Ask Robert Anything

In Magazine, Robert's Letters by RI Magazine

Two RI Magazine readers write in with burning questions for the boss.

Hello Chef,

My name is Joshua, I own a small bar and resturant in my home town. I have always had a passion for cooking and restaurants, and have worked in several restaurants for the past 16 years. I recently bought the restaurant I was working for about two years ago. I kept the restaurant the same as it was because it was doing great at the time. Over the past two years that I have owned it I’ve run into some problems with the restaurant and in my personal life. My mother passed away from cancer within the first year of purchasing it. She was my biggest supporter that I had and now without the support of her I feel like I am losing the fight which also has had a negative impact on the restaurant. My sales are down and I am not making the money I need to keep my dream alive. I am looking for advice on how to save my restaurant. I am not looking to be on TV but just a little bit of a general idea of how to rebuild my lifelong dream before it is too late.

Thank you,

Joshua

Hi Joshua,

My deepest condolences. I lost my father just a couple years ago so I know what you’re going through. You’ve been dealt a tough hand right now. Losing a loved one and trying to focus on your business at the same time—it can feel impossible. But it’s not impossible. I really believe nothing is.

The first thing I want you to do is this: think about what made you want to buy the restaurant in the first place. You say you kept it exactly the same as it was before you bought it. Why did you do that? Was it your dream to simply continue doing exactly what someone else was doing? Or did you have ideas of your own? Ideas that maybe, up until this point, you didn’t feel like you could risk implementing?

This is what I would do: I would look up and down the menu and get rid of anything that’s not selling well. I’d replace those items with items I personally love to cook for myself. They don’t have to be the most sophisticated culinary dishes you’ve ever seen—they just have to taste great! They have to be something that YOU would want to eat, that YOU would want to pay for, that YOU would remember and come back for.

Next, look over your dining room with some fresh eyes you trust. Bring a few friends in, friends who will give it to you straight. Ask them what they don’t like about the look of the place. The fix doesn’t have to cost $10,000 like we used to spend on Restaurant: Impossible. It could be as simple as hanging some new art, getting some new lights, giving the walls a fresh coat of paint, or getting some new tablecloths. I don’t know what your restaurant’s concept is, but I do believe that all restaurants should feel comfortable and inviting, the kind of place you’ll want to stay and talk with company long after the meal is finished.

Give these ideas a try, Joshua. Put your heart and soul into it. I cannot guarantee that they will ultimately save your restaurant, but I do know that at the end of the day, win or lose, you’ll be able to say that you at least did it your way, and that you did it with love. As you do it, put nothing but good energy into the work. People have an almost magical way of responding well when you apply passion. Good luck, Joshua. I’m rooting for you.

Yours in health,

Robert

Dear Robert Irvine,

I first want to say that I love watching your show Restaurant: Impossible and the Fitness: Impossible special you did was superb. I could use a bit of help from you regarding fitness/diet.
I am an EMT-basic and we work 12 hour days and are constantly on the road. Most days we do not even see the base. This has been a struggle in terms of fitness and nutrition. I’m lost on what to do. As I’m sure you are aware the emergency medical field is full of overweight, overworked, and underpaid individuals. Any advice or help you could give would certainly not fall on deaf ears. I want to excel at my career and to do so I need to be revamp my lifestyle in a way that works with my business.
I look forward to any response. Thank you,

William Voyles

Hi William,

I don’t envy the position you’re in. I imagine you spend much of your time stuck in a vehicle and that definitely makes it tough to exercise. You and many of your colleagues probably rely on fast food for your meals, as well, am I right? Since diet is roughly 80% of the fitness equation (working out is really only 20% of the battle), I want you to focus on meal prep and bringing healthy food to work with you. Try making slow cooker meals. They don’t take much time to prep and you can make a big batch of food that’s good for a few days. Try browning some chicken thighs and putting them in the slow cooker surrounded by potatoes, carrots, celery, parsnips and/or any other dense root veggies that you like. Add a cup of chicken stock, some poultry seasoning and rosemary and turn it on high for an hour, then turn it to low heat for another five hours. Add salt and pepper to taste and you’ve got some very healthy grub that will make the guys eating fast food wish they were eating what you’re eating. A big batch could last you three or four days so you get a few days off from cooking.

In addition to meal prep, keep healthy snacks around: nuts, fruit, and protein bars, like my FitCrunch bars.
As for exercise: When you’re waiting for a call, set aside 20 minutes to do a circuit of pushups, bodyweight squats, planks, and pull-ups. You could also bring a set of bands with you and do rows, presses, and curls. Don’t even worry about sets and reps, just try to stay moving for the full 20 minutes. If you can do that every day, it adds up in the long-term. In the short-term, you’ll feel energized for the rest of your day.
Lastly: Thank you for what you do. Our nation owes a debt to all of its first responders that can never be repaid.

Yours in health,

Robert

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