Dining With Denise Neil

This Wichita restaurant got a Gordon Ramsay makeover; Now, owners are reevaluating

Wichita’s Fetch Bistro gets a Gordon Ramsay makeover

See what the restaurant looks like now. Video by Denise Neil.
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See what the restaurant looks like now. Video by Denise Neil.

It’s been nearly five months since the episode of celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay’s “24 Hours to Hell and Back” featuring Wichita’s Fetch Bistro aired.

And since that day, when the national spotlight landed on the dog-friendly restaurant at 7718 E. 37th St. North owned by Greg and Pamela Buss, the owners have come to realize a few things.

Chief among them, Greg Buss said: Not all of the famous chef’s ideas were quite right for his business.

Since the show aired in late July, the Busses have made some significant changes to the restaurant, including changing its name, expanding its menu and taking on a partner from Ft. Worth who has experience turning restaurants around.

The restaurant, which is now called Fetch Bar & Grill, has all the same decor that Ramsay and his crew added when they made over the restaurant a year ago as part of “24 Hours to Hell and Back,” a show that was a big summer hit for the FOX network and that featured the famously caustic chef trying to save a struggling restaurant in 24 hours.

And they’ve kept many of the dishes that Ramsay and his team of chefs added when they were here, including the fish tacos and the chicken and biscuits. But they’ve dramatically increased the number of offerings on the menu, significantly beefing up the selection for both breakfast and dinner.

They’ve decided they want the restaurant to be seen more as a neighborhood bar and grill, and to that end, they’ve added a full bar and hired a bartender. The word “bistro,” which implies dainty eatery, no longer fits their mission, hence the name change.

Greg Buss said he decided to make the changes shortly after the show aired when he took on a partner — Tony Sawyer, a restaurant consultant based in Ft. Worth. Sawyer had seen the “Fetch” episode of the Ramsay show and liked the concept. He reached out to the Busses to express his interest in helping.

Sawyer said he initially met the couple in Dallas, then in August — a month after the show aired — came to Wichita to see the restaurant for himself. He’s been here ever since.

Most of the changes came from Sawyer’s suggestions. Although he’s a fan of Gordon Ramsay, he said, the famous chef didn’t leave the restaurant with a setup for success, particularly when he suggested they pare the menu down so dramatically.

“I think Gordon really hurt him by leaving him with only nine or 10 items on a dinner or lunch menu,” he said. “That’s just not that much to offer, and it’s not that small of a restaurant.”

The new menu is big and features lots of new dishes, including steaks, pastas and salads. Instead of the one burger that Ramsay and his crew created for Fetch, the new menu has seven different burger options. It also has wings, sandwiches, chicken fried steak and long list of bar and grill-friendly appetizers.

It also has a big new breakfast menu, which is served on Saturday and Sunday mornings and includes biscuits and gravy, pancakes, waffles, eggs Benedict and more. The breakfast has been especially popular, and for the first time, Fetch has experienced a line of people waiting for a table, Sawyer said.

They’ve made several other little changes that they say go along with the restaurant’s new image. They’re now dimming the lights in the evenings, have added several new TVs, and are using cloth napkins.

“It’s just the little things people look at and think might not make a big difference, but it changes the class level,” Sawyer said.

Fetch Bistro owners Greg and Pamela Buss had a full house as they and their patrons watched Gordon Ramsay’s new reality show, “24 Hours to Hell and Back,” which featured their dog-friendly restaurant Wednesday night. (July 25, 2018) Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle

Dogs are welcome, as always, but Sawyer and Buss want the restaurant to be a place where people come to hang out, have a drink and a nice meal and watch the game — and where they’re welcome to bring their dogs along.

The show was a bit of a “double-sided sword,” Sawyer said. Although it may have inspired dog lovers to seek the place out, it turned off people who don’t like the idea of dogs in a restaurant.

“We need to get over that image of it being a dog park on the inside,” Sawyer said. “It’s a place to come and relax. You can bring pets with you and have a good time, but it’s a restaurant first.”

Fetch also has extended its hours on Friday and Saturday nights. The new hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays; 7 a.m. to midnight Saturdays; and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.

See what the restaurant looks like now. Video by Denise Neil.

Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.