Post Type:post Impossible Restaurant | Viamedia

One of my college roommates came from a family of restaurateurs.

That’s a rather fancy way of saying his Grandfather, Dad and Uncle ran a 125-seat family restaurant just north of Boston, or as my roommate would say, “Bahston.”

It wasn’t a chain; it was rather non-descript; the menu was nothing fancy; and it really wasn’t known for any particular dish that anyone ever raved about.

But I can say this… the place was always packed. Always! And while my roommate’s family faced several challenges over the years, they persevered and did very well for themselves.


There was really no magic to it.

The location was good… that’s for certain. The restaurant also reached a certain volume of business, so whatever discounts they received from distributors were passed along to their customers in what can only be described as “very fair” prices. And for the money, the portions were quite generous (and savory).

They also had a liquor license and a fairly attractive bar/waiting area where customers could (shall we say) grow a little “mellow” and “expansive” before their meals. (The margins on those drinks were handsome, indeed.)

There was also quite a variety to their menu, so no one would ever sit down and grouse about “nothing to eat”. There was always something for everyone

Two other factors kept the restaurant chugging along year after year.

The waiters and waitresses moved fast (but moved quietly) and more often than not they got the food out of the kitchen “hot”… or at least warm. And the place was spotless – not “spotlessly beautiful” – but clean enough to almost “eat off the floors”. And the tables were given extra attention.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that my roommate’s family restaurant would NEVER appear on Food Network’s, “Restaurant: Impossible” — one of several reality TV shows (such as “Restaurant Stakeout” and “Restaurant Makeover”) that takes a down-on-its-luck (failing) restaurant and tries to turn it around before it’s too late!

It isn’t easy… a lot can go wrong in the restaurant business, and quickly. Something like nine out of ten independent restaurants will go out of business within a year!

Enter Superstar Chef Robert Irvine and his creative restaurant crew, who have a couple of days (and $10,000) to get the owners back on the right track through the creative reconfiguring (and/or re-decoration) of the restaurant space, and the creation of a few go-to menu items that should appeal to the general public. There’s also the heart-to-heart talk with the restaurant owner (who may not always be the sharpest of pencils) about “minor” details such as the wait staff; keeping the place clean; pricing and marketing.

There is, of course, a bit of a “Reality TV” contrivance going on here. It’s almost as though Chef Irvine just merrily walks in the door and – voila – anything is possible. But maybe (just maybe) the Food Network crew actually scoped out the place ahead of time to see what they were actually getting themselves into.

But even though “Restaurant: Impossible” can feel a little contrived at times, that doesn’t seem to really matter — at least not to the viewing public that has supported this show with solid ratings right through its current 11th season:

Local Market Viewing

In terms of local market viewing preferences, we generated a Top 25 list of the highest rated DMAs for the January, 2015 episode “Revved Up”, which deals with a cast of characters who had the bright idea of opening a restaurant above their motorcycle repair shop! The restaurant is in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which may explain why that DMA made the list at #22. But I don’t think the southwest location had anything to do with the prevalence of DMAs from the Midwestern states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota – which comprise over one-half of the entire Top 25:

They say a “picture is worth a thousand words”, so we’ve included a heat map for the episode “Revved Up”. TV markets with above average viewing are rendered in warm colors (red/orange), while markets with below average viewing are in blue. As you can see, the northern Midwest is a hotbed for the show:

Local Cable Advertising Demand

Over the past two years (2013 & 2014), 180 clients across 38 Viamedia markets have invested in nearly 1,700 30-second spots. And, if we confine our analysis to only those markets that exhibited advertising on the show in both years, we find strong double-digit (+17%) growth in advertising driven primarily by an increase in unit pricing.

(Source: Viamedia internal analysis of B.I.G.SM    database (Sports & High Profile Tracker module). Copyright © 2015 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

But the 17% growth rate may understate the burgeoning interest in the show by Viamedis clients. In 2013, for example, 88% of “Restaurant: Impossible” episodes (29 out of 33) were purchased by our clients.  In 2014, that figure was 100% (40 out of 40).

In any event, the 17% growth rate reflects our adjustment of advertising dollars on a per episode basis. If we disregard the number of episodes, we find a significantly higher growth rate (+65%) driven by both an increase in 30-second units and unit pricing:

1)      26% rise in the number of 30-second units;

2)      31% rise in unit pricing;

3)        8% rise due to the multiplicative effect of units sold and pricing.

Source: Viamedia internal analysis of B.I.G.SM    database (Sports & High Profile Tracker module) across the 23 markets that exhibited local cable advertising on “Restaurant: Impossible” for the full years 2013 and 2014. Copyright © 2015 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Advertising Categories

Given the subject of this show — restaurants — it’s somewhat surprising to find that the restaurant category represents just 3% of total ad revenues — a figure that is more or less in line for this category company-wide (across all programming). But on second thought, “Restaurant: Impossible” is, indeed, about struggling restaurants, so that may be a subject matter that doesn’t appeal to every restaurant owner we call upon.

In any event, what is NOT surprising is the automotive category, which captures 45% of all investments in “Restaurant: Impossible”. Nor is the 11% tune-in figure given the high profile nature of this show which attracts the sort of audience that cable networks and broadcasters are interested in reaching:

“Dream Restaurants”

Currently in its 11th Season, “Restaurant: Impossible” has aired eight new episodes so far, and if this season is anything like recent ones, we can expect a handful more. But even if the season ended tomorrow, fans of the show wouldn’t have to wait very long for new episodes to appear since Food Network strings together “new” seasons within the same calendar year. And that’s because there are a lot of people out there who dream of owning their own restaurant, but wake up one day realizing they are on the very edge of survival.

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– Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Media Research, Viamedia