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Anatomy of a Rescue

Can Barlow’s Comeback?

July 28, 2013 By: Kristen Santoro


THE BAR

Two year after purchasing Barlow’s Bar & Grill with her husband, Susan Wood found herself divorced and without a partner. Susan admits that since they purchased the bar they have never see a "heyday" where the bar was profitable. Therefore, desperate to get Barlow’s food program cooking Susan allowed Barlow’s regular Jon Stovall, a long time small business owner, to run the kitchen in exchange for an equal partnership in the business.

Jon bought into the bar with $30 thousand in BBQ equipment, claiming to have kitchen expertise; but his hour long ticket times proved otherwise. Customers became frustrated with the wait time and stopped coming to the bar to eat. Susan and Jon’s partnership then took a spiteful turn. Focusing more on Jon’s short comings than managing the bar Susan turned a blind eye to theft, fighting and even attempted workers compensation fraud. Instead of laying down the law Susan joined the fun.

Now, Susan is $102,000 in debt and her relationship with Jon has turned into a bitter rivalry. Jon thinks that there is no way this place is going to make any money with Susan as the general manager. Stuck in a vengeful partnership Susan and Jon have agreed to pull back the doors, bust open the books and make the call for help to Bar Rescue.

THE CHALLENGE

Tucker, Georgia, a small town of just 27,000 is located 12 miles east of Atlanta. The median age of Tucker is 32.7 years 4.6 years lower than the national average, 37.3. With nearby Atlanta boosting four professional sports teams Tucker natives are always in search of a place to grab a beer and catch a game. Situated off of a major five lane highway is Barlow’s, a bland road house that fails to hit a home run with the locals.

Jon Taffer is called in to help keep the bar from striking out. And the first challenge will be making the building look like a bar and not a family pancake house. Bars have to look like bars or people don’t go in them. That means the branding and the right exterior is needed to pull them into the parking lot and then inside. If people expect to come in and get fried eggs, that’s not going to drive evening business in a bar.

As Taffer and his team begin to take a closer look at the bar, they quickly realize that the exterior is the least of their worries. The bartenders have no idea what they are doing; making drinks incorrectly and not caring or completely choosing to do nothing at all. All of this is going on while Susan proceeds to take shots at the bar and kitchen manager Jon piers at everyone from behind a beer glass at the opposite end of the bar. Taffer is so disgusted with the behavior of the staff and owners that he wastes little time before heading into the bar to speak with each of the partners separately. Once Taffer hears both sides of the hostile rivalry between Susan and Jon he meets with the staff to see what other problems plague the bar.

Taffer stars behind with the draft system that he knows isn’t keep the beer at its proper temperature from the recon tape. When beer runs over 38 degrees you only get about 60% yield from the keg, rather than 95%; losing money right away. In addition, the bar is so dirty that there are solid pieces of bacteria that Taffer pulls from the below the bar top.

Taffer puts the bar staff to work to start cleaning while he goes to check out the kitchen with Susan and Jon. Jon is confident that the kitchen is clean however he is quickly shot down. The mold issues in the kitchen are so severe that Taffer cannot let anyone stay in the bar and needs professional cleaners to come in and irradiate the problem

Mold left to grow in cold wet areas can create a dangerously toxic work environment. The EPA counts indoor pollutants such as mold to be among the top high risks to public health, causing 300 thousand global deaths annually.

The next day Susan tells the staff the severity of the situation and that they have about a month, maybe two months, before the entire staff is out of a job and the bar will close its doors for good. Taffer has even more bad news when he pulls out the BevIntel beverage cost analysis reports.

BevIntel weighs every liquor bottle before and after a shift. The bar staff gave away $675 worth of liquor in one shift. The second night they only gave away $200 worth of liquor because they knew that they were being monitored. Proving that they consciously aware that they are over pouring.

The stress test proves once again that the staff is not properly trained. The bartenders fail miserably, especially Jamie who is pulled from the bar because she can’t keep it together. Q, a kitchen staff member steps up and takes over for Jon who can’t even call the orders correctly and forgot to turn on the hood fan, filling the restaurant with smoke from the kitchen. The only shining star of the night was Susan, who proved that you does have what it takes to step up and be a general manager.

THE TURNAROUND

Barlow’s is a 52 hundred square foot space with twelve beers on tap, a circular main bar where smoking is permitted and a non-smoking section separated but a glass partition. And the glass partition is the first thing that needs to go. Therefore, Taffer and his team install a negative pressure air handling system.

Negative Pressure can be used as a technique to isolate contaminants in the air such as smoke. A fan on one side of the bar causes friction which works to pull air into a stream; a process engineer’s call entrainment. As contaminated air is sucked into this air stream and out of the bar it is replaced by clean air; making the environment comfortable for staff and guests.

For the bar, Taffer calls in Russell Davis the 2012 Nightclub & Bar Mixologist of the Year. Russell’s expansive knowledge of creative cocktails makes him a perfect fit to turn over this bar staff. He starts by providing the staff with some simple rules of thumb. If a drink has juice and syrup in it, that’s the style of drink that you shake. But spiritus cocktails which only have spirit in them, like a Manhattan, are the style that you want to stir. In a stir cocktail, you want all of the ice to move together. This it allows all of the liquid to be easily mix and easily distributed.

To help with the kitchen Jon has brought in executive chef Tiffany Derry. Having opened one of the hottest restaurants in the south, Tiffany’s commitment to excellence and precision will elevate any kitchen.

Tiffany starts with giving each person on the kitchen a specific role in the line. The kitchen line is modeled after car tycoon Henry Ford’s famous assembly line. In the kitchen line each member of the staff is assigned to a specific task over the course of the night. The line is an efficient way to increase productivity whether the commodity is an automobile or a burger.

As the training continues, Taffer’s team begin the remodel; turning the rundown bar that looks like a pancake house into a sports bar destination, Comeback Sports Bar, where locals will flock in order to catch their favorite Atlanta team.

THE RESULT

The bitter rivalry between partners Susan and Jon was keeping them from being successful; with more of the focused and shortcoming being pinned on each other than looking at the larger issues at hand.

Now without that animosity Jon can support Susan as a good partner and let her run this bar; giving them the Comeback chance that they need. Before Taffer leaves he reminds them one last time that they need to support each other. That is the only way that the partnership will work and they will continue to succeed. Taffer truly believes that the most important thing that he did at the bar was to pull the business partners together.

Three months after the relaunch food sales are up 20% and Jon has been letting Susan manage the bar while he runs the books. Their new arrangement is working out well and Susan has taken control back and set examples for the rest of her staff by refusing to rehire Nikki, the bartender let go for stealing from the bar.


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