A Food Network hit TV show helped turn around one Elyria establishment.
Fans of Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible are familiar with Robert Irvine’s miracle restaurant transformations. The muscle-bound Brit selects restaurants that are on the brink of closing and, within 48 hours, takes the owners to task, provides chefs with caustic yet constructive criticism, revamps menus and pushes his interior designers to create near-impossible renovations on a mere $10,000 budget.
Sandy Laubenthal, owner of Moss’ of Downtown Elyria, knew of Irvine. She also knew she needed a miracle. Since Bob Moss opened the restaurant in 1958 it has been an institution recognized for its prime rib and pasta. When it closed in late December 2000, Elyria residents were dismayed.
Sandy and her son, Steve, stepped in to help in October 2001, reopening the restaurant in a location three blocks down from the original house. “People were thrilled,” Sandy says. The restaurant flourished — until it didn’t. “The economy had a terrible impact on us,” she acknowledges.
But the restaurant wasn’t all that was impacted by the economic downturn. “I was beat to a pulp at that point,” says Sandy. “My confidence and ambition were gone. I was struggling.”
Then her eldest son, Sam, decided he would complete the grueling, essay-style application for Restaurant Impossible.
“I told him this was never going to happen. Robert Irvine was not going to pick us,” Sandy says.
But Irvine did contact them and within 48 hours of his entering Moss’, both the restaurant and Sandy had a new outlook.
“He got my head on straight,” she says. “The amount of knowledge he imparted within two days was amazing. He was here to show us what we’d done wrong and how we could fix it.”
Though viewers are not privy to the behind-the-scenes impact of the show and its mission, they do know Irvine better educated Sandy about managing food costs, creating and evaluating a profit and loss statement, and keeping track of her restaurant’s finances.
The front-of-house overhaul was obvious. The menu was reduced from five pages to one, featuring its famous prime rib, steaks and spaghetti with made-from-scratch sauce. Salmon, tilapia and Lake Erie perch were included for fish lovers. Housemade soups, including Moss’ famous prime rib stew and French onion soup, became menu mainstays, as did an artisan salad with its own dressing. Desserts, purchased from outside sources, started being decorated internally.
But retaining a meat-focused menu wasn’t all that mattered to Moss’ regulars. They wanted their pea salad, an Elyria-favorite side order created by Bob Moss. Made from canned peas, 10 seasonings and mayonnaise, pea salad is included with every dinner and is a mainstay at every event catered by the restaurant. “The number of people who specifically request pea salad is amazing,” Sandy says.
The interior changed from old fashioned and traditional green to a contemporary blend of cream and gold with black trim. Cushioned chairs were added. A lounge area was created with black leather chairs and mini digital baby grand piano.
“We’re getting way more people,” Sandy says. “I am so impressed with him and what he’s done for our restaurant.”