Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Restaurant: Impossible - Stella's Italian Restaurant Update

Stella's Italian Restaurant - Restaurant ImpossibleTonight's Restaurant: Impossible has Robert Irvine going to Stella's Italian Restaurant in Stratford, CT.  As I did last week, I took a look at the reviews the restaurant has received since Robert's April visit, as well as local articles about the restaurant, and it doesn't look too good for Stella's after my research.  We will see if the Food Network spins it positively with their update.  There were many reviews on Yelp, Tripadvisor, and Google, so we are not dealing with a small sample size with all of the negative reviews.  If you want to wait until the episode airs to read on, just come back after you watch the episode.  Let's check out some of the highlights or should I say low-lights in the reviews:

  • "Stellas you suck! I predict your out of bussiness within a year. Im never going back and that includes ten other family members that ate there. I cant imagine how many other people feel the same way. Only pro they added a bar. Too bad no one will drink there.... Ps. 100s of Bugs in ceiling shades of the all glass room/booth section. C'MON Robert!"
  • "My soda cup had a huge chip in the cup, the lights had numerous dead bugs inside as well! Call me old fashioned but why did are appetizer come after our entrees?"
  • "Now here is the issue...they do not really believe they had a problem or do not understand customer service."
  • "We were never disappointed with the food...until yesterday!  I was very surprised that they would have a TV show make-over the restaurant, yet leave the banquet room, in which we were seated, in the same drab style from the early 1990s?"
  • "After the renovations , the food went downhill. No sides to the food like salads or soup."
  • "Even though they had a makeover from Restaurant Impossible, the food was awful and the service was even WORSE!! We saw a family walk in to get seated and they waited several minutes and no one was even around to seat them, so they walked out!!"
  • "As a consumer I have choices as to were I want to spend my money but clearly I made a poor decision. If you had problems before considered  yourself doomed now!"
  • "Not at all happy with this place....I will not go back. I also would have liked if they included a salad with the dinner.  There were at least 2 other customers there that I overheard complaining about a lot of things."
  • "So sad! The renovations look good, but the food has just taken a huge turn for the worse. The menu has been reduced to nothing. The tried and true dishes are gone."
So it looks like many of the regulars are upset about the makeover and the food and service is not pleasing anybody.  I thought it was interesting that 2 different reviews complained about bugs in the ceiling AFTER Robert came and did the makeover.  I also thought it was interesting that they didn't makeover the banquet room along with the restaurant, but I guess the budget is only $10,000.

A few people complained about not getting salads with dinner, and it looks like Stella's has responded to this issue.  Stella's posted a message on their facebook page stating: "You spoke - we listened!
One of the many suggestions we received from Robert Irvine was to offer our dinner salads a la carte rather than with the meal.  Due to the overwhelming concerns from you, our valued and loyal guests, we are very happy to say that we have reversed that decision!  You can, once again, know that when when you sit down in our restaurant, ready to enjoy an authentic Italian dinner, your salad is included!  We cannot thank you enough for speaking up. Your opinions are everything to us and we want to continue to be a part of this wonderful community!"

There is also an article from the ctpost.com about Stella's and the owner Michael Savoie that has some pretty telling things as it is the owner admitting these things:
  • "The restaurant received a burst of publicity when the show's renovations were unveiled in April, and Savoie said that the first three weeks after filming were incredibly busy. But eventually traffic slowed down, and Savoie and his mother, Cammie Savoie, who co-owns the restaurant, were faced with deciding whether to keep the changes Irvine had brought."
  • "Not all of the change have gone over well with Stella's regular customers. Most loved the new décor, but many didn't like the newer, smaller menu, or changes to the food they'd been ordering for years."
  • "Savoie admitted that the newer menu might have attracted a newer, younger crowd, but pointed out that his restaurant couldn't survive if it alienated its most loyal customers."
  • "He decided to redo his menu again, adding back old favorites while also keeping a few of the dishes that Irvine had introduced."
  • "His restaurant continues to struggle to turn a profit, but Savoie hopes that the exposure it gets when the episode airs Wednesday night will help" 
It looks like in this case, the Restaurant: Impossible visit did not improve this restaurant and it actually may even be worse off.  Some will blame Robert for changing the menu, while others will blame the restaurant for not executing the changes correctly.  What do you think the issue with Stella's is?

28 comments:

  1. If there were so many regulars and the people loved the food before RI, then why was the place going out of business? 

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  2. Exactly what I was about to type, before I saw that you beat me to it!

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  3. we have tried our best to be as perfect as possible.But ,we are human ,like everyone else and we are doing our best to serve great food ,give great service and of course ,keep a spotlless restaurant ,but it does truly amaze me how people say such hurtfull things.Wish that i can be as perfect as them.Still working as hard as we can.Sorry, we can't please every one.Mike and Cammie

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  4. I've noticed watching the show that Irvine in most cases suggest smaller portion of food to save money, but as a customer I would like large portion especially in a Italian restaurant!!!

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  5. Keep a close eye on customer service, have a cleaning staff come in to do the cleaning, keep the menu short and easy to deal with. The long term customers aren't keeping the place afloat, it'll be new customers and word of mouth. In other words, DO WHAT ROBERT TOLD YOU TO DO!

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  6. I say follow Roberts advice. He's the pro. If your customers are saying they want the salad included, then make sure your price increases so that you're still following robert's formula and making money. Of course your past customers miss everything included and huge portions, but you're not there to lose $$$.

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  7. Michael - it was so evident that you're a good, hard worker. I think you should stick with robert's advice. Maybe if you reached back out to him with your challenges, he would give you more advice over the phone. He really seemed to like your attitude. Bottom line is - you need to make money so if people miss big portions, then you need to increase your prices. You can't give people food and not make money.

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  8. There is nothing cheaper to prepare than Italian food. We had the unpleasant experience of eating here a couple of weeks ago. We were just passing thru, and this was the only place open near our hotel. If I were a local, I'd stay away!!! My parents ordered pasta dishes; the sauce seemed like they open a can of unseasoned tomato sauce.

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  9. You'd be better off not to get a salad. I ordered one of their dinner salads. It consisted of wet lettuce and two black olives, sliced thin. I ordered the blue cheese dressing. It was disgusting - I don't remember any bread being served. The ravioli ordered by my companion would have been better if they had opened a can of chef boyardi

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  10. I agree with Missjillian and the others...if there were so many regulars, why are they having such a difficult time making ends meet.  They can't customize their menu just to meet the needs of the "Geriatric Crowd", the "Geriatric Crowd" needs to realize that their business can no longer sustain businesses, and start adapting to changes in society.  And I am one who is close to becoming one of the "Geriatric Crowd"!

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  11. Keep some of the old...at least what you knew what was selling. RI can olny do so much. The owners had some idea of what works, keep the new, keep the best.

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  12.  Just find your balance Michael, don't worry about these hateful people. The one thing this blog never mentions is 60% of all online food reviews are bad. People who like the experience and food say it with their dollars. Others want to feel big by tearing others down.

    Maybe you can't keep all Robert's suggestions, but you and your family certainly seem to have the skills necessary to make it work. And remember those old "regulars" were putting you out of business and new regulars take a while to build up. Just keep confident, serve great food, with amazing service in a clean restaurant and it'll all work out.

    Good luck and I'll come visit if I'm ever out your way.

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  13. i want to go eat there looks  great

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  14. I'm watching a rerun of the episode now, and the owner (son) is not competent enough to run a restaurant. It's a tough pill to swallow, but it's simply not for everyone.

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  15. I think in addition to the new decor you may want to think outside the box, try things like $4.00 merlot with dinner, happy hour, $1.00 off certain apps., blue plate manager specials, take a low food cost dish and cost it at $7. Try to shake things up with your bar, as we know alcohol sells. Hope this helps.

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  16. In the end you still have a good looking restaurant, it's up to management and staff to maintain a new leaf that was assist to flip, you are right, no one is perfect, however being in the restaurant  industry staff is to know that services is everything. Because you have regular customers, automatically the manger/owner should always be aware never to remove common ordered food from the menu. Also with menu changes you should always advise your regular customers of the changes, and like any restaurant if regulars like there dish cooked a certain way, for instance less salt, med rare steak etc. then as regular ,management should acknowledge customers request to maintain regular customer. This is just a friendly advice. I believe you and your staff is working hard to maintain the new change, but be aware with new changes, comes with new tactic's. Good Bless In Your Upcoming Success.

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  17. Robert urges menus that support staged preparation (ex: partial cooking) and working on multiple orders as a unit (ex: common sauce bases), so all the food can be assembled fast, yet still be fresh and appealing. This doesn't require portion sizes to be small. Owners and cooks have to understand what customers want. Small portions are expected for haute cuisine; large portions are expected in family-style restaurants. In general, with the kinds of layered problems presented to Robert, I am not surprised by the cases where the transformations fail in months following a renewal. I love his show!

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  18.  Missjillian nails it.  Food choices are a highly personal thing and business owners as a rule are not accustomed to being second guessed by others.  Irvine cuts the slowest sellers (well duh!) and so along the lines of MJ's question, if they were slow sellers, why hadn't the owners cut those items before Robert got there?  The answer I think is that the owner "falls in love" with their own personal tastes and are incapable of subordinating those tastes to market responses.  "If our customers don't like my Mom's apple pie then they're just wrong." I've spent years in the business and worked for enough places to state with confidence that about half the time the biggest idiot in the operation is the OWNER! (followed closely by family members) Robert Irvine confronts them with their incompetence and I would PAY to do his job...

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  19. Legosharpshooter@aol.comFebruary 12, 2013 at 9:37 PM

    The first time I went there it was freaking awesome the more I go there it gets worser and worser

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  20. Legosharpshooter@aol.comFebruary 12, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    Some times it is good and bad but still a good resturant

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  21. Legosharpshooter@aol.comFebruary 12, 2013 at 9:39 PM

    If u like Stella's please reply

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  22. why is everyone complaining about Stella's.  I go there often and find the food to be great and the staff very warm and friendly.  The eggplant with some of the homemade bread is my favorite meal.  the pizza is nice and crispy.  they have a new one buffalo chicken and another with artichoke hearts and feta that i love.  always enjoy myself when I go there

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  23. There are just so many choices out there now and unfortunately one thing that robert knows is to offer something that people cant get at a supermarket in a bag from emeril or tony. It seems to me that what comments made or make a difference is the ones received on re-opening night when i heard this sauce is the best ive ever had this is the best meal cooked to perfection these are the people who u need and want to keep happy! If the old timers care and liked the old food so much where were they before Robert? Keep up the striving to do better each day but remember u can't please the people who are never happy to begin with! Best wishes for sucess

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  24. Let's see...You're running a business that is losing money, so RI suggests you charge for something you were giving away. Customers then complain that they are not getting something for free (well, duh!), so you go back to giving it away. Let's do the math here: Suppose it costs $1 for the salad and the margin on selling it is $2. Suppose you do 50 covers a day. Giving it away costs $18,000/year. If instead you sell it and only 30% buy it, that's income of $11,000/year. So, we're talking a $29,000 swing here. But what's really key is that the $18,000 is cash out of pocket whereas the $11,000 is unearned potential. That $18K could be better spent keeping the place open long enough to build up new clientele rather than pleasing the ones who want something for nothing.

    As for the regulars, owners just don't get this. I'll try to explain it a different way. You can open up a restaurant selling whatever you want and have regulars. But if you don't have enough of them, your business will fail. Period. Wanna sell peanut butter and banana sandwiches? Go for it. If you stay in business long enough, they PB&B lovers will find you and become regulars.

    So what? You need new regulars, and the effort you spend on pleasing the old regulars, who couldn't support your business in the first place, is effort not spent on building regulars who will support your business.


    These restaurants on the verge of failing need to realize they are getting a chance to start over. Instead they treat it like they are getting another six months doing the same stuff that didn't work before. Start from scratch and build something that works. Stop repeating the same mistakes.

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  25. The pricing was off! They were charging less than what the food cost them...

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  26. Why can't any of you people give Stella's a good, fighting chance? Give Robert's changes and the owners a break. OH MY GOD! They're probably still trying to get used to the changes. So give the changes a shot before you say what you think.

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  27. I will never go back there ever!!!! I went today and had a huge piece of plastic in my sandwich that I almost choked on and the owner wouldn't even come out and brushed it off like it was nothing!!! The waitress the brought out a stack of broken containers and said it was from them didn't replace the food said the owner said that if I didn't want to eat well he was sorry!! What a joke that place is I hope they go under. We waited 25 minutes for 2 sandwiches and asked 4 times for napkins!!!

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