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4 Small-Business Lessons Learned in Reality TV Limelight

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By Caroline McMillan

After an in-person interview, they were picked from the hundreds of applicants. Filming started in early December 2012, and their episode aired in March 2013.

Here’s how the show works: Celebrity chef Robert Irvine spends two weeks revamping a struggling restaurant by changing the menu, retraining the staff and using $10,000 to renovate the interior.

Sweet Tea’s, Irvine said, didn’t have a cohesive vision for the restaurant. The decor was more eclectic than cozy. And the self-proclaimed “Southern comfort food” spot had incongruent entrees such as chicken marsala and subs.

Irvine and his team retrained the staff and taught the chefs to cook everything with a Southern flair, adding menu items such as fried green tomatoes, black-eyed peas and hushpuppies.

As for the interior: “The way they redid the restaurant, it’s now warm, inviting, cabin-y,” said Cohen, who cried during the on-air reveal. “I feel like I’m in my living room. That’s great.”

Customers think so, too. Sales are up 300 percent, they regularly have a waiting list for tables, and they’re doing catering for Hollywood film crews in the area, Cohen said.

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