In Restaurant Stakeout’s season three premiere, Willie deals with a tough crowd. “Barbecue With Attitude” explores the declining Hot Rods Real Pit BBQ in Wharton, New Jersey. The married owners, Anthony and Toby turn to Willie for advice on how to improve their business. They have been running the place for 10 years and cannot pin point the reasons for the sudden abundance of bad reviews. The business is taking a toll on their family life and their work life.
Willie works his magic over the course of three business days. First, he just observes the employees with Anthony and Toby, and he gets familiar with the problematic employees. First, he sees Chris. Chris started as a customer of Hot Rods. Now he is their best waiter and in-house beer guru. Kelly, the bartender and server, is very personable and she sometimes talks too much. Steve is the chef and Anthony calls him his right hand man. Tiffany is their newest server and is still learning the ropes. Mike B is like a manager and has been faithfully working for Anthony and Toby for 10 years. He makes the customers laugh and works hard to keep their customers coming back. Finally, there is Jessica the bartender.
On Willie’s second day of observation, he watches Mike B during the lunch hour. Two men come in and order the pulled pork sandwiches and a rack of ribs. They ask if the pulled pork can be served without the sauce. Unfortunately, it cannot because the meat is pre-soaked in the sauce. He also asks that the food can all come at the same time. There are only a few customers to handle, but with Mike being the only one working the floor, things get out of hand. He is spread very thin and keeps disappearing on customers. The pulled pork and the ribs are very cold by the time they come out. Mike also makes a bad judgment call when he brings out the dessert platter with plastic wrap on it. No one is going to eat food that is smashed by plastic. Toby is very embarrassed by this.
Now that Willie has seen all the people to work with and the possible issues, he can move onto phase two and send in the spies. These spies will test the blind abilities of the staff.
Test number one. Willie sends a woman in and she is supposed to be the pickiest customer ever. This is a test of Kelly’s skills as a waitress. She makes a special request for individually cut and sauced ribs. Kelly actually has to pause and think about this. Clearly, Kelly does not feel like having to deal with special orders. She also wants to know if the sauce can be made any sweeter. Kelly tells this woman, “Well you can add sugar packets”, and walks away as she is saying it. Kelly goes into the kitchen and complains loudly to Steve the chef as she curses this customer out. Steve refuses to slice the ribs individually.
Upon further observation of Kelly in action, she takes a phone order and the customer asks for things to be separately packaged because they are driving a long distance. Kelly goes to the chef to give in the order and she starts on a rant about the annoyance of this customer. The woman calls back and asks for labels so they know whats what when her friend picks it up. The chef says that she is annoying and he wants to punch the customer in the throat. What is wrong with these two? They are like the dramatic downer patrol and only offer negativity to this business. The woman’s friend, Carol, comes in and double checks that everything is separated and the chef is like creeping. He looks like a bouncer. Kelly is mad he did not punch the woman and the other customers are listening. Kelly is complaining to these customers about this woman. Kelly is extremely rude and almost inconvenienced by these requests.
Give the customers what they want! Willie says, “If you are going to do something, you gotta do it right”.
The final test is for Tiffany, the newest server. This is a test of how well she has been trained by the other employees. A man is sent as the second spy and he has a lot of questions about the pork. He wants to know whats in the sauce and what lightly crusted means…she does not know. The pork comes out and the meat is really pink inside, but really it is just because it is smoked meats. Tiffany does not know this and causes customers to become fearful of the food they are served. This is a second failed test. Tiffany obviously has not been properly trained on the basics of the preparation and serving the food.
Anthony and Toby are extremely embarrassed by their employees’ behavior. Willie steps in and calls an emergency meeting. He is ready to make some major adjustments to this business. From what he has seen, it is clear that Hot Rods Real Pit BBQ has no protocols and systems in place, most employees need a serious attitude adjustment, and they have an extremely flawed training system for employees. It also seems that customers are looking for a healthier food option not previously offered. This just might help to bring in some new clients. None of Willie’s comments seem to hit home with any workers. They are all extremely defensive and angered; especially Steve and Kelly. Willie proposes that Kelly does not belong here unless she changes her attitude. He tells Kelly that she needs to look at every guest as a building block and be happy, more upbeat, patient and respectful at work.
Mike B and Chris should be made managers because of their knowledge and passion. He recommends Mike as head of catering needs and Chris as a manager. Willie and the team go to work on the skinny piggy, a healthy food option for customers. It has no barbecue sauce, is served on multi grain bread and has some seasonal veggies and smoked almonds on the side.
Willie comes back for a progress report and everything seems to be so much better than when he saw Hot Rods last. Kelly is still there and much more positive and friendly and eager. Everyone loves the skinny piggy. Tiffany is more educated and hot rods menu expert. Sales are up and their sign is fixed.
Anthony and Toby can enjoy more family time with daughter Ava.