Before-and-After Highlights of Robert Irvine's Restaurant: Impossible Ambushes

Go inside the renovations, and see how Robert and his team overhauled desperate businesses.

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Photo By: Anders Krusberg ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Ambush: Broad Street Bistro

Tasso, the owner of Broad Street Bistro in North Versailles, Pa., shocked his wife when he purchased his restaurant more than a year ago without her knowing. His intentions were good, insofar as he wanted a business to run along with his chef son, Yianni. But Tasso's lack of leadership caused strains in his relationship with Yianni, so much so that his son left the state to work elsewhere. Before Robert Irvine arrived, Tasso faced a failing business and strong tensions in his personal relationships at home.

Before: Dim and Disjointed

"It's so dark," Robert commented upon entering Broad Street Bistro for the first time. "There's no identity to the restaurant whatsoever." Sets of oddly placed doors separated the bar and dining areas, effectively creating two disjointed spaces.

During: Bringing the Street to Broad Street

Robert and his team, complete with construction manager Tom Bury and designer Lynn Kegan, wanted to unify the disparate bar-dining room areas inside the eatery; Tom noted that many of the existing restaurant elements were of poor quality, so he simply tore them down and started again. What he and Lynn created thereafter was both contemporary and creative, as Lynn wanted to pay homage to the name of the restaurant in the design. "I wanted to make it play up the name of the restaurant … Broad Street," Lynn explained of his wall-to-wall design featuring bold street signs."

After: A Transformed Atmosphere

Sleek lines, bold color and plenty of street-style decor outfitted the relaunched Broad Street Bistro, much to Tasso's delight. "This is the most-beautiful place I've ever seen," he declared.

Ambush: Cray

A passion for bartending drove Crystal, the owner of Cray Eatery & Drinkery in Columbus, Ohio, to open her restaurant, but her inexperience in the business has ultimately led to filthy conditions in the bar and kitchen. She needs Robert's help to not only revamp her menu and clean up the space, but to also give her restaurant much-needed character.

Before: Dirty and Displeasing

"Walking in the door here," Robert said after entering Cray for the first time, "it's disgusting." And in addition to the grime he found in the entryway, Robert noticed dirty serving vessels and areas around the bar. As for the decor, according to Robert: "There's no feeling. There's no love in it."

During: Enhancing What's Already There

Given that Cray had what Robert described as "great bones," he encouraged his team to use the foundation before them to improve it. In what was perhaps the most-drastic move of all, Robert opted to change the name of Cray to Factory on 4th, on account of the restaurant's history as a factory. "We're going to keep the industrial feel, and we're going to add some modern, eclectic touches," designer Cheryl Torrenueva said of her plan for the decor.

After: Bar with an Attitude

Infused spirits were the impetus for Crystal to open her restaurant, so Robert and his construction and design teams were sure to make her expansive bar a focal point in the space. Custom shelves behind the bar offered personality and practicality to house her bottles. The oversize table proved to be the centerpiece of the dining room — and provided function and charm.

Ambush: So Natural Organic Restaurant and Market

The owners of So Natural Organic Restaurant and Market in Harker Heights, Texas, had the best intentions when they opened their health-focused eatery. But because they were new to the business and didn't know how to run it, they accumulated a mountain of debt. It was up to Robert Irvine and his team to rework the interior, overhaul the menu, and give husband-and-wife owners Jameel and Luvina a crash course in restaurant management.

Before: Empty and Uninspired 

"Nothing sexy about this place, is there?" Robert wondered after walking in the door at So Natural. "It looks like a box with a refrigerator and a few shelves in it." The bare-bones decor and wall-to-wall beige color pushed the idea of minimalism to the extreme, so much so that Robert compared the space to a "military dining hall."

During: The Making of an Atmosphere

Given the lack of personality at So Natural before he arrived, Robert was determined to make the space more welcoming and comfortable. For designer Lynn Kegan, that meant looking to vibrant colors and natural woods to reinvigorate the design. 

After: Warmth and Color, Finally

A wall of faux bricks added notable dimension to the dining room, while pops of green on the chair cushions were enough to liven up the space and create interest. 

Sip Bistro

The owners of Sip Bistro in Holly Springs, N.C., were undoubtedly facing trouble in their marriage, but their business, too, needed Robert's help. It was up to Robert and his team to not only re-establish respect and positive communication in the couple's relationship, but also reimagine the functionality of the kitchen, bar and dining areas to accommodate the coffee, wine and meal services.

Before: Mixed Messages

"There's nothing here that says: 'I’m a cool wine bar. I've got cool food. But you know what? In the daytime, you can get coffee also,'" Robert noted of the eatery's confused and lackluster design.

During: Three Times the Kitchen

After proclaiming she didn't see "a lot of ambiance or character," designer Taniya Nayak set out to bring both warmth and brightness to the interior. Tom Bury, the construction manager, collaborated with a team in the kitchen to rearrange the equipment and bring some of the cool-food prep into the bar area in the hopes of expanding workable space.

After: A New Identity

"My overall design concept is to make this place feel cozy," Tanya noted of Sip. "Maybe a little bit of farmhouse. Maybe a little glam. And maybe just a touch of modern." She indeed accomplished that feat by reworking the colors of the dining room and establishing a more inviting atmosphere.

Peppino's Ristorante Italiano

Constant bickering among the owners of Peppino’s Ristorante Italiano and their son led an employee at the eatery to reach out to Robert Irvine and his team for help. But when Robert arrived at this Oviedo, Fla., eatery, he realized that he had to not only ease tensions in this family, but also rework the menu and interior in the hopes of relaunching the business.

Before: A Dirty Dining Room

"It's just disgusting," Robert declared of the space at Peppino's. "I like dividers. I just don’t like these," he said, explaining his decision to toss the faux-vined arch in the restaurant. "Hate it."

During: Uncovering Mold

Construction manager Tom Bury had barely gotten started on the renovation when a team member discovered that the restaurant's carpet was saturated and covering up a moldy floor. Only then did the restaurant's owners explain that a leaky espresso maker was likely the culprit. The costly solution: strip the carpet and replace it with hard flooring.

After: Florida Meets Italy

Robert and his team decided on a mix of Floridian freshness and Old-World Italian charm for the design. And with the help of bright colors like blues and green, plus some distressed-looking pieces, they indeed managed to create a welcoming ambiance.

A Taxing Situation

Robert Irvine found a world of problems when he arrived at BFE Bar and Grill in Waynesboro, Ga. Not only were the owners unable to pay their taxes, but the inner workings of the restaurant also suffered, as there were severe staffing concerns and delays in getting food to the tables.

Before: A Dark Dungeon

From wall to wall, the decor in this cavernous space proved to be boring at best, with beer companies forming the backbone of the original design.

During: A Reworked Concept

Brightness and comfort were the names of the game in this mission, as Robert and his design team had to bring an air of leisurely dining to this uninspired space.

After: Take a Seat

The transformed space at BFE Bar and Grill featured ample seating for guests, plus a reinvigorated decor that brightened up the atmosphere.

Beneath the Surface

It took Robert awhile to discern the real heart of the problem at De Rican Chef restaurant in Virginia Beach, Va. After all, the eatery's kitchen was clean, and supposedly the business had made money, so the source of the problem wasn't obvious. Ultimately, though, Raquel Rivera, the owner of De Rican Chef, revealed that she lost one of her daughters at a young age and had struggled to find the passion to work in the restaurant ever since. It was up to Robert to reignite her excitement and instill in her a desire to succeed.

Before: A Dim Entrance

"I get dark, dull and dingy," Robert said of the Puerto Rican-inspired decor at De Rican Chef. He and his team worked to deliver on the liveliness for which Puerto Rican culture is known.

During: Outward Appearances

The Ambush team had only a few days to work to complete the project, and for Taniya Nayak, an HGTV designer who was overseeing the decor, the transformation was all about the use of color. "I want to bring the energy, the fun, the vibrancy back into the space," she said.

After: Bright and Light

One of the most-impressive elements of the redesign was the 3-D mosaic tile wall that delivered not just color but warmth and depth to the dining room. A whopping 189 tiles went into it, Tom Bury, the construction manager working on this mission, explained. "It's going to tie this place together," he said.

Starlite Restaurant and Pizza

In true Ambush fashion, Patty, the owner of Starlite Restaurant and Pizza in West Orange, N.J., didn't know that Robert and his team were set to renovate her eatery, after her son reached out to Robert for help. Only after arriving did Robert see for himself the filth that had accumulated in the kitchen, as well as the stubborn staff and sorry financials.

Before: Plain and Simple

The dining room at Starlite was bland and basic when Robert first found it. It was up to his team to reinvigorate the space and modernize the design — all while cleaning up the grime he discovered.

During: A Brighter Outlook

All it took was a few coats of paint to freshen up the space, making it feel instantly larger.

After: A Contemporary Overhaul

A mix of contrasting colors and understated accents dressed up the dining room, while printed seat cushions maintained an air of comfort and invitation at Starlite.

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