Restaurant Takeover

Toronto restaurants hope Takeover beats Makeover

Restaurant Makeover is no more but in its place is the familiar sounding Restaurant Takeover, a new show on the Food Network that promises a thrilling season of GTA restaurant overhauls. As avid followers of the show will know, Restaurant Makeover seemed to have carried a bit of a curse over its five seasons, with one made-over establishment after another eventually shutting its doors after the grand reveal. La Cabana, Six Steps, and Cluck, Grunt, & Low were just a few of the restaurant casualties.

Now, it's difficult to ascribe fatal responsibility to the show in and of itself. After all, certain restaurants probably reached out to the show in an effort to salvage their businesses, only to find a little paint and a new dish or two couldn't offer a viable resuscitation. (See Chef David Adjey's take on the show here). But what's clear is that Restaurant Takeover producers have adopted a new approach, being more careful in their restaurant selections and implementing new makeover methods to try to ensure long-term success.

Curious whether this year's crop of restaurants felt good about their, um, takeovers, I reached out to a few of them to see whether they thought the Takeover makeovers made for good business, or just good television.

"I was thrilled," says Curry & Roti owner Rozanne Persad, whose makeover aired this week on Food Network Canada. Curry & Roti is hardly a fleeting business, having been in operation since 1973. But as Rozanne tells me, the restaurant was looking for a new look — a younger look, and a way to appeal to the next generation.

"My daughter is 23," she says. "And we've noticed with that age group, they tend to eat out on a daily basis. But they want to go somewhere that is updated; more contemporary. And "contemporary" is just what Restaurant Takeover delivered. "It's exactly what I wanted done, but just didn't know how to do it." Rozanne says she's noticed a spike in business simply as a result of a few promos being aired.

Mark Yacoub, one of the owners at Brownstone Bistro, says he too experienced a spike after his Restaurant Takeover makeover back in February, adding that the buzz does eventually die down.

"Initially, you get a huge boost — everyone sees the sign, and they want to come back to see the difference. But after that, you have to be careful once the fad disappears. It's a matter of having good customer service, and still keeping the same, relaxed environment."

Brownstone Bistro has 13 years under its belt on Yonge, with the idea to approach the show spawning, essentially, from a disagreement. "We'd been looking to do renovations," Mark says, "but myself and the other owner couldn't fully agree what we wanted done. So we kind of just said, 'Let's leave it in the hands of someone else.'" As for the end result, Mark says the show did a "phenomenal job."

Jorge from El Fogon says he was equally pleased with his Takeover experience. He says he wanted a renovation to keep up with the changing face of St. Clair West, adding he's noticed increased popularity with younger crowds since his restaurant makeover four months ago. And as for the Restaurant Makeover "kiss of death," Jorge says he was never worried. "Those other places, I think they were already in bad shape," he says. "For us, it has gone very well."

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