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Mar 28

Business Lessons from Restaurant Impossible

Posted by: Steve Marr

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I don’t watch much television; but while recovering from shoulder rotator cuff surgery, I caught Restaurant Impossible on the Food Chanel.  I found that it provided several worthwhile lessons we can apply to our businesses. While the show is scripted and dramatized, it still conveys solid principles. You can learn more about the program hosted by Robert Irvine here: .


A failing restaurant invites Robert to help turn their business around--in two days. He starts with a brutal assessment of the restaurant by ordering several dishes, checking out the kitchen staff, and evaluating the front restaurant operation. Weak spots surface quickly.  Robert identifies them and confronts the owners with candid, direct criticism; which is usually not well received initially. Paul had a similar experience and wrote, “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16, NIV)

Robert makes very specific comments. “The roast beef has no flavor.” “Customers wait 30 minutes for lunch service.” “You have no idea what your food costs are.” “You serve cold food.” Likewise, when we critique others; we need to be specific. 


Next, he offers solutions. He demonstrates how to cook prime rib with different seasonings to transform boring meat into a wonderful dish. After the kitchen staff tastes the difference they commit to the new preparation style. He may slim down the menu by eliminating items to improve kitchen turnaround time, taste, and quality. For every criticism, he offers practical instruction on how to correct the problem. He offers hope and a pathway to a better business. Then, it’s up to the staff to adjust or not.

At the same time he brings in a designer in to make a $10,000 renovation. In one day, it’s out with the old and in with the new.  Then, he refaces what remains. A good lesson here is that in each instance, Irvine makes a dramatic improvement on a low budget. Even modestly priced restaurants can spend $100,000 to $200,000 on a makeover. In each instance, they stay within $10,000 with wise choices and creativity. 

Restaurant Impossible films the 2-day transformation for an episode of the program.  Then, they show the restaurant’s reopening as a new and transformed business.  Jesus said, “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.” (John 9:4, NLT) When our business struggles or we fail to meet customer expectations, time is not our friend. We need to determine what changes we need to make and embrace the changes quickly. 

A final lesson, not on the show, was the importance of follow through after someone demonstrates a better way. I checked out restaurant reviews from several of the places featured on the show. Some had excellent customer ratings, while others did not.  John wrote, “Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.” (2 John 1:8, NIV) When we institute changes, we need to take the steps to sustain those changes rather than falling back to the old way of doing business.  The best coaching won’t help if no one applies the lessons.

What does this mean to you? Be candid and direct when you need to make improvements.  Then, move quickly to insure that necessary changes become permanent. 

Steve Marr, Your Christian Business Coach

Integrity in the Workplace provides practical management that is Biblical and effective, order here: 

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