‘Restaurant: Impossible’ gets a makeover to help businesses adapt to the pandemic

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Aside from his Cincinnati-style spaghetti smothered in chili, Robert Irvine is best known for fixing restaurants’ worst mistakes as the host of Food Network’s long-running show “Restaurant: Impossible.”

However, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to cripple the culinary industry, Irvine is now starring in spinoff series where he helps small food businesses affected by COVID-19.

“Restaurant Impossible: Back in Business” premiered on Thursday and is temporarily replacing the original show, which was in its 17th season, but had to stop filming this spring due to the pandemic. According to a network spokesperson, the regular production team was unable to shoot new episodes during coronavirus shutdowns due to the people needed onsite. Instead, they created a spinoff where Irvine could head back to restaurants specifically impacted by the pandemic to help them succeed and still stay safe.

Robert talking to Keith O’Connor and Taniya Nayak, as seen on Season 16 of “Restaurant Impossible.”COYNE / Food Network

In the spinoff, the chef — along with a small team of people traveling by bus — road trips through Florida, Missouri and Ohio, returning to restaurants previously featured in the show’s 15th and 16th seasons. In each episode, he helps the owners rebuild and restructure their eateries according to new pandemic protocols.

Updates include revamping menus with a focus on takeout, designing outdoor spaces to better accommodate diners in a socially distanced atmosphere and implementing promotions to attract customers.

In the upcoming episode airing Thursday, Irvine helps the chef-owner of Loyd Have Mercy in Titusville, Florida, who was forced to fire his own family members during the pandemic. A network spokesperson told TODAY that six episodes of the revised series have been filmed and are set to air through the end of August.

Aside from the new plot line, “Restaurant Impossible: Back in Business” will also debut the series’ first after show, in which Irvine and the team will answer fans’ questions about episodes and share behind-the-scenes footage.

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Last month, Irvine renewed his two-year contract with Food Network, so he’ll continue to appear in iterations of “Restaurant: Impossible,” other network shows and additional content across other platforms, like the Food Network Kitchen app. The network spokesperson was unable to provide a firm timeline for when the production team behind the classic version of “Restaurant Impossible” will resume filming new episodes.

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