As I normally do with Restaurant: Impossible episodes, I searched around the Internet to read stories, comments and reviews about Zest Bistro and Lemon Tree Grocer to get an idea of how the restaurant/grocery store is doing since Robert Irvine visited, and here is what I found (note - all reviews are post Restaurant: Impossible):
- "This place is a perfect for breakfast and lunch. Everything I have had here is excellent. The ingredients are fresh and the menu has typical dishes that have a nice twist to them. Service is low key but good! Everyone's very friendly"
- "This place does not get enough credit....There are such amazing people that work there....I've honestly never had a bad meal here....This place has become the new hangout for brunch on Sunday's with my girlfriends and family. If you haven't been there please check it out. You will not be disappointed."
- "We were already frequent Zest visitors and weren't sure how they could improve the already stellar menu. Well they did a great job! We shared the short rib nachos and they were so fresh with jalapenos, meat, light on cheese and avocado. Everyone loved it and no one was overly full for the next course...My main reason for giving 4 stars is that the level of service is exactly where it used to be. The servers are very nice, but they take awhile to get to the table to take your order, and then take awhile to get drinks & food to you. Nothing overly horrible, just not as good as it could be."
- "Monday night burgers in Zest are the best bargain around. The menu is extensive and delicious any night of the week. LT grocer has fresh produce (many organic options), fresh meat and fish and many meals ready to eat if you're in a hurry."
- "This is a great place to get a healthy dinner that actually tastes good and you don't leave hungry! Taco Tuesday is my favorite the tacos are amazing!!! Three tacos for $10 you can't beat it. They also have a full bar."
- "One of the challenges we have experienced first hand is parking. That is to be expected in this location where parking is at such a premium as it is here...However, to our disappointment, we have noticed on several occasions when attempting to run in and grab an item that no spots are available and the owner's car is regularly parked in one of the few spots out front, often well in excess of the posted time limit...Our customer experience has been hampered (and consequently, business lost) by not being able to get a parking space."
- "So, the restaurant takeover hasn't fixed the fundamental problem with lemon tree. The service is still bad. New lighting, some new walls, same menu, same good food, same terrible service...They get three stars for the food and the beer/wine offerings only. Unfortunately, the service is bad and ownership needs to address it. The frustration isn't worth the food."
- "Every time I have been here I have had to wait an unusually long time to be served at the bar (25 minutes for a cheese and cold cut tray; 5 minutes for a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning - both times when there were no other patrons in the restaurant....So whatever Restaurant Takeover did, they did not do anything to improve the service which is pretty bad. I hope it improves, but I am not confident that will happen."
Other News and Links:
- The Restaurant Impossible makeover happened in February of 2015.
- The show descriptions are usually a few sentences, but this episode had a giant paragraph describing the episode.
- Here is the Lemon Tree Grocer website, and the Zest Bistro portion of the website. Also, here is the menu which features a Robert Irvine Pot Roast.
- Here is the Lemon Tree Grocer Facebook Page, which is kept up-to-date. They are having a viewing party tonight with free snacks and a Q and A with the staff.
- Here are some pictures (mostly food/produce) of the makeover from their Facebook page.
- Lemon Tree Grocer is offering Groupon deals for produce boxes. (Link)
- In February of 2011, Lemon Tree Grocer submitted a proposal to village council to increase their bistro space with liquor sales from 550 square feet to 750 square feet due to better than expected cafe sales. (Link)
- Lemon Tree Grocer has a deal with village council where they receive 100% of their sales tax on groceries and packaged liquor in the form of a rebate for eight years. In 2012, this amounted to about $14,000 due to estimated sales of $1.4 million. (Link)
- Here is a document from the Village of Downers Grove that details the agreement and it appears they have to be in business for 13 years to receive all of the benefits. The key terms include:
- For a period of eight years, the Village shall rebate 100% of the sales tax for only the sale of groceries, including package liquor.
- The Village shall withhold the initial quarterly payment.
- No payments shall be made unless Lemon Tree is in compliance with all Village ordinances and the terms of the agreement. If any violation exists for 90 days or more, the Village may permanently withhold one quarterly payment for each period of 90 days of the violation.
- Lemon Tree Grocer shall agree to operate the grocery store for not less than 13 years from the date of the agreement and 51% of the sales in each quarter shall be from the sale of groceries.
- If Lemon Tree fails to continue to operate, it shall forfeit the withheld quarterly payment and shall pay back the tax rebate on the following schedule:
- If Lemon Tree or an approved successor fails to continue to operate during:
- Year 1 through 3: 100% of the Incentive Payment
- Year 4 through 6: 75% of the Incentive Payment
- Year 7 through 10: 50% of the Incentive Payment
- Year 11 through 13: 25% of the Incentive Payment
- At the end of each quarter Lemon Tree Grocer shall submit true and accurate sales figures by category along with an affidavit. The Village has the right to audit sales figures provided by Lemon Tree
The reviews of Lemon Tree Grocer and Zest Bistro are mixed since the makeover with people liking the food but having issues with the service. Complaints before the makeover seemed to be high prices, service, and not being able to do all of your grocery shopping there, so we will see if Restaurant Impossible addresses these issues.
Lemon Tree Grocer has a pretty generous tax deal with the Village of Downers Grove and now they have the benefit of a Restaurant Impossible makeover. They need to stay in business for at least 13 years to be able to fully take advantage of the tax deal, so they will need to stay open for quite some time.
UPDATE - Lemon Tree Grocer closed in late 2015 to renovate with more space dedicated to the cafe/restaurant. There are some questions about whether they should receive all of their tax breaks still. (Link)
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