A shared pastime of my fiancée and me is to watch an episode of the Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible and then, once it’s over, to Yelp the featured restaurant to see if they were able to turn things around once the camera crew packed up and left. It’s not that we don’t trust Sir Robert Irvine, the ex-military Brit with a heart of gold shrouded in an exterior of tough love and culinary expertise. It’s that we don’t always trust the restaurateurs to stick to the blueprint Irvine has laid out for them.
Inevitably, we’ll find reviews like this one, which reference the restaurant’s appearance on the show, often telling other would-be diners that it’s still the same old dump. In some cases, we find out the restaurant closed shortly after Irvine’s intervention. And while it’s sad to see, there are thousands of other restaurants that don’t have the benefit of a deus ex machina like Irvine. Instead, if they want to survive in the business they have to, you know, run their restaurant correctly.
Still, we love the show and so we were quite pleased to stumble upon the series premiere of Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible last night. Hotel Impossible is centered around an expert in the hospitality field and hotel “fixer,” Anthony Melchiorri, with a brash style similar to Irvine’s. In Hotel Impossible’s first episode, Melchiorri goes out to Montauk, Long Island, to rescue Gurney’s Inn, a family-run hotel that has seen a steady decline since the family patriarch and general manager passed away two years ago.
Melchiorri immediately diagnoses Gurney’s biggest issues: crappy service, outdated decor, and the general ineptitude of the management, who are all members of the family. In one scene, he asks the current GM to round up the staff for a 10 am meeting on the beach, and by 10:30 no one’s there. When Melchiorri confronts the GM, his excuse is that everyone’s “on Montauk time.” About fifteen minutes in, we already hate the GM if not the entire family. The head chef, one of the few relatives who actually seems competent, admits on camera that some of the other family members would not have a job at Gurney’s if they weren’t flesh and blood. It’s as if their father left them a coveted masterpiece, and they can’t be bothered to dust the frame from time to time.
OK, we get it: it’s a TV show; there’s got to be some conflict. If they only tackled projects where ownership was totally willing to adopt every change Melchiorri suggested, it wouldn’t seem quite so “impossible.” (Or, for that matter they wouldn’t be in so much trouble in the first place.) But throughout the episode, Melchiorri makes references to the other newer, hungrier hotels in Montauk who can’t wait to “eat their lunch” if Gurney’s keeps going the way it is, and that the only thing saving them is the gorgeous view of the ocean from their property, which this generation can hardly take credit for.
Wouldn’t it make for a decent, and similarly impossible show, if Melchiorri, or Irvine for that matter, helped out one of those competing hotels or restaurants to put a bigger one out of business? While the Impossible shows are entertaining, I can’t help but think that if these were baseball teams instead of service businesses, they’d be swooping in to help the New York Yankees spend their $200 million payroll more efficiently, while the financially challenged Oakland A’s looked around and said, “What about us?”
All that said, there are probably hundreds of newer, hungrier hotels, restaurants, pet shops, bakeries, food trucks, writers, and yes, even baseball teams, who are slowly making headway in their respective industries, chipping away at the market share–all without the help of a TV show. But for their sake, let’s hope that Melchiorri or Irvine don’t show up one day to help their competitors across the street.