Restaurant Impossible Valley Inn
Restaurant Impossible Valley Inn – Robert is in Palos Hills, IL to meet with Faye Ristucci and her sons, Dennis & Frank. Faye and her husband purchased the Valley Inn 40 years ago and worked “as a team together”. The boys grew up in the restaurant. Dennis took over the restaurant 25 years ago. Dennis tells us that business at the Valley Inn was great for decades. When Frank died the business took a hit because it was difficult for the family to come to work. Prior to Frank’s death the restaurant would turn a crowd 2 – 3 times a night. In addition to the family having a hard time coming in because of losing their beloved husband and father…the patrons had a hard time coming in because they missed Frank as well. Dennis tells us that they get about 40 people max which is a huge loss for 2 to 3 turn overs. Dennis is feeling the full burdon of the restaurant and he has a hard time because he doesn’t have his dad to go to for input and help.
Robert enters the restaurant and he says it smells and his feet are sticking to the floor. He bellows for the family and thanks them for having him. Faye won’t tell Robert what they paid for the restaurant because she doesn’t feel it’s necessary. Robert is frustrated and is ready to end the show. Faye finally concedes and tells him that they paid $200,000. When asked if they did a good business she says “of course. Do you think we would have been here 40 years if it wasn’t?”. She seems very on guard and protective. She has her arms folded across her chest and is being snippy with Robert. ”I’m here for a reason”, Robert says “if you don’t want me here tell me.”. Apparently, it was Frank that contacted the show and mom is quick to point out that it was his idea. Frank helps part time and came in when his died passed 3 years ago. Frank says mom has done her 40 years. They used to make $50,000 a month. There are 17 staff members that Robert points out can’t clean and the brothers agree. Robert points to the ceiling fan above their heads and tells them about his feet sticking to the floor. Horribly grumpy Faye, under her breath, says that it’s cleaned everyday and that her feet aren’t sticking to the floor. ”Are your feet sticking to the floor?”, she asks Dennis. Robert looks on with a grin. She then pipes up saying “I can’t wait to visit your restaurants”. She says she’s looking forward to it. Robert says they can do that and she’ll then see how one is run, how it should be run, making money and won’t be dirty. Mom says she isn’t losing money, it’s not her restaurant any more. Robert points out that she’s negative. She says if she was negative she wouldn’t have been successful for 40 years. Robert informs her that he could do the show with just Dennis and Frank and avoid her negativity. She says she’s happy to go and asks if that’s what he wants. It is, indeed, what our Chef Irvine wants so that he can “work with positive people” and mom walks away. Robert says he knows she is their mom and she wants them to succeed but for him to get to them he needs to get into things that mom doesn’t want to get in to. We see mom standing to side leaning on the bar…she hasn’t left. Dennis took over when his dad died. They went from $50,000 to $30,000 – $32,000. He doesn’t know how to calculate his food cost, his labor cost is high and he can’t keep it under control. Dennis says he’s afraid that in a year he will have let everybody down.
Robert requests a service and says that Faye is lettering her pride get in their way. Frank talks to his mom and pleads with her to understand that they need the help. In an shot with just mom she tells us that “he’s got a negative attitude” and she has a positive one. She also states that the restaurant will be around when he’s gone and after that.
Robert doesn’t want to deal with fighting with people when he’s there to help.
Mom tells Frank that she won’t be there for the reveal and ends with “I’m done, I’m going home” and she walks out.
Enter our patrons for the service. People are commenting about the smell, it’s dark, the carpet is dirty as is the silverware. Robert asks Barbara Klingkamer, at the bar, how often she cleans the soda guns. She tells him that she cleans them once a week. Robert removes a nozzle and…I may never order another fountain soda or soda from a fountain gun again LOL. There’s mold on the hose and the holder is …slimy and full of bacteria. The sampler platter isn’t made fresh, the vegetables and onion rings are cooked from frozen…it’s all frozen. Robert appreciates the honesty in being told it’s frozen. Food is over cooked When a customer complained to a server about it he said that she copped an attitude and was snippy. Robert says the owners have lost site of what the restaurant is and what it was 40 years ago.
Back from commercial break Robert informs us that food is frozen, service is terrible and the place is filthy. He sits down to order and the table is sticky. He said it’s like someone spilled a soda and it was left there. A server wipes the table and it’s still sticky. I have to say that I, personally, encounter this at a lot of restaurants and it’s disgusting! You sit down to a sticky table and they get a wet cloth and wipe it down. The thing is, they’re wiping it down with dirty water/rag. Robert gets to 2 or 3 paper placemats to rest his arms on. His server has been at the restaurant for 30 years. She says it went down hill with Frank’s death and she chokes up. She was very close to him. She tells Robert that people would come on the weekends just to see him and she has known him since she was 14. She says that Dennis just doesn’t have the passion for the place that his dad did but it’s because he misses his dad and because he sees the decline in business. Faye cried on Friday’s in the restaurant. Back to the menu, Robert asks what’s best and she says that they make the best fried chicken. Robert orders chicken, shrimp and frogs legs, calamari, Valley Burger, rigatoni and beer battered cod. Robert thanks her for her kind and honest words and she turns his order in. Robert tells us that he wants to reset the passion in Dennis by making the Valley Inn his. The first dish out is shrimp and frog legs which Robert says are the smallest shrimp he’s ever seen and the frog legs are frozen. There’s no taste and no seasoning. The Valley Burger he spits out saying you can’t eat it because it’s too salty. Out comes the fired chicken. Robert says the fried chicken would be amazing if the seasoning was right. THIS is something we see on RI enough! A dish that Robert actually (even almost) likes. He’s the the crispness is great and it’s moist. He bellows for Dennis who comes out. He tells Dennis that all of the food is garbage other than the chicken. Robert asks “When your dad was here, he didn’t cook like this, did he?”. Dennis says he tries and Robert says he can see that and he’s there to honor his dad. This food is honoring him. Robert tells Dennis that he wants to give him his passion back. Robert promises that he’ll make the restaurant successful and will make Dennis feel good about himself.
The designer for this episode is Cheryl Torrenueva. When she and Robert meet she says the restaurant is a mess and that nothing goes together. The tables, chair and blinds (which Robert yanks one down) have to go. The lights in the restaurant and the colors make it dark. They also have to get rid of the carpet.
Enter the staff to empty the restaurant. I’m wondering if mom isn’t watching from across the street.
Robert is worried about what the condition of the kitchen will be. Robert tells Dennis that he isn’t going to beat him but because he just simply doesn’t know. He points out that he can see (there’s a sticker) that the hood was cleaned 2 weeks ago, which is gerat but parts of it must be cleaned every week. Robert runs a rag over part of the hood and “gook” comes off…lots of it. Robert points out that there’s a duct without a vent and reaches his hand in and pulls out dirt/dust. Robert tells Dennis that, without a vent, these things blow out into the kitchen and into/onto people’s food. Now we’re in the walk-in and Robert let’s out an “OHHHH. This…this is bad” and we see…gross. In the walk-in we have food with plastic wrap, stacked together (it looks like lasagna) and there’s no date written on the items…there are 6 or 7 of these plates like this. There is an open box of chicken (open as in…OPEN…cardboard box, plastic bag in that, the plastic bag is totally open and the raw chicken is just sitting there), sitting in it’s own blood that is sitting under a dripping air conditioner…like a foot under….with fungus, literally, hanging off of it. The mold is falling into the chicken. Dennis seems so eager to learn to do it right.
Outside, Robert tells us “I’ve been very nice, to this point, with the staff and with Dennis because of the loss of his dad but now it’s time to put this business back into place.”.
Robert meets with the servers and asks for their input. The biggest complaints are that the food isn’t as good, the atmosphere is depressing, the service isn’t good and that’s because there’s nobody managing them and there are no guidelines, the management doesn’t stick together, Faye, Dennis and Frank all have an input and that interferes with Dennis doing his job, rowdy people come into the bar and people don’t like that…sometimes it’s clientele but it’s also staff and the owners. Robert appreciates the honesty of the staff.
Robert meets with Dennis and Frank and tells them the honesty he receives from the staff and asks if it’s true that these two get rowdy at the bar. It’s true. Robert tells them how everything effects the restaurant; their behavior, the food, etc. Robert then mentions how mom and 2 sons saying different things confuses the staff and ask what mom’s part in the restaurant really is, is she running it, is Dennis running it? Mom hangs out at the restaurant and chimes in. Dennis doesn’t like this but doesn’t want to push her out. Dennis doesn’t think that Faye trusts him 100%. Robert tells him that he has to let her know before something can change.
Inside Robert checks in with Cheryl and Tom. Cheryl wants to make the atmosphere a touch of Chicago into Palos Hills and go with a theme of Urban Tavern with wood, metal and a lot of colors.
Dennis tells us how hard it’s going to be to have the talk with his mom that he knows he needs to have.
Robert says that he isn’t confident that he’s gotten to the bottom of the problems and that makes his next day a busy one.
On his way in Robert tells us that today they need to finish the design, rewrite the menu, train the front and back of the house and teach Dennis to stand up and do his job. He’s hesitant about what he’s walking into because there was a horrible storm the night before. Luckily, nothing was lost but they lost some work time. The floor is down, the lights have been changed out, the unsanitary issues in the kitchen are finished, 90% of the back bar is finished…and they head back to work.
Robert is meeting with Dennis to find out where his head is and see if he’s able to talk to his mom. Dennis didn’t sleep well because of decisions to make, his mom to talk to…lots of worries. Dennis sounds VERY hopeful. Robert sends Dennis in to get Faye.
Dennis says that it’s hard for mom to let go of the restaurant because it was she and her husband for 40 years.
Dennis and Faye come around the corner to meet Robert. She comes around with a smile. Robert tells her that the staff told him they were confused about who the leader was and tells her that Dennis wants to talk to her about this. Dennis tells his mom that it’s time for him to run the place and asks her to let him run it and for her to not worry…he wants to do it for all them. She tells him that she knows he can do and she’s proud of him. She knows he’ll make a success of it like his father did. They hug and she is friendly with Robert…not rude. She brags about Dennis to Robert saying “he’s as strong as his dad and then some”. Faye WILL be at the reveal.
Tom shows us the bar and it looks amazing!
Robert meets with Dennis about the menu saying it’s too big and it’s frozen. Robert gets rid of numerous items…things that can’t be made fresh. Robert makes Dennis yell that everything will be fresh and not frozen or canned.
Onion rings, Robert loves them and is showing them how to make them from scratch. They look AMAZING and he serves them with spiced ketchup. Now it’s time to make their chicken perfect with the right seasoning and serve it with cole slaw, which Robert also loves.
Tom is covering a rough looking wall with Cheryl’s idea of making a herring bone design with wood on the wall.
Robert takes Dennis and Frank out back to meet with the staff and talk about what they’re doing wrong. We find that a lot of the staff don’t talk to people when they come in the restaurant. We also find out that some people are still around because they’ve been there for so long and are like family. The staff doesn’t know the menu and they don’t have a tidy appearance. The staff doesn’t seem to take this too seriously until Robert and the brothers come down on them. The staff vows to do better for Dennis and for the Valley Inn.
Inside Robert rushes people to finish the MANY things that are finished. Tom can start cleaning up in 30 minutes, Robert gives him 20. Robert says they have 10 minutes to do an hours worth of work and there are 300 people outside waiting to come in. From what I’m seeing, the place looks AMAZING.
Dennis, Frank (who has been AMAZING supportive throughout the entire episode) and Faye are outside and have high hopes of the changes that are to come. Robert comes out and asks if they’re nervous. The legacy will continue.
Robert leads the family in and has them open their eyes. It is gorgeous! Everyone of them love it and compliment the walls. It’s now a “neighborhood hot spot”. Frank says it now looks inviting, fresh, new and vibrant. They love the bar. The copper that was on the bar is now on the ceiling above the bar. Frank is very touched. All 3 of them say that Frank, Sr. is looking down. Faye jokes that she loves Robert now and Frank, Sr. is probably wondering why she didn’t slap him. Cheryl and Tom are brought in to share in the joy.
The restaurant doors open and the crowd rushes in. There are comments about the restaurant no longer being dark and it looks casual, clean and inviting. One person was there right before it closed and said it was like somebody’s basement. The fries are now fresh cut and the new fried chicken is “perfect”.
The kitchen is hopping and putting out delicious looking food. People love the ribs, wings and onion rings. Dennis is working wonders in the kitchen and running it with passion.
Faye loves seeing the place busy again, as is Frank. He seems like such a nice guy. He hopes that every night is like this night. Dennis hasn’t seen it this busy in many years.
Robert says one of the hardest things in the business is taking a place that’s been around for years and making it new again. Facing the camera, Robert tells Dennis “it’s all yours. Make your dad proud”.
According to Food Network: ”Since Robert left, sales at Valley Inn have increased nearly 85 percent. Dennis tells us that the revised menu and updated decor “have drawn new interest from the neighborhood.” Among his favorite aspects of the remodel are the more inviting entry space and improved flooring.
Today, Valley Inn’s menu is a mix of the restaurant’s original dishes and those that Robert created, and Dennis says that “customers like the combination.” Additionally, he notes that the restaurant is no longer using any frozen food. Dennis tells us his staff are “more attentive to customers” and welcome diners “with big smiles and stories about the show.” He adds that “everyone has been doing their part and cleaning, too.”