Campania is an Italian restaurant located in a Fairlawn, NJ strip mall. Owner Joe bought it eighteen months ago but it is now on the brink of closing. The wait staff and cooks have a fun time playing practical jokes and they are always goofing around. Yet the kitchen is in serious trouble. The locks on the refrigerator doors are broken and the oven is only used to store linens.
Gordon arrives, meets Joe, and hears the staff's antics from the kitchen. He's served a disappointing meal, and discusses it with Joe and the head chef, Gene. Joe is now convinced it was wrong of him to appear on the show.
Gordon checks the refrigerators and finds one of the first problems causing financial debt -- they are overstocked with food. With no customers to cook for, this is a waste of money. Gordon doubts Joe's restaurant management skills. He would like him to treat the restaurant like a serious business.
Gordon observes a dinner service and realizes the staff acts like a high school cooking class. He lets them know that the party's over. There are too many of them. Some of the staff is sent home. Gordon greets the guests while the cooks are overwhelmed. The waitresses are busy flirting and giggling in the kitchen as the customers wait for their food to arrive. With no service, a customer even goes so far as to order a pizza delivery to his table.
Examining the fish plates, Gordon refuses to serve them to diners. Most of the guests leave with leftover food since the portions served are so large. Gordon sits with Joe to review the night. The portion sizes are another waste of money. Joe is angry that Gordon mentions this in front of customers.
Gordon meets Joe's wife and sons. She confides to Gordon that if the restaurant folds, they will lose everything -- including their house. Gordon gives her his word that he will turn it around.
The cooks get a much-needed lesson in food presentation. Gordon presents a recipe for meatballs that will make them the restaurant's signature dish. The team holds a promotion for the restaurant at a market. They give out samples of "New Jersey's best meatballs" to a satisfied crowd.
Joe confides to Gordon that he has lost $120,000 in eighteen months and owes his purveyors another $80,000. "Don't take it personally. Just take it seriously," Gordon advises.
Gordon's design team overhauls the restaurant with a contemporary look, a new stove and smaller plates. Gordon introduces a streamlined menu to Joe and Gene that highlights the signature meatballs. To motivate the wait staff, he devises a game called "server bingo" in which the first person to sell every item on the menu wins a hundred dollars.
The customers that night respond well to the food. However, one older woman finds her steak too tough for her liking and complains. When Gordon sees that there is nothing wrong with the steak, he tells the woman to stop causing trouble and that she is "talking out of her rear."
Feeling the pressure in the kitchen, Joe goes out to the front of the house to greet the patrons. When Gene is left alone, he becomes overwhelmed, causing guests to wait up to two hours for dinner. One woman says her food tasted like jarred sauce, which upsets Joe's mother. Another customer leaving the restaurant starts a fight in the parking lot just as a police patrol drives by.
Gordon appeals to Joe to try and be strong without giving in to customer's complaints. Joe returns to the kitchen with a more serious attitude. He inspires the team to complete the dinner service.
After the successful night, Gordon gathers the team in the kitchen. Gene proved he that he could be a head chef. Before Gordon leaves, he has the staff break the old big plates on the kitchen floor as a sign of change.
In the weeks following Gordon's visit, Campania's customers are happy, profits are up and Joe has regained control of the front and of the kitchen.
Episodes appear online day after airdate. Learn more
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