communication and working better together.

Shaun outlines how he feels ganged-up on and they reveal Shaun and Jessica do not get along.

They finally get everything figured out with Robert.

The team do the finishing touches to the restaurant.

The grocery store is looking more appealing after the items have been rearranged and regrouped.

The building inspector comes in at several times in the day for approvals.

They get the final sign off after all the work and they got the certificate of occupancy.

All three are taken into the bistro.

There are new colours and it is clean and modern.

They have added a revolving panel, separating the restaurant and the store.

They are amazed and love the changes.

The grocery store is looking a lot better and Robert commends Jessica before introducing his team.

On relaunch, customers are let in to the bistro and grocery store.

They love the new space and the food.

They especially like the dividers as it gives a more private dining experience.

People are also buying the to-go meals and shopping in the store.



What Happened Next at Zest Bistro?


A few months later, business is up around 30%.

There is a 45 minute table wait time in the bistro.

Restocking the grocery store is taking time as they have changed a lot of produce.

The prepared food sales are up on the to go dishes they offer.

Tim and Shaun are making compromises in an effort to improve their relationship.

Zest Bistro closed in January 2016.

They closed with plans to reopen after adding more space to the restaurant side of the business.

However, it appears that they never reopened.

Zest Bistro was Restaurant Impossible season 11 episode 4 and aired on 8th April 2015.

Click for more Restaurant Impossible Restaurants

Next episode - Lyon's Pharmacy of Elkton

Previous episode - Cocoamoda

This post was last updated in December 2022.

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