Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Restaurant Impossible - Hillbillies Restaurant Update

Photo - Food Network
Tonight on Restaurant Impossible, Robert Irvine and crew are going to Murphys, California to makeover Hillbillies Restaurant.  Hillbillies is a failing breakfast and lunch spot that has decor consisting of rusty kitchen utensils on the wall and a dirty underwear clothesline hanging from the ceiling.  The owner Jami is supposedly a pushover, and Robert has to motivate her to become a successful business owner.  As I normally do with Restaurant: Impossible episodes, I searched around the Internet to read stories, comments and reviews about Hillbillies Restaurant to get an idea of how the restaurant is doing since Robert Irvine visited, and here is what I found (note - all reviews are post Restaurant Impossible):

Positive Reviews:
  • "The décor is bare. Not a lot of atmosphere but great food! Friendly wait staff. A perfect place to take the guys after wine tasting. Most of the restaurants in town were a little too foofoo for the men "
  • "So we went back after the show was taped to give it another shot, and... um... I guess it's a little better. The main reason for the additional star I gave them is the improved atmosphere.....The decor is a definite improvement although the blue they used is garish and an appetite killer. Unfortunately, I did not see an improvement with the food. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and go back to try lunch, but I'm weary." 
  • "Just ate here for the first time...Probably the best chicken fried steak I've ever had. The place looks great and the food and service were also. I will definitely be returning!"
  • "hurried to see the makeover....looks great!! we had a chicken fried steak omelet (yummy!)...and a 1/2 pound blue cheese & bacon burger (fabulous!)..service was great and they were soooooo friendly!"
  • "Like the changed look, great service, will go again."
  • "It was good. Nice remodel and new menu thanks to the people from Food Network and Restaurant Impossible."
  • "Great food. Outstanding service from each and every member of the staff.  We will return. Loved it!!! "

Negative Reviews:
  • "Went for lunch after the big remodel for the TV show.  Service was slower than slow.  45 minutes for lunch is crazy.  No tuna salad for lunch?  Tried again a few days later and service still slow.  The waitresses spend all their time talking to customers they know."
  • "The kitchen was very slow in omelet preparation but a bit faster with pancakes in visit two. The service was barely tolerable on my first visit but much better on my second....Note: First visit = no flies. Second visit (next day) = many flies."

*Reviews from Tripadvisor, Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook,

Other News and Updates:
  • The owner of Hillbillies, Jami Saul, has already appeared on the Food Network in the past.  She was on an episode of Cupcake Wars, in which she was the helper, and her team won the $10,000 prize. (Link)
  • Hillbillies does have a Facebook page, but there aren't many posts on it (and restaurant is spelled "restaraunt")
  • The restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch and is open Thursday through Monday.
  • A local story about Hillbillies said Jami admitted to being a softhearted boss who would sometimes give employees extra money to help them pay bills or cover their shifts.  Staff members took advantage of her generosity, but Robert Irvine taught her to be a stronger boss.  Jami hasn’t noticed an increase in business after the filming of the show, but she credits this to it being the winter’s slow season.  Jami was pleased with the makeover and has added a few things back to the restaurant such as a wagon-covered booth and antique tools in the new accent wall.


The reviews for Hillbillies have been mostly positive since the makeover with many people complementing the food and decor.  The few negative remarks about the restaurant had to do with slow service.

I found it interesting that the owner has already been on the Food Network in the past by competing on Cupcake Wars.  She was the helper, so who knows how much of the $10,000 prize she got, but it is another case of people being on multiple shows on the network. 

While business has not picked up much since the makeover, this may be due to it being in the off-season.  Maybe the publicity of the Restaurant Impossible visit will help more during the warmer months, but the positive reviews are a good start.

*Visit Our Restaurant Impossible Update Page to see all Restaurant Impossible updates, and which restaurants are open, closed, or have been sold.  Also Like Us on Facebook  and  Follow Us on Twitter  


  1. Only in the sense that it explains why Giada has such a snotty attitude—especially towards Rachael.

  2. The crowd waiting for the unveil was not large. Not surprised that there is no upturn in business.

  3. Funny that Jami feels a need to bring back the wagon covered booth. Who pressured her to do that?

  4. dwight mannsburdenJanuary 30, 2014 at 8:08 AM

    Jack that the guy who costarred on Bobby's old old show Grillin' and Chillin"?

  5. This whole thing where you have to answer survey questions on every page to read the content is bullsh*t. I wouldn't mind doing it once or twice, but a question or two on every page is just a pain in the ass, especially when it's the same question over and over again.

  6. The restaurant and its food looked disgusting, the so-called "makeover" was probably one of the worst I've seen. Really - wood pallets on the walls? The designer said it reminded him of the wineries - dude, they're eyesores behind nearly every manufacturing building. And now the tacky owner is putting the tacky wagon booth and tool crap back on the walls?!? We watched the episode last night and hubby & I both were floored by the unprofessional dress & attitude (Jami - do you own a pair of jeans that actually fit, look clean, and not full of tear marks??) - waitresses on cell phones? Jami isn't 'soft', she's clueless. And we continued discussing the lousy makeover this morning - first thing I said is that she is so tacky, I'd bet she would put the tacky decor back up and sure enough, you've confirmed some of it has made its way back. On one hand Jami says she wants to entice whose visiting the vineyards, then Robert remakes things with sauce and grease and other ghastly items (yuck, not after a day of wine tasting & buying), and then she is vehement about keeping the 50's diner food for the locals in plaid. Well, which is it? How about becoming sophisticated but not foofoo, offer FRESH produce and FRESH catch, have a wall of unique wines not usually available on the wine trails, waitstaff in CLEAN, well-maintained clothes, and offer dinners since wine tasting isn't over until 5 ot 6pm??? Meanwhile, she blew her elderly mother's (who still hangs onto her 'I'm a 20 yr old blond' persona) entire retirement. What a joke!

  7. super important, real deal, big bold, awesome team, coffee nuts, killer line, ready to rock, huge taste, big aroma, funky flavors.

    Somehow, I think Guy has been replaced with a computer based cliche generator.

    Worse, I think his fans love him that way.

  8. This could be worth trying if it gets me away from dumping a bunch of creamer in the coffee!

  9. Banana coffee? I can feel the enamel on my teeth dissolving.

  10. That looked like a really dumpy place, and the employees all looked like they just escaped from a Hillbilly mountainside breeding camp. The cheap makeover was a bit shocking. Irvine should have given them a POS sales and cash register system. He spent about $1000 not $10,000 on that place. It actually looked pretty awful after and before.

  11. Everybody was stealing. That is a Hillbilly Hoedown. If anyone gets arrested, the rest of the klan would burn down the restaurant. Nobody sees nothing.

  12. The town had a total of 2,000 people, and that included the local state prison inmates and the Corrections Officers.

  13. Guy Fieri should do a show about cooking Meth and baking Crack rocks and cocaine. I doubt he drinks much coffee.

  14. Mindy Thompson LoveallJanuary 31, 2014 at 3:55 PM

    Hope this gal learns some good marketing ideas to get her restaurant even more exposure. Although, if they keep serving great food and having great service, word of mouth will be her best marketing!

    Wondering if they ever figured out who the thief was?

    If the town has Correctional Officer families, I would get to know a few and give them all coupons for the restaurant to hand out at work. Why not?

    Regardless of the name of the restaurant, I think it would be very very wise if the owner took more pride in her look. She is a beautiful lady and needs to embrace a much more upscale look for herself. She could do her own sort of "Hillbilly Sheik". Not saying that sarcastically. I'm serious. If she wants these wine tasters as her clientele, she will definitely have to take her clothing look much more seriously. Wine tasters, in general, have money and likely don't want to spend the end of their lovely wine tasting day in a dowdy place. Be funky, but definitely never again wear jeans with holes in them. I realize that she was probably attempting to look "Hillbilliesh" but the jeans and overall look said more like "I don't really care" which doesn't seem to be true of her at all. Her clothing needs to match the clientele in whom she seeks. Upscale Hillbilly. The owner's Mother seemed very sweet but if she is ever allowed to work or hang out in the restaurant, she too needs a major overhaul in her attire and whole look. She would look fantastic with hair cut exactly to her shoulders. Makeup would go a long way too. Would make her look much much younger and much more hip! Just bein' honest. They are the faces of their restaurant. Dress at least as well, if not better, than those you wish to attract.

    I do with them the very best!

    I read that they are adding back the covered wagon. If it's left "as is", I'd say that it will stick out like a sore thumb, however, if they can make it "Modern Hillbilly" to somehow match the rest of the new look, it could be cute! Get a designers opinion before doin it, I say.

  15. Rachel never denied though. She has always, always, said she is not a chef.

  16. ...don't know if I'm gonna like the 'funky flavors' of Guy's coffee. Usually when someone says 'funky' and 'coffee' in the same sentence, it's because the brew has become as thick as motor oil. But, hey, he can sell us his Rolaids after the coffee hurts our stomachs, so win-win for Mr. Ferry.

  17. I enjoyed the pilot (hardly a surprise, since I'm a Bobby fan). I'm looking forward to it.

  18. The flavours sound interesting, but I'm not a coffee drinker.

  19. Couldn't be less interested.

  20. I am SO SICK of seeing almost nothing but Guy "I'm a Stahhh" Butthole on FN.

  21. Yep....the redo looked tackey and ready to fall apart. The old décor was atrocious. Looking at the "dirty laundry" would have made me turn around and walk out.

  22. I mean really.....underwear hanging up. How tackey is that. It is unbelievable that someone would come up with that idea. Did the underwear come with skid marks? Random short and curley hairs? Bleh.....

  23. There's a good reason why her business hasn't picked up....I live in San Francisco, and the biggest thing out here is the drought (reported almost every day here), and the lack of snow in the mountains (where a lot of us from the Bay Area during this time of year). The lack of snow means less visitors and it is hurting all businesses in the Sierras...., restaurants, ski resorts, etc.

  24. It's too bad I can't edit my mistakes.... What I mean to say....The drought here has been real hard on California (Northern, Southern, Mountains)....Her business may be suffering due to the drought, which means less snow on the mountains, which leads to less visitors passing through and it's hitting the resorts and its accompanying businesses real hard despite the makeover. Local and National news has made a story of this in recent weeks.

  25. Next time we are in Murphy's and I will definitely be stopping by here to give this nice lady my business. But I don't like thus designer and I don't see 10K in work. His first designer is/was the best, but I rarely see her now. Wish she had taken this project. Good luck to this nice family.

  26. dwight mannsburdenFebruary 4, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    "Funky flavors" does not imply goodness

  27. First designer was team for Vilaris near Philly that did not take Irvine's direction very well. They painted chairs, were still wet and people had paint on their clothes.

  28. Marketing Opportunity?

  29. Sooooo the person who stole $400 from them still works for them????

  30. he explained that during one of the behind the scenes episode, he owns a large amount of black shirts b/c they don't show stains/ etc from working on the shows so it always looks good on camera

  31. Merlin_Arrowhead_AddictFebruary 6, 2014 at 11:17 AM

    I was not aware of that. Does that change the conclusions at all?

  32. I think the people discussing Robert Irvine's wardrobe are a bunch of idiots. What difference does it make what clothes the man wears? Sheesh, GIVE ME A BREAK!!! And again what difference does it make what the percentage of restaurants are still open? If Chef Irvine didn't come in and try to help these people, then most likely close to 100% of them would be closed! I also think that a contract should be signed saying that if these people sell their restaurants in under at least a year (if not 2) without at least trying to implement the changes Robert Irvine makes in their establishments that they should have to reimburse Food Network the $10,000 they spent on the remodel plus have to pay all of the volunteers who worked on the remodel at least a minimum wage salary for the time they spent helping these restaurant owners. Wake up people & if you don't have something constructive to say then keep your mouths shut!!!

  33. All good points. I would add that it should be mandatory that managers/owners attend(and PASS!) basic restaurant management and finance classes at the nearest community college as a condition. I would accept online classes where necessary but they HAVE TO PASS! That alone would be a big help as quite a lot of these folks jump in w/o any knowledge whatsoever beyond having worked in a restaurant once and now wanting to own. Big, big difference between the two. Even current owners could benefit from classes. Not a guarantee but it could cut down on the failures somewhat.
    Having been able to visit 3 places that had been redone both before and about making the restrooms sanitary? Is that too much to ask? I know it's not "Restrooms Impossible" but believe me, you get a damn good idea of the sanitation standards of a restaurant by seeing the filth(or lack of) in their restrooms. It also gives you real confidence when you see staff use the toilet and leave w/o washing their hands.

  34. You are so right!

  35. I like the reimbursement idea.

  36. I liked it the way it was! I went in and was so disappointed. Gone were the homey Hillbilly touches like the tackle boxes on the mismatched tables/chairs, the antique kitchen and other tools on the walls. The covered wagon always seemed to have some one sitting in there. Yes, I even liked the old laundry. It all seemed appropriate for a restaurant called "Hillbillies". Now the Hollywood attempt to "upscale" (gee, that's why it's called Hillbillies!) it resulted in a boring, sterile, cold (the colors) and tasteless "artwork" and old pallets! Get real, Murphys does not need a another "upscale" restaurant with big plates and little food that is over priced and not as good as they try to make you believe (not to say there are not other good restaurants in the vicinity with good food that would fit that upscale mood when it his me). The only thing I liked were the floors. We should leave one for the locals where good food and friendliness is more important then what the show did to it. On the subject of management, people often take advantage of those with a good heart. Please don't lose that good heat, just loose the folks who are taking advantage! Marketing and business skills, like anything else, can always be improved.

  37. I totally agree..

    - Also, it amazes me that Chefs on Chopped as well as ALL
    Chefs working in all types of food venues who know and are aware that they
    sweat profusely, fail to wear a head band or head bandana - thus allowing their
    sweat to drip on or into the food that they are preparing... totally unappetizing!

    - Also, I am surprised that there are no health department
    requirements that require all employees who prepare food (chefs, line cooks,
    etc.) to wear gloves. I've watched some
    of the so-called Food Networks Stars who disregard taking off the rings, and
    "bling-bling" things, etc. when using their hands when mixing ground
    meat, etc. Bad move - since many germs harbor on skin underneath rings - thus
    easily spread into the mixture.

    -On some episodes, I've watched some of the female Food
    Network Stars wear blouses, sweaters, etc. with long frilly sleeves practically
    over their wrists - preparing food while standing over the cooking range
    burners - placing food into a pot of hot oil for frying. Not a good example for those
    "wanna-be-chefs" - especially younger viewers who watch The Food
    Network. There have been numerous times
    of cooks being scalded by hot oil or boiling water because of wearing
    fashionable apparel with long dangling frilly sleeves that got caught on hot pots
    and pans on stove top ranges - their skin falling off screaming in pain.

    I'm surprised that the food advisors on some of the FN shows
    allow the above mentioned" No-No's of cooking" to occur. Apparently they must have not had or had not
    listened to Mom or Dad teach them about the basics of food safety before one
    begins to prepare food for consumption.

  38. This is a few years old, but according to the person that runs this blog, their company put out the information on Ramsay's track record. Doesn't look good.

  39. These are British restaurants, but the American ones can't have much of a different track record.

  40. We lived in England for 11 years and while there I managed a Domino's Pizza there that was near the American military base that my husband was stationed at. I worked mostly with British people and Robert Irvine speaks just like the people I worked with. It's just what they grow up with. It took me a while to get used to it.

  41. I love your idea about the restrooms. People don't realize that even the restrooms reflect on the business.

  42. Assuming 100% would have failed with no intervention, and that industrywide 90% of restaurants fail in the first 5 years, that's not so bad a record.

  43. Robert does. Maybe because Ramsey's shows are older, but I think all of the shows from a couple of years ago are shuttered.

  44. I live in Woodstock and ate at Angelo's last fall. I have a really hard time believing that the renovation had anything to do eith their closing. The food was beyond horrible and tasted like it came straight out of a can. I can't imagine they learned anything from the show and must have reverted back to the habits that made them fail in the first place. :(

  45. They replaced all of the tables and chairs and the floor; that used up a lot. The designer said that if you were paying attention.

  46. I missed this when it first aired,but caught it tonight in a rerun( July 2,2014) The place looked horrible before and after. I can't believe a "designer" would use nasty old pallets as part of the decor. Pallets are rough and 100% splinters-just waiting for someone to accidentally rub against them and sue the place. Not only that how would you clean the surface ? IMPOSSIBLE !
    REAL designers use grey-out shades of bright primary colors,and never use bright primary crayon colors on large expanses of wall. I like Irvine and Tom and the show's concept but they really need to use a higher quality designer than the 3 they rotate. The girls delight on making artsy/craftsy light fixtures and Lynn (Lynne,Lin ?) is completely clueless.
    I've eaten in 4 re-done restuarants. While the stuff looks O.K. on the TV screen- all the places I visited looked cheap and cheesy up close.
    I still hate the long comunal dining tables. If I want to eat 12" from a stranger,I'll go to Europe where getting a private table almost never happens.

  47. Robert Irvine and RI came in with expertise and 10k to help save an already FAILING restaurant. Unfortunately some people should not own a business or be in the customer service industry. RI offered knowledge and a structural face lift, but the internal problems still remained, which is the real reason the business failed and ultimately closed.