By Emily Davenport
A new spin on a beloved Food Network show is aiming to help restaurants that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Restaurant Impossible: Back in Business” first aired on Food Network on July 30. This time around, host Robert Irvine is traveling with a small crew to help restaurants that were previously saved on “Restaurant: Impossible” and help them safely reopen after COVID-19.
“I was sitting at home getting home calls and Zoom calls with people asking how to combat what’s going on and how to help,” said Irvine. “I called Food Network and asked, can we do something?”
Irvine couldn’t travel with the crew that he’s used to having for “Restaurant: Impossible.” He hit the road on two tour buses, each with six people each, to drive around the country to help restaurants that he had previously saved in the original show, many of whom Irvine has built bonds with since they appeared on “Restaurant: Impossible.”
“Hearing someone on the phone is different than real life. To see a family suffering is really intense,” said Irvine.
The show revisits some recent restaurants from newer seasons of “Restaurant: Impossible” including Drake’s Place in Ferguson, Missouri, and Edgar’s Restaurant in Akron, Ohio. For those whose restaurants weren’t featured on the show, Irvine says they can use the tips that Irvine and his crew use in the episodes to help boost their own businesses.
Irvine says that one of the biggest hurdles in executing “Back in Business” was that COVID-19 restrictions for dining not only change from state to state but also from county to county.
“While we know what the CDC wants, different states and even counties want something different,” said Irvine. “While some counties might have dining inside, across the road it could be reduced to 25% or no indoor dining in at all. How do we increase their revenue based on what they lost? And for those that have no dining outside, you have to get really creative.”
As a restaurant owner himself, Irvine recognizes that easing the fears of the community when it comes to dining is an important aspect of reopening safely.
“In one of the episodes, we helped the owner of a restaurant who wants to reopen, but one of his servers passed away due to COVID,” said Irvine. “It’s the fear in the local community — how do we put the customers at ease? As a restaurant, we promise to take care of you when you come in. When they close because there is COVID within the staff, it gets harder.”
Irvine hopes that the show can inspire people to support their local restaurants, especially in this hour of need.
“I’m asking, even pleading that customers support their local restaurants,” said Irvine. “Go out and help these workers — your servers, farmers, anyone — help people no matter what.”
“Restaurant Impossible: Back in Business” airs on Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Food Network.
This article first appeared in amny.com