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May 22, 2009 06:04 AM

Restaurant Makeover - Silent Killer?

Two spots in my small town of Richmond Hill (just north of Toronto) have been "done" by Restaurant Makeover in the last year. One is now out of business, while the other, according to a waitress, is doing about the half the business it was doing before.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that maybe the recession has something to do with it, but every time I watch the show, it seems to me that the designer and chef come in and want to change the resto's raison d'etre. There's always a push to move them upscale, remove certain products from the menu and replace them with more expensive, less familiar dishes, change the atmosphere completely etc.

Where is their market research to support these changes? How do they divine that an area filled with mom 'n pops and small stores can support a menu that's 50% higher in price? I work in marketing, and I know how difficult it is to answer these questions. I think it's the height of hubris to march in without any solid data on the area, make sweeping changes in seven days, and then take a hike.

Is there any data on how many places actually survive a year after their "makeover", let alone prosper?

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  1. There's a thread on the toronto board as to how many places have been closed - and it's quite a few. However let's not forget that this is all about tv - when RM first aired as a 1/2 hour show it seemed more earnest. Moving to an hour format cranked up the melodrama that it became a caricature of a show.

    But let's also not forget that some of these restaurant owners seem to have no clue as to how to run a restaurant as a business and RM is their last ditch effort to survive - you can see their failure happening regardless of the superficial makeover.

    Which restaurant is doing half its business? I know the Hollywood panini place closed down (there's an example of an owner with no clue how to run a restaurant).

    3 Replies
    1. re: Pizza Lover

      Thanks, I did a search, and found the following:

      It's about a year old, but at the time, for Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmare's UK, only 8 out of 22 spots were still doing business with the same owners after Gordon got done with them.

      And I totally agree that the problem is many people don't know how to run a restaurant. If I were running the show, I'd cut down the time on Igor's and the designer's problems and especially their high-school level squabbling, and add a business consultant who'd discuss things like sourcing product, market research, pricing, etc., all related to the business end. Then it might actually help these people, and I'd do a follow-up six months later to see how well it worked.

      1. re: KevinB

        The fish & chip place at the end of my street was 'done' a couple of years ago. They're still in business, but really they didn't need a lot done to the menu. There's also no way that a lot of money was spent on the decor. I think they were brought in as a replacement for a restaurant the show was supposed to do.

        1. re: KevinB

          I am not sure the results are any better for KN US- the restaurant Ramsay did in my former town winter last year closed in December. I'm not sure it's entirely related to the business end outside of Toronto. It is very difficult to sustain non-chain restaurants in a lot of cities. Where I used to live, if you weren't a hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurant or a more upscale place, no one would really come.

      2. There is a more complete list of the "victims" from restaurant makeover. However, to be fair to the hosts of the show, some restaurants got on the show for a quick facelift, some other didn't really know how to run a restaurant, and some other just didn't pick the right location to have the right kind of restaurant.

        So for the most of them, if they are already successful, they didn't need the makeover at all.

        1. Not only that, but does anyone else find it hilarious when they see the 'food critics' at the end of the scroll with their "reviews"?? I mean, who *are* these people that are supposed food critics that I've never in my life even heard of??? Too funny.

          1. When a restaurant subjects themselves to indignity (genrally) of the "reality tv" treatment it usually means they're in pretty bad shape and it's a last resort anyway. To some, it makes for compelling programming. For others, it's "must miss" TV.
            I hardly think the owners can blame the makeover for a dying restaurant finally closing down. It's a tough biz.