“Restaurant: Impossible AMBUSH,” a Food Network show that flips struggling restaurants from failing to flourishing, set its sights on Holly Springs this week.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the popular reality show starring Chef Robert Irvine took over SiP Bistro, a wine bar, coffeehouse and eatery off Bass Lake Road.
Crews had two days and $10,000 to revamp the restaurant’s decor, menu and more.
Secrecy surrounded the production from the time producers asked for local volunteers to help with the transformation to the hours before the owners saw the completed restaurant. The restaurant chosen for the episode wasn’t revealed publicly, though Irvine and others let the word out through social media.
Tents and trucks were lined up outside the European-style restaurant, windows were blacked out, and volunteers worked tirelessly to meet the deadline.
Irvine and Marc Summers, the show’s executive producer, surprised SiP Bistro owners Justin and Sarah Hummell Tuesday morning.
The show has been on the air for 12 seasons so far. In recent seasons, producers switched to an “ambush” format, where the owners don’t know in advance that they’ll get an extreme makeover.
Employees or family members tip off producers to a restaurant that may need help, and staff is sent to try food and get a feel for the restaurant, Summers said.
“I thought that Sarah’s heart was going to come out of her chest, and Justin started to tear up, which was fascinating,” Summers said, describing Tuesday morning’s ambush in Holly Springs. “People think this stuff isn’t real. It’s absolutely 100 percent real.”
Unlike many restaurants featured on the show, SiP Bistro’s owners already had plenty of restaurant experience under their belts, Summers said. The Hummells previously operated a coffeehouse in Winston-Salem called Cafe Roche Espresso Bar. SiP Bistro, before the takeover, carried specialty sandwiches and unique breakfast items and hosted wine tastings.
“The big problem with this restaurant that we found out is there is an identity problem,” he said. “What is it? Is it a coffee bar? Is it a wine bar? Does it serve food? What kind of food? We try and give these things an identity.”
Summers said the restaurant sometimes struggled with customer service, where it might take 45 minutes for a sandwich to be made.
“We’re going to teach them how to utilize the kitchen better,” he said.
The episode is scheduled to air in April.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608, @KTrogdon