Restaurant Impossible Follow-Up — Dinner Bell Restaurant (Madison, Tenn) Closes

In this episode Robert comes to the aid of an owner who saw success at first which lead him to opening a second location. When that second location was failing, the first one was been neglecting. The second location lasted 6 months, and now the first location is on the verge of closing down as well.

Dinner Bell Restaurant | Click here for their facebook page

Problems Robert Had to Address
1. Bland decor including mismatched chairs and tables.
2. Health code violations done by servers
3. Frozen undercooked catfish
4. An owner who thinks his food is not only good but better than a lot of places (I can tell by just looking at it that it's not)
5. An owner who is so frustrated he is ready to punch Robert
6. A kitchen in serious need of a deep clean
7. Improper storage of meat in the kitchen
8. Food that was not properly cost

The Recipes

Fried Catfish | Click here for the recipe

Filets of catfish coated in flour and corn meal, then pan dried on each side.

business_closed_sign_page Follow-Up
On April 15, 2013 the Dinner Bell closed it’s doors for the final time. Here is a message on facebook from the owner: “To all of our Facebook friends and family. After 5 years of being in our Rivergate location, I have decided to close the Dinnerbell restaurant. Monday, April 15 will be our last day of operations. We will open at 10:30 AM and close at 3 PM. This was an incredibly hard decision for me to make. But with today’s economy and rising cost of food, we’ve found it very hard to survive. This is a difficult time for me, my family and our employees, we ask for you to keep us in your prayers. Thank you for many great memories!”

In the end I think it’s the food cost that killed him. He didn’t want to charge what needed to be charged in order for them to survive. As you can see in this video, the prices went back down after Robert left.

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The whole experience was not enjoyable for the owner or his staff. Here is a quote from one of his staff members:

“My name is Terrilynn I’ve worked at the Dinner Bell for years and honestly it is the best job I have ever had!! It’s terrible that this “tv show” came in and ruined our business!! I promise y’all that that everyone there puts their hearts and souls into the food and service. It was a mistake in my opinion to bring in Robert Irvine he intimidated all of us and was incredibly mean. It was all for tv ratings on their part not to help us in any way like they said they were. He made us cry he treated us like dirt and really didn’t “do” anything himself like it shows on tv his personal chef does it all. I just think its a shame that those people came in and ruined a great little mom and pop restaurant that people love to come and eat great good’! We now have our old menu back and same great service so please come and see us and give it a try I promise we will blow you away.”

The person who wrote this is the waitress who Robert yelled at for placing the ice scoop back into the ice. I will give her the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the scoop. She was nervous and I make mistakes when I am nervous. Of course that is what is going to make it on the TV show. So I can feel for her frustration. Although I don’t think you can say the show ruined the business as the owner was ready to shut the place down but the Restaurant Impossible publicity is at least keeping it open for now.

The show makes Robert look like super man, handling on the problems – when in fact he has a chef that is doing a lot of the work getting the kitchen prepared. That is part of reality TV. They don’t show us all the behind the scenes things, making people look larger than life. That is what I would expect, so I don’t fault Robert there.

The show always makes it seem like everyone hated the food in the beginning and then loves it after Robert has come in. But I found a review from someone who says their experience at the grand re-opening was not so positive. This is taken from Urban Spoon:

“I went to the grand reopening of the Dinner Bell last night. The food was awful!!! I had mashed potatoes(runny) black eyed peas and their braised beef tips. If you could find some meat in there I miss my guess. After the show rapped up all the owner was doing was telling people this was not his menu and he was going back to his. They ran out of food the place filled with smoke from burning food. The food looked all the same. The only thing that was good was the squash bisque. We went there once when it first opened up and swore we would never go back. Only went back because the show was doing a make-over. There is also nothing on the menu for lighter fare only grease laden fatty food. This place needs to go out of business!!!! My husband ordered shrimp and cheesy grits and after waiting 45 minutes they decide to come to us and say they are out of it. Owner kept blaming the show for running out of food. Isn’t he in charge of his restr?”

From the sounds of it, the owner wasn’t too thrilled either, even though the show made him look happy in the end. He was telling customers he was going back to the old menu – the comments from the employee above confirm that. This reviewer blames the owner for them running out of food. Actually I heard that the food is ordered a head of time by the Robert’s crew. So the responsibility should be placed on them.

Restaurant Impossible Closed

If you want more Robert Irvine recipes, here are some of his available cookbooks:

This cookbook contains 111 recipes many with complete timelimes and several that are gluten free. An example of the kind of recipes you will find are Lime-Cured Shrimp and Roasted Corn Chowder, Porcini-Dusted Pork Chops with Cremini Mushrooms and Golden Raisins over Horseradish-Scented Potatoes.

In this book Robert shares his personal stories (including cooking for First Lady Laura Bush) and cooking philosophy. There are also recipes to be had like Black Angus Beef Tartare with Toasted Brioche and Fried Quail Egg, Roasted Duck with White Bean Ragout.

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8 Comment

  1. JB says:

    it is debatable whether Robert’s visit really helped? No, it is NOT debatable. Fact, the place was two days away from closing. The loser owner said so himself. They are still open. They would be closed if the show never came. The idiot who works there and said the show ruined their business needs to pull her head out of her behind and think things through a bit. How could the show ruin it if they were going to close? This is pretty simple. Debate over!

  2. Shel says:

    Hi Eric
    Of course I realize that RI is a “reality” show and there are things that are done behind the scenes to expedite a positive outcome. So I have no problem if, for example, that Chef Irvine has a personal chef. The bottom line is that, in real life, Dinner Bell WAS on the verge of collapse – and the owner was burnt out/clueless about quality food.
    Like the new decor or not, the old restaurant decor consisted of no decor – and that is a factor as to why people go or don’t go to a restaurant. While I was watching the show and I gained insight into some of the pricing employed at the Dinner Bell, I questioned the wisdom and viability of dramatically raising prices in a part of the country where incomes are modest and those regulars who had still been frequenting the restaurant were suddenly confronted with a massive price increase. Though at the same time I believe that the owner, in his own naivite, had priced his own dishes way too low to support the business and was not a savvy business man. If you think about his restaurant business experience, he had one “successful” location for a short period that was largely “successful” because was bought out for (I assume) a profit. The 2nd and 3rd locations were failures because of a bad business model that included ultra low food pricing that could only be profitable in a super high volume/low overhead location. I suspect that most other meal w/3 restaurants in the area have these advantages or they too, will fail or have failed. I live in the NYC area and visitors are often amazed at how many low cost good restaurants manage to survive here. They survive because they typically have tiny sq footage, modest rent, huge turnover and volume and most importantly – a massive take-out business. The in effect, might do a thousand covers a night – it pays off nicely.
    I wish I could be more optimistic, but I do think Dinner Bell will ultimately close due to the poor busines model the owner has established -particularly in trying to return to a low cost menu as he has apparently done. It’s a classic mistake of business owners – thinking that price alone is most paramount.
    Finally, those few over the top negative reviews that have appeared here or there on the internet since Chef Irvine’s visit are most likely written by disgruntled former employees and/or their relatives and friends. One guy wrote that the old decor was much nicer than the new decor. Huh? Best, Shel

  3. Eric Samuelson says:

    You are right. I helped their business for sure. At least in the short term. The only debate is how long will this place last if they don’t embrace change.

  4. Eric Samuelson says:

    I don’t get how anyone could think the old decor was nicer.
    I won’t be surprised when I am updating this post when this show is shown in re-runs that the place has closed. Offering an affordable meal is a good thing but you have to be able to afford to offer it.

  5. Gary Ward says:

    The owner of the Dinner Bell was rude and didn’t want to hear what Robert was saying. I don’t know why he called Restaurant Impossible for help if he already knew it all.

  6. John says:

    I went to this dump ONE time and blasted it on Urban Spoon. The owner should be embarrassed for the health hazard he called a ‘restaurant’. Thank God Robert came in and got it cleaned up before some child or elderly person came in and got fatally ill. As far as the tension created, it was brought on by the idiotic owner who defended his own crud and threatened to kick Robert’s *** in front of his own staff. All he had to do is eat crow in a humble manner… This is called KARMA… He and everyone on his staff seemed incompetent and unfortunately, Robert cannot fix ‘stupid’.

  7. Todd says:

    I actually ate there a few times before Restaurant Impossible. The food was not good, but it was affordable. As a customer, that was the only draw. Decor was not good. Servers were friendly. I never have gone back, but I did watch the RI episode, and I have to agree with Chef Robert on the prices. The owner needs to be willing to lose some of his budget-limited customers in order to gain new ones with deeper pockets. It doesn’t do any good to have loyal customers who generate almost no revenue unless you are doing huge volume, and that is just not going to happen with that menu in the corner of a little strip mall in Madison. The owner seems nice though, as does the staff, so I hope they make it work. I just doubt if they can survive by going back to the same old menu and prices–continuing to do the things that got you in trouble in the first place won’t help get you out of it.

  8. […] increases or getting less for your money. Some places even returned back to their old prices like The Dinner Bell who is no longer in […]

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