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Anatomy of a Rescue

Dimples Gets Its Encore

March 31, 2013 By: Kristen Santoro


THE BAR

In 1982 after 20 years in the bar business, Sal opened Dimples – a Hollywood themed karaoke bar named after the Shirley Temple movie. It was the first karaoke bar in America, situated just four miles from Hollywood in Burbank, CA.

Dimples became the hot spot for locals and celebrities making approximately $85K a month. However, as Dimples grew so did Sal’s Hollywood memorabilia collection.  The collection consumes the building that should hold 150 people but currently only has the capacity for 80 people. With the memorabilia taking over the bar, necessary repairs were neglected and left the bar in dire need of an upgrade. Sal is holding onto the past and its evident in the karaoke machine is so outdated that it contains an atrac playback.

Contributing to the problem is Sal’s inappropriate treatment of women. By making all of the female customers uncomfortable in front of other patrons sends them heading for the door. Dimples fails to bring in a younger, livelier crowd sending the bar into a downward spiral. Currently, down 50 percent, $250K in debt and retirement in the near future, Dimples is on the verge of its swan song. The staff has pressured Sal for a much needed change, however Sal seems to be content with the way things are and set in his ways.

THE CHALLENGE

Burbank, CA is considered to be the media capital of the world with 15 major studios, 1,171 art and entertainment related businesses and 13,500 industry professionals all within 17 square miles. With a median income of $67K residents have deep pockets. Unable to capitalize on its prime location, Dimples ancient atmosphere keeps customers at bay.

The 1,900 square foot venue has a galley bar in the middle that includes two service stations, a kitchen on the west end and a karaoke stage on the north side. One of the first things that Taffer and his team notice is that the bottled beer is sitting on the floor in coolers with ice poured over them, indicating that none of the refrigeration or cooling systems behind the bar work. “I’ve never seen that” stated Duffy. In addition, the bartenders are making the drinks really sweet and completely unbalanced.

The other major factors contributing to the front of house issues is Sal and the outdated karaoke machine.  Sal has no energy when hosting karaoke and forces the females to take shots from inappropriate places making them feel uncomfortable.  The sound system is so bad that they constantly need to turn the volume down so it doesn’t piece the eardrums of guests.

In the kitchen things don’t get any better.  During the recon the cook puts a burger on the grill for 12 minutes before flipping it to the other side. Expert Chef Brian Duffy is screaming in the car as he watches, willing the cook to flip the burger.  It should only take eight minutes to cook a burger. However, the burger is the least of their worries as the cook has been cross contaminating the kitchen, risking the health of the staff and the guests that order food.  Food poisoning can take hours sometimes days to hit. Therefore, there is no way to accurately tell how many people have become ill over the years. Chef Duffy takes a count of the bacteria in the kitchen. Anything over 2,500 is a failure. The Dimples kitchen fails miserably with a 199,308 counts of bacteria.

 

THE TURNAROUND

In order to save the bar before its last curtain call world renowned bar consultant Jon Taffer steps in to save America’s first karaoke bar. In addition to Chef Brian Duffy and Master Mixologist Joe Brooke, Taffer brings in Fred Medrano, owner of You Be The Star Entertainment, the largest karaoke company in America. Fred begins by testing the skills of Terry, the sound operator, and the equipment.

The system that they use is so old that it makes everyone sound terrible due to no reverberation. Now, reverberation or reverb is an effect karaoke mixers use to make the singers voice sound better. Singing in a small space gives the vocals greater presence which is the reason everyone sounds good when singing in the shower. Since Dimples sound system doesn’t produce reverb the poor singers don’t give the audience any relief.

Keeping this in mind Fred gets to work on upgrading the karaoke system, training Terry on the new equipment and teaching one of the bartenders the skills needed to keep the audience engaged.

The training continues behind the bar and in the kitchen.  Brooke teaches the bartenders simple techniques to have balanced cocktails using fresh ingredients and Duffy works with a new cook, while Roberto recovers, to update their existing menu. However, the true test comes the next morning.

Taffer meets the staff to discuss the memorabilia collection that has been mounting in the bar.  All of the memorabilia represents 700 square feet or 1/3 of the square footage of the bar. Taffer asks Sal to think about how much money this collection is costing him. Sal is visibly overwhelmed and upset that Taffer has removed all of the memorabilia and he doesn’t think that they will open up without having the bar the way he wants it.

Taffer knows that in order to do America’s first karaoke bar justice he needs some extra time.  Therefore, he adds an extra day to the redesign. Working closely with Dawn Sinko, lead designer, they make sure that the ceilings are raised to create better sightlines, the sound booth is properly designed and the bar has the proper storage and coolers.

THE RESULT

Taffer keeps the name Dimples however updates all of the signage. They wanted to make the statement that Dimples is here to stay but it’s new and hip. Sal is even happy with the new look and feel of the bar.

Once inside the staff is amazed at how different and much larger the bar looks. Taffer and his team added elements including lights, fog machines and a dressing room in order to create visual appeal that will have the energy and excitement of a true live performance for the guests.

Six weeks after the re-launch Sal is slowly redisplaying his memorabilia collection however food and drink sales have increased by 30 percent. In the end Taffer and his team gave Dimples the much needed upgrade and properly trained the staff for their encore.


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