Kitchen Nightmares Episode Recaps

Classic American

Classic American

Aired: 1/28/11

Best friends Colleen and Naomi started out as waitresses at Classic American, a small restaurant in West Babylon, New York. In 2000, the two jumped at the opportunity to buy the business from their boss; they knew the restaurant and customers well and were sure that the endeavor would lead to great things. Colleen soon made her son, Kevin, the head chef, and her boyfriend, Dominick, the unofficial manager. Classic American initially did well under the new ownership, but lately, business has dried up, and the women are wondering what they've done wrong.

One problem: The restaurant runs out of menu items all the time, in part because Dominick isn't ordering enough food from suppliers. Dominick says that the problem with Classic American is that there are no leaders and Colleen and Naomi are too easy-going. Colleen is in such financial trouble that she's moved back in with her parents, while Naomi cries on her way to and from work, upset about what the restaurant has become.

Chef Ramsay arrives and is surprised at what a small - and empty - dining room he sees. Dominick greets him and answers a few of his questions, admitting that he actually worked as a brick layer prior to working at the restaurant. After meeting Colleen and Naomi, Chef Ramsay is hit with some more surprising information when he learns that the ladies paid a whopping $240,000 for the business and $440,000 for the property. Colleen is a bit nervous around Chef Ramsay and can't seem to answer his question about what she thinks is wrong with the restaurant.

After he sits down, ready to eat, he chats with waitress Ashleigh and takes her recommendation on the fried calamari Caesar salad. He also orders up the "bomb" burger, and some mac & cheese. When the microwaved mac & cheese comes out, Chef Ramsay finds it gross and discovers that it's not actually made in-house. He's also disappointed in the soft and chewy calamari, which turns out to be frozen. He finally tries the house specialty: the bomb burger, but the meat isn't seasoned, and it's chewy. Chef Kevin tastes it and agrees. Chef Ramsay heads into the kitchen and asks Kevin to rate the Classic American's food. He gives it between a six and a seven.

It's time for Chef Ramsay to tell it like it is. (Doesn't he always?) The menu is hideous, the dining room's miserable, the food's depressing, and they have the audacity to call it "Classic American." Kevin says that most nights they're proud of their food, and Chef Ramsay says that Kevin has a problem if he rates it a seven out of ten. Colleen breaks down in tears and explains that she and Naomi haven't paid themselves in over a year. Chef Ramsay admits that that the situation is worse than he thought and goes for a walk to think things over.

That night, while observing a dinner service, he asks Naomi what her strengths are. Turns out she thinks she's good at dealing with customers, even though she's focused on the back of the house. The kitchen already has one strike against it: Waitresses handwrite their orders since the restaurant's computer broke six months ago, and the owners can't afford to fix it. Though food goes out fast, many of the customers are unhappy with their meals. Naomi admits that food gets sent back so often, she's immune to it now.

Midway through the dinner service, the kitchen runs out of burgers, meatloaf, and clean cups. All the stress prompts Colleen to break down and walk out of the kitchen. She explains to Chef Ramsay that she feels like she's fighting a losing battle. Chef Ramsay says that the restaurant's standards have been set too low and friendship has complicated things, but she shouldn't give up.

At a staff meeting the next morning, Chef Ramsay has each person anonymously write down a question or issue they have. Someone asks why Colleen gets so frustrated with the waitresses. She says it's because the waitresses are often texting and don't pay enough attention to customers. Naomi is called out for being such a pushover, and Dominick is asked why he always runs out of product.

He claims it's because he doesn't close the restaurant every night and isn't always clear on what's needed. Then he flies off the handle with a swear-laced rant before walking out. Chef Ramsay gives Colleen and Naomi a pep talk about leadership, explaining that if they can't lead, they shouldn't have bought the place.

That night, Chef Ramsay asks Colleen to expedite and sends Naomi to the front of the house. He also adds sliders as a menu special. The dining room is packed, thanks to word of Chef Ramsay's visit. But the night hits a roadblock right away when some tables have to wait just to get menus. Chef Ramsay is horrified to find out that Classic America has 50 seats but only 13 menus. Finally, orders start rolling in and the sliders are a hit, but Colleen and Kevin are having a hard time keeping up, and the customers are unimpressed with many of the other menu items. Chef Ramsay uses a plate of pathetic-looking broccoli to prove a point, saying, "If we're going to continue serving that, close your [bleeping] business." Indeed, they close the restaurant for the night, and Chef Ramsay tells everyone to get ready for big changes tomorrow.

Overnight, the Classic American gets a dramatic makeover with a cool, modern look, a new computer system, and a brightened exterior. Chef Ramsay has also streamlined the menu (and printed enough menus for every diner!). He's added a wedge salad, a turkey and Swiss club, and a true, classic American burger, among other items. The owners and staff are thrilled. Colleen tells everyone that though the restaurant had lost its way before, she and Naomi will now be showing the leadership their employees need to do their jobs.

That night, for the grand reopening, Colleen leads the staff in the dining room, while Naomi heads up the kitchen. But problems start the moment the doors open, as the first customers are left with no one to greet them while the waitresses are out back smoking. After they rush to redeem themselves, the servers have their hands full as the dining room gets slammed. Naomi does a great job on the line, and the kitchen soon sends out the first round of orders.

Midway through service, Chef Ramsay says that they're off to a good start, but he's not holding his breath, given the kitchen's history. Sure enough, some of the dishes don't pass his quality control test, thanks to dried food stuck to the bottom of plates. But that little hiccup doesn't put much of a damper on the kitchen's groove, and diners are thrilled with the food.

Dinner winds down, and Chef Ramsay lets the Classic American gang know that he's impressed. It's been a fantastic service, and the restaurant has the potential to become a huge success. They just can't drop their standards. Chef Ramsay describes what happened here tonight as "a miracle."

When "Kitchen Nightmares" checked backed in, it found Naomi and Colleen continuing to operate the restaurant like a well-oiled machine. They also implemented a loyalty system to reward regular customers. The staff is still happy with the new computer system, and business is booming. It's been the biggest comeback in "Kitchen Nightmares" history.

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