Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Restaurateur Nick Liberato is lending his expertise to eateries around the world on Netflix's Restaurants on the Edge, and the culinary mastermind said the new series is more akin to Queer Eye than Bar Rescue.
Liberato, known to TV audiences for appearances on Bravo's Top Chef Masters and Spike TV's Bar Rescue, said Restaurants on the Edge, which starts streaming Friday on Netflix, puts a new spin on the restaurant rescue genre by incorporating aspects of an international travel series.
"We were all over the world, and we were dealing with all kinds of people in all different areas," Liberato told UPI in a recent interview. "So every place that we hit, we were dealing with a totally different environment, a different person, a different vibe, and immediately had to adapt to that."
The series sees Liberato and his teammates, Chef Dennis The Prescott and designer Karin Bohn, using their expertise to revamp struggling restaurants.
"Even though there are so many rescue shows, it's really not that. We have the camaraderie of a team like Queer Eye. And the team that worked behind the camera did such an unbelievably amazing job shooting this that I would compare it to Chef's Table," Liberato said.
Another twist that sets the show apart is that the struggling eateries are situated in exotic locales such as Malta, Austria, Costa Rica and Hong Kong.
"The travel aspect of the show is very similar to [Anthony] Bourdain and the travels that he took" in series such as No Reservations and Parts Unknown, Liberato said.
A different type of rescue
The entrepreneur said the work of revamping businesses is similar to Bar Rescue, but the experiences were very different in several ways.
"With Bar Rescue, there were a lot of times when owners were super drunk walking in, and I didn't ever have to deal with that on this particular show," he said.
The restaurateur said that while Bar Rescue often called for a "tough love" approach with owners, the Restaurants on the Edge team aims to "uplift things in a positive way."
"I truly feel [that with] all of the restaurant owners that we were able to connect with, we had kind of a life-changing experience with them. Not only were we coming in and incorporating new design, new food, incorporating new systems, but we were getting them back in touch with their environment," he said.
He said some restaurant owners took issue with the guidance offered by Liberato and the other hosts.
"For the most part, everyone was pretty open. There were some -- and I won't name them, just because I want it to be a surprise on the show -- but there were some that were a little harder, or edgier."
Situations can become tense when "people's egos get in the way," Liberato said.
"No one wants anyone else coming into the kitchen and telling them what to cook. But if you put your guard down, and you don't take things personal, or make any assumptions, it's amazing the growth you can have, not only as a human being, but [for] your business," he said.
Liberato said he has identified the biggest difference between a successful restaurant and an unsuccessful restaurant.
"I would say neglect -- neglect to watch the business, and always being better than the day before. People get stagnant with their concepts, with their menus, with their cocktail programs and with their décor. You have to be able to keep up with the times and ultimately know what this place is asking for and put the time in," he said.
Liberato said the lessons he imparts to the restaurant owners on the show are some of the same hard lessons he had to learn early in his career.
"I think I had an enormous ego in the beginning starting out as a chef," he said.
He said he was grateful he had people "telling me that I need to be better, and this can be better, and not to worry about the money -- as long as you do everything right, the money's going to follow."
Liberato's experience in rescuing underperforming eateries started off-screen with his Venice Beach, Calif., restaurants, The Venice Whaler and The Pier House.
"Both were underperforming spaces that are right on the beach in Venice Beach and were under-performing," he recalled. "The Venice Whaler, for instance, was a $3 million business when I first took over, and we're getting close to hitting $10 million right now. That was doing $300,000 in food sales, and is now doing $4.5 million in food sales."
He said the current success of those eateries is a result of his taking the same advice he gives to restaurateurs on the show, setting priorities like "staying consistent, staying at the business, changing menus, changing vendors, a lot of PR, doing events, doing whatever I can to get the word out, and most importantly, connecting with the community and who each of our guests are and creating the best experience possible."
Liberato said one of his favorite Restaurants on the Edge experiences was the episode set in Austria, a country he had never visited.
"Miriam and Dave, who are the owners there, were just fabulous people. She was from Austria, and he's from Australia, and just feeling their love for their environment and their food and their décor, and seeing their place transform, with the décor, was just breathtaking. Then seeing their environment, their community, really support that was gorgeous."
He said he also particularly enjoyed helping a professional soccer player revamp a restaurant on the water in Malta.
"I feel like I have my favorites, but as soon as I'm talking about one, I'm thinking about all the positive things that came out of another," he said.
Liberato said he has a wish list of locations he'd like to visit if the show gets picked up for future seasons.
"I feel like we stayed fairly north, between touching the Caribbean, Europe and other spots, but I'd like to see us get into the Southern Hemisphere a bit more -- mainly South America, Australia and parts of Asia."
The six-episode first season of Restaurants on the Edge starts streaming Friday on Netflix.