Rocco DiSpirito Discusses His Show, Restaurant Divided

Rocco DiSpirito Discusses His Show, Restaurant Divided
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Rocco DiSpirito Discusses His Show, Restaurant Divided

We sat down with Rocco DiSpirito to hear more about what he has learned from Restaurant Divided.

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What has been the biggest challenge working on the show?

Rocco explains, “The stakes are very high. These families all have touching, heart-warming and often heart-breaking stories. They’ve invested every penny they have into their restaurant and dedicated their lives [to] their business, so the pressure is really on to help them succeed. When you’re working with families, tensions, conflict and emotions are naturally going to run high. I had to find a balance between mentoring and coaching both sides, while keeping an even playing field.”

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What has been the most gratifying aspect of the show?

“The most rewarding part of the show is helping the families come together and watching their businesses flourish. When I enter the picture, the families are always divided, bickering, and disjointed. They can’t agree on what concept will save their restaurants and they are in danger of having their doors close forever. Fortunately, they’re determined to do whatever it takes to keep their business afloat. By testing out the two concepts and helping them create a game plan, you get to see these families start to come together again with renewed hope.”

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How hard is it to own a restaurant?

“It’s much more challenging than you may expect. Running a restaurant is not just about serving great food. You also have to understand the business side of things: how to make your restaurant profitable and all the costs involved. You could serve the most delicious food in the world but if you don’t manage your business strategically, your doors could very easily close.”

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What did you learn from the families?

“As much as the families had differing ideas on what concept was going to save their restaurant, at the end of the day, they were all truly in it together.”

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Where did the concept for this show come from and what caught your interest in it?

“It was an original idea from Leopard Films USA. I was drawn to the concept because it is exceptionally compelling to watch families operate a struggling business, overcome the odds and find success.”

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What has been your favorite moment on the show?

"In a recent episode, Against Da Grill, you meet two buddies, Vinny and Kurron, who have had pretty tough lives and overcome a lot of personal challenges. The friendship between them is unshakable, even as they compete over a BBQ vs. a diner concept."

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What is your criteria for deciding which vision wins?

“We open the restaurant up for one night only and invite real customers and critics to join us for a meal. I incorporate their feedback and reviews into my final assessment while also looking at the financial viability of the restaurant. Will their new direction and menu selection contribute to keeping costs down or keep them in the red? Are they overspending where they shouldn’t?”

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Have you been able to follow the success of the restaurants you helped on the show after filming? What did you find?

"Definitely! It’s really a thrill to see the restaurants doing so well now. I went to Mia Familgia for the season premiere and watched the first episode with everyone at the restaurant. I’m in constant communication with the couple from the season finale. It’s very rewarding to see these hard working families enjoy so much success after the show."

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What is the biggest mistake restaurant owners make?

“Same as it has always been. They usually open the doors underfunded and think they will be profitable right away.”

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Has the show at all changed the way you think about running a restaurant?

“Every experience changes the way you think about everything. Life, work and play are dynamic, not static. Hosting this show has confirmed that most people still get into the restaurant business for the wrong reasons, but in spite of that, every once in a while there is a star born.”

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Why do you think so many families struggle to make these big decisions?

“Business decisions can't be emotionally based, they have to divorce themselves from what they feel and use real data to resolve challenges and I don’t know of any family who can do that.”

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Were you ever surprised by which side was more successful? Why do you think the one side succeeded and the other failed?

“Yes, in the first episode, I was surprised the steak house was more profitable that Laura's Mac house.”

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Rocco DiSpirito is the author of New York Times best-selling book Now Eat This! And Now Eat This! Diet.

But while he's not writing best-selling books Rocco is on a mission to help restaurants as the chef and star of the Food Network's Restaurant Divided. The show aims to help struggling restaurants find success, but more importantly Rocco tries to help families decide the best way to run their business.

By splitting the restaurant in half for one evening, the families can see first hand which strategy is more successful, so that they can unite under one vision.

Check out the slideshow above to learn more about Rocco's experience hosting Restaurant Divided.

Catch Restaurant Divided Thursdays at 10pm/9c on Food Network.

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