‘Restaurant Stakeout’: Is This Show Fake?

restaurant stakeout

"This is as real as fake TV gets, folks!"

The Ashley recently started watching the show Restaurant Stakeout on the Food Network. Apparently, the show’s on its second season, but The Ashley just discovered it! While it’s entertaining enough, The Ashley had to wonder how authentic the show really is, so she did some research/Internet creeping in hopes of finding some dirt.

The Story:

The show claims that restaurant owners that are desperate to tame their wild employees and save their restaurants contact Willie Degel, the owner of a very successful chain of steakhouses in New York, to set up hidden cameras and see what their employees do when they think no one’s watching. Hi-jinks ensue, of course: employees are caught doing everything from drinking on the job to break-dancing in the middle of the restaurant. (As you do.)

After Willie and the restaurant owner observe the employees’ misbehavior, they storm in to inform the employees of their hidden camera stakeout, and Willie helps the owner to make some big changes at the restaurant. When he comes back six weeks later, everything is, of course, running much more smoothly, everyone’s happy, and no one’s breakdancing.

How Real Is This Show?

Bad employees or good actors?

Let’s start with the things that are real: Willie Degel is the owner of a successful chain of steakhouses. He’s been the owner of Uncle Jack’s Steakhouses since 1996. However, the chain isn’t as large as the show alludes: in fact, the chain only has three New York-based locations. On its website, it says that it will be expanding into Las Vegas, Chicago and Miami “soon,” with over 60 locations listed as “future locations.” Hmmm…..

As far as the show’s claim that distressed restaurant owners come to them to save their restaurants? Um…not so much, according to Carmen Zambardino, manager of the Lexington Grille and Pub, a restaurant featured on the show’s first season. She told her local paper that the network actually came to them, not the other way around.

” [A] friend of mine knew one of the people from the production company and knew that they wanted to do [an episode of the show] with a place outside of Manhattan,” she said. “The three of us met [owner Mike Solicito, herself and her Food Network friend] and took pictures of the inside and I described my staff and their personalities.”

Not only did she describe the employees to the production staff, but they screen-tested them! (Um, like you would an actor?)

“They set up shop and recorded interviews (of) me and the staff,” said Solicito.

“They screen tested employees to see how each person would look on camera and their personalities,” said Zambardino. “A lot of our staff are very bubbly and happy people. The network loved us and we got top pick.”

After they were chosen, owner Mike Solicito said, “The next phase was to get people on board and to sign releases.”

Um...what planet did they find this alien-looking extra on?

Yes, the releases….this is something that first red-flagged the show as being completely bogus. As The Ashley is well aware, no television show can use your likeness on camera without written consent. Even to be in the audience of a television show taping, you must first sign a release to allow them to use your face/voice/likeness/anything they want on screen. All of the employees shown on ‘Restaurant Stakeout’ have their mugs prominently displayed.

Doesn’t it seem odd than in all of the episodes we’ve seen not one of the employees has had a blurred out face? (The blurred out face is basically the stamp of shame for a reality show; it means that the person did not give their consent to be filmed and therefore could not be shown.) That’s why on shows like Cheaters, the cheater’s face is sometimes blurred out; the person did not know they were being filmed and when they found out they did not allow the network to show their face.

Now, if you were a person working in a restaurant that was caught doing really bad things–drinking on the job, getting freaky with customers, etc.–why would you be willing to let all of America see your bad habits on television, potentially ruining the chance to get a better job someday? You wouldn’t; all of these people knew they were being filmed beforehand, which is why their mugs are prominently shown. Don’t you think that if this were real at least one of these hacks would tell the network to shove it and not allow them to use their likeness?

In fact, some of these people don’t even actually work at the restaurants, according to Mount Ivy Cafe’s owner, Lucia Ivezaj, who told Reality Blurred that the producers hired an actor to play the food-dropping lying waiter that got fired during her episode.  “They wanted a lot of drama, and unfortunately we don’t have drama here. So therefore they made some of their own drama,” she said.

The Mount Ivy Cafe owner also said that producers made the employees change clothes every couple of hours in order to make it seem like a different day. (Hate to break it to y’all but this is a practice that happens on most reality shows.)

"Do I look surprised enough or should we shoot that again?"

The customers are also mostly fake, according to Lexington Grille owner Solicito. (I’m surprised he was allowed to say all this, actually. I’m sure the network made him sign a confidentiality contract that was designed to prevent him from revealing production secrets of the show. But I’m glad he did!)

“One day they had a lot of extras, including my sister-in-law,” he told Nanuet Patch. “They were paid to be annoying.”

Paid to be annoying? That’s The Ashley’s dream job!

In addition, a lot of the dramatic scenes are just that–scenes. According to one staff member of a Staten Island restaurant featured during Season 2, the producers came up with things for the staff members to do that would make the episode more interesting.

“[The producers] were staging fights with waiters and waitresses,” the worker, who spoke anonymously to SI Live.com because he still works at the restaurant, said. “It’s all just fake stuff they want to make scenarios with. I can see if it was helping out if they’re going in there and making things better, but they’re making bad situations.”

The same worker added that he regretted allowing the show to film him.

“Sometimes it’s good just to get on TV,” he said. “But when it’s like that it’s not even worth it. By the time you’re already into it you realize it’s too late. You’ve already signed the papers.”

While all of this makes The Ashley disappointed (she really wanted the show to be real), it’s not surprising. There’s very little “reality” in most of the reality shows we watch.

Note: While doing research for this story, The Ashley stumbled across a ton of juicy gossip regarding this show, Willie Degel and the restaurants featured! She will posting all of this stuff very soon and will link to this story!

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67 Comments

  1. Kevin says:

    This show is not fake. Mystery Diners however is totally fake

  2. Kirk Daly says:

    From a my UK perspective it is a no brainer. Hire the right staff, fire the wrong staff. Train from the top down not the bottom up. If you rely on your last hire to train your new hire? Not gonna happen. Do happen to think the show is totally staged to make us all feel good inside. Yeah right. K

  3. ruth sutch says:

    I really like the show Restaurant Stakeout, i work in the food industry and i find it helpful for the suggestions that Jack gigives to his clients to be successful and intementiny them into the company i work for,it makes me excited that i can bring some of that knowledge to the table

  4. watcher says:

    I watched the first two episodes. First, you’re wrong, there were blurred out faces.

    I found it interested that Willie made no comments about the lack of handwashing, and the number of times both servers and bartenders touched their faces, noses, mouths while working. That is much more important than some of the shit he ragged on.

  5. D-Shot_33 says:

    WOW!!! Can’t believe there are that many stupid people that had to watch this show multiple times to begin to think that it might be fake?? It should have taken all of 2 minutes to realize that this show was a staged piece of poop. Worst cr*p show on Food Network… HEY Food Network – Want a winning “reality show”… set Fieri’s hair on fire and have contestents try to cook something on it. That I would watch!!

    • Becca G. says:

      I think some of the people are staged in the restaurant as guests. But, before they air the show they do have to sign consent. I have also seen faces blurred. All reality shows have drama more than is. That’s what keep people watching. It is entertaining but also can learn things. I own a restaurant and have seen so many of these things happen in other restaurants before mine. These shows have made me see some things I didn’t think of. Mine is very successful. I own 4 now but can see some things that can be improved and this besides other restaurant shows have taught me some things.

  6. adbunting says:

    You mean beside the fact that Degel and Taffer are the same person?

    Are you all stupid?

  7. WhiskeyIrish says:

    I’ve seen the show plenty of times and always thought it was obviously staged, but I am watching an episode right now at a local restaurant near me, and I can honestly say these people are not actors by any means and I’ve eaten there plenty! Good food, Great service And food

    • just wondering.. says:

      Whiskey, why was this restaurant failing? did you see the episode after it aired on tv? Was it true to your experience there?

  8. Maria Bonde says:

    I’m very disappointed. The show could have been done without being staged ( faked ).
    To think I admired Willie. What a bum.
    Of course, I should have known when Willie intentionally had a “manager” steal to test the owner’s backbone and see whether he’d “fire” the woman.
    Maybe it won’t be long before wikipedia reveals that the Pope has faked the veracity of the Bible.

    • Annonymous Squirrel says:

      You don’t need Wikipedia to know the Bible is faked: there’s a *ton* of academic references for that! Start with “The Book Of J”. Apparently, “2 Samuel” was actually written by two WOMEN! Not to mention the more obvious “tells” in the bible: conflicting accounts, stories that are impossible just based on the timelines, the “parting of the waters”, etc. Whether Christian, Muslim or Scientologist, religions are all scams!

    • Becca G. says:

      Nothing wrong with testing. Because he must have felt something was going on. You need to have backbone if you own a restaurant. Fire the woman. If he couldn’t other people will know and steal him blind.

  9. gary says:

    recently watched an episode where Willie and the 2 owners (sisters) were watching as a little girl, whose allergic to tomatoes was served tomatoes. Upon seeing this Willie, had one of the owner haul ass into the restaurant to stop the girl from eating them. She got there in the nick of time. However, no questions were asked as to how she knew about the mistake/situation.

    • Becca G. says:

      Probably staged but so what. Or maybe said something we didn’t see. Have to have some drama. I listen to everything people are talking about around me in the restaurant and observing what they need.

  10. Kongo-Otto says:

    So Willie Degel is the lost fourth of the Stooges?

  11. rob williams says:

    Just saw a MAJOR rookie mistake made by Willie. A server should NEVER take an entire table’s food and drink order at the same time. The reason for this is consistency and speed of service.

    By the time the last guest is finished ordering their food the server could have already had their drinks at the table.

    This gives bartenders a chance to make mixed drinks as well as providing consistency by taking the order the same way every time.

    MOST guests feel rushed when you attempt to get everything at one time.

  12. JeramieH says:

    Plus, the chroma-key artifacts are terrible on later shows. The bright studio light “halo” on the foreground people in the “control room”, clipped against a flat-lit poorly scaled flat background image, with an absolutely fixed camera position. The earlier episodes at least seemed to have real equipment behind them.

  13. JOY says:

    I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A FAILING BUSINESS, WHERE I’M MAKING ONLY $300.00 A MONTH AND HAVE NAILS LIKE THEIRS. THAT ALONE HAS TO COST ALMOST THAT MUCH. THE SHOW IS TOO CONTRIVED, I’VE NEVER BEEN TO A RESTAURANT WHERE EMPLOYEES ACT LIKE THAT. THIS SHOW IS AN INSULT TO ANYONE WHO HAS HALF A BRAIN. THAT SHOW IS THE ONLY ONE I WATCHED, I WILL NEVER WATCH ANOTHER ONE.

  14. Clayton Walt says:

    Willie may be successful, but he talks like a longshoreman with a third grade education. The producers should pay for a remedial English course.

    • Becca G. says:

      He is successful. So what about his education. That doesn’t matter. My dad started with nothing and didn’t have certain education and is owning a successful business and a 2 x millionaire. Grow up.

  15. Nicki Bratz says:

    Also the show “Restaurant Impossible” is 100% REAL like “Bar Rescue” – I researched both very well

  16. Nicki Bratz says:

    All you have to do is go to Wikipedia for all these shows and it tells clearly what each show is about and so far they have been dead on with all there info. As far as this show, this is what they say: “Restaurant Stakeout is an American reality television series on the Food Network. The scripted and staged series debuted on March 12, 2012 – The show’s producers hire actors to come into the restaurant and be rude. The owner of the Mount Ivy Cafe (farted on an episode) and claims that the producers hired a fake waiter to drop dishes and pick a fight with their bartender – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restaurant_Stakeout PS: Bar Rescue is 100% REAL I have talked to several bar owners after the show.

  17. Peter says:

    These stakeout shows are on the same reality level as pro wrestling. Yes it is obvious these people exist, but what they do is controlled by producers. Now u have to decide for yourself if u want to suspend your own disbelief and enjoy the entertainment.

  18. Jwff says:

    This show is 100% FAKE. They show it at opening or 2 in the afternoon when it is empty like no one is going there and then when they critique the staff the places are packed. Every single episode 100% totally FAKE

    • Becca G. says:

      Now I have seen them critique when not packed. You just don’t watch alot. Step back you may learn some things. It’s more than the drama or the people they stage. You can learn things from the show.

  19. James Rinaldi says:

    it is so sad what people will do for money.its because we have to to make it. but as usual the truth doesnt matter. im ashamed of these people. no character. just me me me. and a fat guy with ,3 restraunts not 60 .my friend owns 3 . self respect disappears when money is involved unless u have values

    • Becca G. says:

      Disappears when money is involved. Has he been offered a TV show. I own 4. No I would not do that at all. But don’t judge someone else. And he is successful. Yes people are like that but don’t “hate”.

  20. Lakan Dula says:

    This is disappointing, I was never a big fan of “reality shows” in the first place. Ever since realizing that they were all [mostly] fake and staged with some common sense (yeah, like you really want someone spying on you with a camera when doing “it”). The only reality show I ever came to like before was Super Nanny back then on ABC 7, I know that one is staged.

    Then you got the MTV crap, I don’t even have to mention the name you know it. Not to mention most are Illuminati-owned networks and I always heard The Food Network was free of all that. Then comes Restaruant Stakeout and I don’t know about Mystery Diners (which is practically same thing). I just always had that same gut feeling about all the other shows, then I actually decided to feed my curious mind. I came across these articles and I knew it, it doesn’t take much knowledge or even research to know if a reality show is fake or not.

    Most disappointing thing is, it was really entertaining. There are many real restaurants out there that do rip people off and I don’t see Superman coming in saving them. As I mentioned earlier, one of the common sense things was the amount of drama. Even the stupidest waiter or waitress will know not to approach customers with chocolate on their face. Anyway, yeah.

  21. Mauricio Arboleda says:

    I have 18 years experience in the restaurant and everything that happens in this program is really all passes can be that characters are not real but what happens if it is real, and is currently happening in the work place, while we were working a drug addict and chef alcholico

  22. Anonymous says:

    haha, you mentioned cheaters. i can tell you that show is FAKE also! the blurred face is part of the ‘effect’ of having someone seem to not want to be on the show!

  23. Keith telescope says:

    I’m sorry but I’m offended that the food network
    Is trying to pass this phony show off as
    A “reality” show. There is truly nothing about this show
    That is real, the actors are not even convincing. Keep the food
    Network a predominantly cooking show, and get
    Rid of this nonsense.

  24. Uennie says:

    Actually it is completely legal to film your employees in their (your) place of work. This is pretty evident because there are cameras in numerous businesses. They don’t need to sign releases because they are your employees, not randoms picking up hookers. You’re already beholden to the company and it’s their property. No face blurs needed unless you the owner demand it so or someone lawyers up.

    Secondly, it’s not uncommon for people who are on shows like these to lie because they are embarrassed or for damage control. They may not be, but it did come out that people who complained about being made over on Restaurant Impossible were lying over the supposed fakes too. Take sources with a grain of salt.

    • Bob says:

      Actually, Uennie, it is legal to film your employees for security purposes but it is not legal to film them for a TV show that is publicly broadcast. For someone to use your likeness for profit, you need to sign a release. I still don’t know why anyone would look like a bad employee on TV. Those who don’t know it’s fake, which might include prospective employers, will actually think you are a jerk if they meet you.

  25. Neil says:

    Awwww, I like this show, but I didn’t realize so much was faked. What do you think of Mystery Diners? That one started off looking kind of faked with a lot of Phoenix area restaurants to this season where it takes place in California and the acting is SOOOO bad! It makes Restaurant Stakeout look like a documentary!

  26. Kelly says:

    Who the eff cares if it’s fake? I love this show whether it is fake or not. It gives me enjoyment and that’s the whole purpose of the show. Alot of reality shows you watch are FAKE. Their told what to say and what to do. And yeah if your going to accuse this show of being phony and bogus atleast show proof and not just hearsay.

    • me says:

      I watch everything on tv now with the assumption that it is not REAL. It is just entertainment. I think we can all survive that this and other shows are faked…oh whoa is us…yeah that is sarcasm for those who are clueless.

  27. kuro valentine says:

    IF YOU ARE CRITIZING A SHOW, SHOW CITATION MEANING PROOF AND THERE IS NONE WHAT SO EVER!!!!!!

  28. kuro valentine says:

    The Ashleys is sooo bogus!!! this show is based on what happens in restaurants in real life and i highly doubted you guys see wires on the employees. you guys are utterly jealous that you guys are being paid to do that. “Paid to be annoying? That’s The Ashley’s dream job!” Also the way he talks about a restaurant is in the eyes of a business man not a chef!!! There’s a hugh differences in attitude! I personally worked and seen restuarants staff, often they do act wild! If its fake acting so what!!! you have to look at the concept of the show!!! I really can’t judge you guys because its freedom of speech but you guys also have to see concept!

  29. Gia says:

    Funny, I too just watched the episode where the girl did extend her arm to finish the fake set-up of hitting the other waitress. I must have rewinded it ten times and played it in slo-mo to only realize this show is fricken as fake as it gets! Boring now.

    • Gia says:

      Another point is… In that episode “When the cats away” in Nauna’s Bella Casa restaurant in Montclair NJ (episode 8) the guy that played the manager Mario wasn’t he in another episode previously as a bartender or waiter in either this show or Bar Rescue? He looked very familiar playing a similar role. I’m just saying!

  30. Aleta says:

    I’ve watched 4 or 5 episodes and suddenly realized that they can’t film people without permission…so I guess I figured out that Restaurant Stakeout is phony. I feel pretty dumb for getting so emotionally involved and it taking so long to figure it out!!

    • david says:

      the show is a reinactment that is all it really happen in some point ok

      • Anonymouys Squirrel says:

        “OK?”… No, not “OK” – HOW THE HELL WOULD YOU KNOW? Are you on staff? Have some “insider knowledge”? You’re just a poser, bleating for your favorite show: you don’t actually *know* anything!

  31. Amber says:

    I looked into this show being fake after I watched this weeks episode. It was very obvious that the girl that came out the kitchen door purposefully ran into the other girl and make her spill the food on the customer. You can plainly see her extend her elbow out to hit the girl extra hard. Then she just stands there as the other girl apologizes to the customer. It showed me that this show was fake. That is so sad. It makes me not wanna watch anymore.. I just hate being lied to.

  32. Jeremy says:

    Right from the start last year I thought this was not only THE worst show on food network but it was decidedly so when I saw last weeks episode with a chef that was on “chopped” not once but twice on a comeback show. Fake!

    • Vicki says:

      I thought that lady in the show’s commercial looked familiar. Lost three times on Chopped and also on Restaurant stakeout? Remind me never to eat at her establishment.

  33. Renee Kaplan says:

    The clown who stars in this fiasco is an embarassment to the Food Network. He refers to all the restaurants as “stores,” and he’s always preaching about taking the staffs to “higher levels.” He seems oblivious to the notion that food is purveyed at these establishments and operates as if he’s running a dry cleaners or a hardware store.
    His refering to peoples as “youse” is soooo offputting. I beseech the Food Network to cut this guy off from your stellar brand.

    • Robert says:

      You are not qualified to criticize anyone, you say “operates as if he is running a dry cleaners or hardware store” as if those businesses required no professionalism or hard work to operate. Any show that encourages excellent service and good work ethic is worth airing, even if some of it or all of it is staged.

      • Obvious says:

        EXACTLY, none of you idiots are business owners or ever will be..Your sheeple, worker bees and always will be. Yes even if some of the drama was staged you dip&*$ts are acting like the obviously good, tailored restaurant advice(attentive management etc) and better work ethic that is modeled… is a bad way to teach and behave. Are you brainiacs saying thats NOT the way to run?

        I will end this by saying ya it prob is staged but my biggest gripe was that noone was ever fired, unlike bar rescue which is definitely real. Renovations arent fake dumbasses. MY GOD YOU PEOPLE ARE #(%ING PILES!!

    • Hayward says:

      Stellar brand? This is the network that stars Ann Burrpelt as a “chef” that doesn’t cover her brittle chicken-head, bleach-blonde hair with a hairnet. Dollars to donuts her customers are picking white hair out of their food.

  34. rissa says:

    I’m going to pretend I didn’t read this article. One of my favorite shows is Bar Rescue so knowing this I now think Bar Rescue is 95% fake. :(

    • The Ashley says:

      hahah i feel the same way! I really wanted it to be real too! -The Ashley

    • Oz says:

      The one thing I appreciate about Bar Rescue is that Jon Taffer comes across as someone who is sincerely there to see the businesses succeed.

      That guy on Restaurant Stakeout comes across as a muckraker.

  35. ava says:

    to save theiring their restaurants?

    What’s going on up there?

    • The Ashley says:

      Thanks for pointing that out. It’s been fixed. -The Ashley

    • murray nord says:

      This show is sooooooo fake! You can actually see the mike wires through some of their clothes. Can’t watch this crap!

    • Zazu says:

      Come on, if this guy was the real deal and so successful at running restaurants, he wouldn’t be doing this for a living. It’s like the infomercial hawker who says he’s selling the viewer a way to make million; if he’s really making millions, why is he hawking his secret? Makes one wonder.

      • Brenda Brown says:

        I have eaten at Uncle Jacks in NY and it was fabulous! The food was delicious, the wait staff was impeccable. Very pricey but a dining experience that I won’t forget and hope to go back again!

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