Behind the Scenes: Chef Robert Irvine of Restaurant Impossible

Behind the Scenes: Chef Robert Irvine of Restaurant Impossible

Restaurant Marketing Magazine
Restaurant Marketing Magazine

If you’ve ever tuned into the Food Network, it is hard to miss Chef Robert Irvine of the most popular show on the network, Restaurant Impossible. With his muscular physique and his Lexus SUV this ex-marine takes on failing restaurants across the US and gives more than he takes on each stop. The England native, with a stronger English accent on the phone than on TV, took time out from his wedding planning to share his thoughts about restaurant marketing and his tips for struggling operators with Restaurant Marketing Magazine.

With popular Food Network star Guy Fieri by his side as best man, Chef Robert Irvine married Gail Kim, a professional wrestler, in a celebrity-chef attended wedding in Napa, California this year. “We had Michael Chiarello prepare a whole roasted pig dinner for our guests and Iron Chef Morimoto made sushi appetizers and even sang to our guests,” said an ecstatic Irvine by phone. “I paid attention to every detail of the wedding and left Gail in the spa!” Not only did the Food Network star get hitched this year, but his weekly show, Restaurant Impossible became number 1 on the Food Network.

Why do you think people are so drawn to your show?

“Everyone loves a comeback, and that is essentially what we do on Impossible. We give the restaurateur things which are impossible for him to do on his own, and give him a second chance of survival. It is so powerful to see the visual transformation of the restaurant, but even more interesting to see the restaurateur and their crew transforming into a successfully run operation with a line out the door.”

What was your first experience with restaurant marketing?

I joined the British Royal Navy when I was 15 years old, and due to my cooking skills I was selected to work on the Royal family’s yacht the Royal Britannia. I served dinner to their royal guests and eventually at the White House for numerous high ranking government officials. What I realized from a marketing point of view is that we made it look like smoke and mirrors!

What do you think is the most important aspect of marketing in the restaurant business today?

To be unique in food, style and décor and empowering your people. The part about empowering people, it is important to get the best from your crew, and let them have a good time serving your guests. If your crew is empowered to buy a drink for a regular or an appetizer for a couple that just got engaged, they won’t abuse it. They help make the restaurant and brand even stronger.

Do you handle marketing differently in today’s economic climate?

I think radio is an amazing way to get people to an event or grand opening.

What have been some of the most successful promotions you’ve been involved with?

When I was going to open a restaurant in Hilton Head I looked around and there were 234 restaurants there and I decided to do something completely different, a Tapas Bar. We used the bottom of our large dinner plates—we flipped them over and served our small plates and tapas on the bottom of the plate. The trend soon caught on with small plates and the uniqueness factor made it a popular stop out of the 234 choices.


Restaurant Marketing Magazine