Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Restaurant Impossible - Bene Pizza and Pasta Update

Photo - Food Network
Tonight on Restaurant: Impossible, Robert Irvine and his crew are in Omaha, Nebraska to makeover Bene Pizza and Pasta.  Brothers Jon and Bobby opened the restaurant 13 years ago, and business started to drop off when Bobby got sick.  Due to this, they had to borrow money from their mother to keep the restaurant open. Robert needs to fix the family and figure out what to do with the noisy arcade in the restaurant.  As I normally do with Restaurant: Impossible episodes, I searched around the Internet to read stories, comments and reviews about Bene Pizza and Pasta 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 kind of place kids dream about and adults salivate over. Have come to this restaurant several times in the last year -- the pinball machines are the most current and most importantly, they work and are reasonably priced 50 cents). Have also enjoyed the cheese bread and the fried ravioli. Each were good, not great - however each was hot and fresh. Recommend this as a nice weekend event for families with kids."
  • "Very good.we had two different pizzas ,some pasta dishes and chicken fingers.Everything was great ,and the place looked great.Much better then the old look.We will be back soon and often."

Negative Reviews:
  • "overall, it was just ok. I thought it was a little pricey, for a 16 inch pizza and calamari sticks we paid close to $30...My real issue was the lack of service..... when you get there you go up to the counter to order, and that's fine, but it's supper congested because they keep everything for all the tables right there next to where people order...We didn't get to spend a whole lot of family time together because every time we need something I had to search around for it myself...I think they need to have someone keeping an eye on the dining room and helping guest when they need it....all around, the experience and food are mediocre."
  • "I was going to try their new food when the place relaunched.  I did not eat there after seeing the bathroom.  It still has one of those rolling cloth hand towels on the wall.  I asked if the employees that cook food use that thing and the answer was yes."
  • "Once upon a time, I'd hit this place once in a while just because it was different. Can't think of a single reason, either bland character- free pizza or half-baked decor upgrade, to try it again."
  • "A makeover makes the place look pretty; however, poor customer service and the sight of hours of unbussed tables plus steep prices ruined the experience for me.  Doubtful I will return."
*Reviews from Yelp, Tripadvisor

Other News and Links:
  • The Restaurant Impossible makeover was in November 2014.
  • Here is the Bene Pizza and Pasta website and menu (scroll to the right - bad design).
  • The bio on their website makes it seem like the whole family opened the restaurant together and not just the brothers Jon and Bobby.
  • Here is the Bene Pizza and Pasta Facebook page
  • On February 6th, they announced they were bringing back the thin crust on their pizza as well as fried pickles, which people seemed to be happy about. (Link)
  • Bene Pizza and Pasta said their Restaurant Impossible was an "unforgettable experience" and they seem pretty happy about the makeover. (Link)
  • There were a lot of comments on Facebook and on articles wondering why they needed a makeover as they were always crowded. (Link)
  • Here is a Reddit thread talking about the makeover, which people thought the pizza was mediocre before. (Link)
  • It looks like the restaurant had a lot of recent 5-star reviews filtered by Yelp.  They are all 5-star reviews left by people with only one total review, so they seem questionable. (Link)
  • Bob has also responded to a few of the recent negative reviews of Yelp. (Link)


Conclusion:

There have been more negative than positive reviews of Bene Pizza and Pasta since the Restaurant Impossible makeover with people talking about mediocre food and bad service.  If some of the filtered reviews on Yelp are actually legit, then I would say there are a few more positive than negative reviews.  Customers are also happy that the arcade games stayed in the restaurant and Restaurant Impossible didn't remove them.

UPDATE 7/2015 - Bene Pizza and Pasta has closed - More information on the closing.

*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

53 comments:

  1. I was reading the Google reviews, and there were a lot of complaints about the owner's temperament/anger issues. Wonder if we'll see any of this tonight.

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  2. Yeah, I saw a lot of that in the reviews before the makeover as well

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  3. My husband grew up in Omaha and we're going back in late April. We plan to stop and try this place! It's just coming on here in NM ~ looking forward to it.

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  4. A lot of the 5 star reviews strike me as hokey, as if one of the owners or their friends wrote them. My wife and I will be in Omaha in May and it will be interesting to see if they are still open.

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  5. They misspelled the word "restaurant" in their logo at the top of their webpage.

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  6. Robert said 'stop the recession, I'm over that.' I am too! :p How many people are still going to blame it on the recession? It's like a crutch. I never really bought that excuse.

    At a place like that, the pinball games would be a huge draw to me, but I've never been a big spender at arcades and not a big pizza buyer either. (and I never buy pasta at a restaurant) I would be the 'drop by once in a while' type.

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  7. "Would you travel 6 miles to eat this?"
    "Not specifically, just because they can get it anywhere."

    As Robert said next, "bingo!" I think that's one of the reasons so many of these places fail. Even with revamped menus and decor, it's usually still stuff you can get anywhere. (especially when they add their old boring stuff back into the menu after R:I leaves. Don't pander to the handful of old regulars.) You'll often see higher prices for smaller portions afterwards as well. I have a hard time justifying eating out as it is and I know I'm not alone. I've left places before because of prices alone, not to mention an uninspired menu.

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  8. Exactly. I think that's where so many of the owners just don't understand the basic concepts behind the 'business' side of running a successful restaurant.



    Why would I come here to buy this basic pizza when I can get the same, exact basic pizza down the street...??? What's the draw...???



    You've got to offer something special that makes people want to come into your restaurant and, subsequently, keeps them coming back.


    The concept sounds simple, but it's really, really, really hard. That's why so many restaurants - even good ones - don't last more than a couple of years.

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  9. Yeah, it's really hard to find a balance. I love Mexican, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Italian, French, Polish, etc...but it would be weird to see them all on one menu. Might be great for *me*, but not a good business model. Haha.

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  10. In a booming economy its much easier for bad businesses to survive. When a recession happens it exposes the good from the bad buisnesses.

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  11. But I find it funny Robert is giving advice when he couldn't keep his own places open

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  12. The brother that does the belittling of his sister-in -law needs counseling as to his mean use of humor. All behavior has meaning and there is meaning behind his mean spirited use of humor.

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  13. The pizza prices look pretty reasonable to me, so I'm not sure what they're complaining about--that's what I would expect to pay for a large pizza here in Ohio.

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  14. I'm of course only speculating, but i wouldn't be surprised if he has a type of "crush" on her...kind of like when gradechool boys would pick on girls they liked..maybe the act of going through the kidney donation made him feel for her in a different way and him being mean is trying to deny those feelings..and maybe deep down his brother knows this and why he always had that resentful look in his face...or he could just be a jerk

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  15. Personally, I kinda like the idea of pizza and pasta + classic video games. (I'm a child of the '70s and '80s...!!!) But, are there enough potential customers like me in Omaha to make this business model profitable...??? That's the kind of help that the owners desperately needed.



    All they got from Robert was that he hated the video games, but he was going to let them stay. Ok, fine. Robert is letting the games stay. That decision pleased one of the feuding brothers. But do any of the current or prospective customers care...??? Is it bringing anyone in...??? Is it driving anyone away...???



    The owners still don't know whether or not the arcade is an asset or a liability.

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  16. I think each of the brothers might have a minor screw lose somewhere in their framework.

    The brother who had the work-related issues with the sister-in-law was the brother who got a kidney from that sister-in-law.Literally, she gave him an organ. SHE SAVED HIS LIFE. And he can't stop acting like an adolescent asswipe for 5 minutes...??? WTF...???

    There was way more 'family discord' going on than we saw on the episode.

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  17. They looked beaten down by stress, which doesn't help.

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  18. Yeah, pizza has been shaking-my-head-ingly expensive for a long time. I'm sure their prices are at or near par with just about another other place.

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  19. I felt like you, that the noise issue should have been addressed. With the removal of the carpet, the noise level from those games has to be pretty high.

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  20. Agreed. She gave him a kidney! That should earn her his respect FOREVER, yet he was "teasing" her all the time. Sad.

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  21. I asked our relatives in Omaha if they had ever been to this place. There are 25 adult members (from ages 24 to 60) of our extended family in Omaha and not one of them had ever tried this place. Several said there are enough decent pizza places to go without having to deal with the noise of the pinball machines.
    I also asked a few friends that we have there. One couple had tried it and said they would go back "if they had to be nearby" but wouldn't drive the 5 miles from their home just for the restaurant.

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  22. This was the first time I've ever been disappointed in Taniya's work, but the space was too big and too complicated for her to do anything decent in 2 days, even if there was previous reconnaissance of the site.

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  23. When the sister-in-law's generous donation of a kidney and the brother's ill treatment of her was brought up on the FN site, the mom came barreling in with an angry, defensive post defending her son.

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  24. And 18 inches is on the larger side of large pizzas. At many places, a large is 16 inches.

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  25. I love the idea of this place too... although it's hard to eat while you're playing games. There is a pinball arcade near me in Pelham, New Hampshire, and there's a pizza joint next door. They don't seem to need one another to exist.

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  26. That, right there, explains why this grown man acts like a spoiled little brat.

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  27. Out of curiosity, I googled other pizza shops in the area. Large pizzas ranged from $15 - $18. Bene charges $21 for a large. That is pretty steep, especially considering the $18 places seem classier.

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  28. That is more than what I pay in Massachusetts at most places. Seems high for Ohio and Nebraska...

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  29. Their menu says 16".

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  30. Mama was a bit hard to take. Domineering....controlling. Sonny boys are clearly under her thumb. Time they be allowed to grow up. Not so sure if the mean spirited one ever will.

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  31. I'm no psychologist, but it seemed like the jerk brother's response to literally owing his life to his sister-in-law was to resent that fact, and to express his resentment by "teasing" that was actually bullying and belittling her. His "teasing" was directed at her intelligence and her weight, both of which probably played on her own insecurities, and his brother's immediate remembrance of how they hadn't been close "since high school" made me think that Jerk Bro probably has a history of making fun of his insecure brother, as well.

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  32. I agree. But I didn't like the direction she went in. The pixel shaped wall mounts looked like huge honeycombs when done in the natural wood tones. The red/white/blue/black letters that spelled BENE didn't fit in with the green and brown & white of the rest of the space.

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  33. I live in Massachusetts too, and $21 for a large is steep in my neck of the woods.

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  34. That chandelier was the worst thing I've ever seen Tanya make, and she's whipped up some trash

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  35. (con't)


    Totally seems like she is trolling us all with her insane design decisions now. I mean, it's like she staples junk on walls for fun routinely, but that was just a FU to us all.

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  36. Yeah, this one was not really very 're-design friendly' - at least within the parameters of the RI 'hit and run' format. Even after the redesign, the space still felt like a warehouse.

    And I'm not sure if anything much can be done to change that feeling unless you were to go in and start doing some major infrastructure things like adding some floor-to-ceiling walls, lowering the ceiling by a couple of feet, etc.

    This seems like a situation wherein 'too much space' is a bad thing.

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  37. While personally I'd say her work was 'successful,' at a basic level, this one wasn't an A+. It was definitely a little hodgepodge-y. You could tell that she was struggling for ideas to break-up that ginormous expanse of a dining area.



    But, the place was so blank and bare to begin with that Taniya's desgin choices actually made a big difference visually. At least it looked like SOMETHING after she was done with it.

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  38. Yeah, those guys are in their 30s-40s and they still expect mom to handle everything for them.

    In some ways that's good. That's a close family. But when you bring a FAMILY dynamic like that into a BUSINESS setting, it can get really counterproductive really fast.

    In this restaurant, the brothers - each of whom claimed that they wanted to be 'in charge' of certain aspects of the business - knew darn well that mom was going to handle everything herself, rightly or wrongly. So, they let her. Then, they could sit back and whine about the fact that they don't get to do much with the business and that mom's decisions aren't always the best decisions.

    If that kinda stuff is going on within a family - fine. Whatever. You deal with it. It's family. Either work it out or don't.

    But when you allow that kinda stuff to happen at your business, there's often times a hefty price to pay.

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  39. What schlock was it made of? Her dreck designs don't seem that they would withstand even one good cleaning.

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  40. Mama Bear, quit treating the "boys" like they are still 5 years old. They aren't going to grow up as long as you treat them like juveniles.

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  41. Her summary of the concept was retro modern ristorante. She sounds like an idiot with those names for her concept. The chandeliers made out of albums made no sense at all.

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  42. When I watch on DVR, I fast forward through all the team-building exercises and group therapy sessions. They take up a good 3/4 of the show. And they suck. The only parts I watch are the food and the decor remodel.

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  43. If I were putting so much into restaurants that immediately sell or fold, or if I were designing for spoiled brats, I doubt my heart would be in it either. But her reputation is on national television.

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  44. I should start doing that.

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  45. I have lived in Omaha my whole life and have never heard of this place. I can't belive they have been open for 15+ years.

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  46. Yeah I thought this was a repeat at first when they were still bringing that up.

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  47. Spot on. When people are more conscious about saving money, they're going to be more picky when they do eat out, and bad business are going to lose out.

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  48. Sometimes the therapy sessions are necessary because he needs to sort out problems and get the management structure in place. Like the family meeting in the beginning of the episode where they needed to sort out peoples job functions.


    But I agree with you about the team building exercises, it's a waste of time. I fast forwarded through the one in this episode that involved strings or whatever. Spend more time on the food or the finances, I want to see stuff that will actually help them turn around the business. Also, the prank on the one guy, while it was a little gratifying, was still a waste of time.

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  49. That guy just seems like such a dick. Even after they talked everything out, when Robert was in the kitchen showing them how to prepare food, he made a comment like "yeah the previous incarnation tasted like cardboard". Seemed like a passive aggressive dig at his brother since he's the one in charge of the kitchen and the food. Meanwhile that guy bottles everything up and one day is probably just gonna explode and walk in with an AK and blow that place to smithereens.

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  50. Crouton: Are you the owner of this blog?

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  51. Well, tried to post something and either it ate itself or whatever.....my point was that FN is going down the tubes. Game/reality shows are boring...never have watched a complete CT Kitchen, never will. The network appears quite happy with their demise.

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  52. Dorothy KilgallenJune 11, 2015 at 2:10 PM

    dump the entire so-called celebrity 'chefs', and food networks idiotic programming. and i mean idiotic. just start from scratch. pardon the pun. the first douchebag on the chopping block should be guy fierri (actually 'ferry'). i can't stand anything about this hammy necked asshole. ferry is the epitome of douchdom. the douches emeritus, so to speak. his ridiculous douche-doo, his putrid doucheattire, the way he wears his douche sunglasses on his fat-assed neck. gaak. and then there's the insipid ferry-speak; flavatown, winner winner chicken dinner, da' bomb, it's money, on point. i could go on forever. then there's that unbelievable tuft of dyed, kinky-looking vag hair on his fat chin. get a brasilian for God's sake. please. the real clincher? i think this idiot thinks he's cool. ferry is just a fat, homophobic, little pig prick. period. the next on the list should be bobbie flay. i'd love to punch this smug-assed little punk in the face. i hate him. then systematically go down the remainder of these chefs happily sailing on their race to the bottom. ad nauseam. food network. sucks. now. hear that alton? you're on the hit list, as well. on to the next one...

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  53. Cecille Guanzon JabierJuly 2, 2015 at 2:28 PM

    While I was sad and even angry at FN's decision to cancel Paula Deen I am even more dissatisfied with their programming lately. I like the educational shows like Food Factory shows occasionally but it seems like they're on ALL THE TIME now! I wish they would bring back the REAL cooking shows that I can actually LEARN from with chefs like Michael Smith (who's currently on at the ungodly hour of 7am!), Anna Olson, Chuck Hughes, Rachel Ray, Tyler Florence among others AND Paula Deen. This is specific to Food Network Canada that I'm referring to. I had a 10-yr old nephew I converted to watching the Food Network instead of the cartoon channels but who now says to me "but there's no cooking to watch anymore!"

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