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Anatomy of a Rescue

Hasta La Vista to a Crappy Cantina

October 6, 2013 By: Kristen Santoro


THE BARRocky Point Bar Rescue

In 2010, Fran and Mary Massimiano bought Rocky Point Cantina, a Mexican themed bar only a few block away from Arizona State University, as a retirement investment for their two sons Scott and Jason. Scott agreed to take part in the family business if he was able to run the bar as general manager. With no prior experience, Scott mismanaged the bar from the start.

Scott’s younger brother Jason scrambled to keep the bar from crumbling completely.  He believes that it was a great idea for his parents to purchase the bar however; he also believes it was a bad idea to put Scott in charge.  Scott used his power to hire his friend Anthony as a bartender. The two are very close, like brothers, leading to their rocky relationship and inappropriate outbursts.  

To try to engage the nearby college crowd, Scott featured local head banging groups and only opened Rocky’s when they booked shows. The crowd that these events drew was more interested in moshing than dipping into their pockets. The bar quickly became an asylum for aggression that scared off cash spending locals and women. Therefore, the business is not making money on every person that walks into the bar.

Rocky Point Cantina is now losing up to $10,000 a month and Fran and Mary have depleted their retirement; currently $1.5 million in debt. There is nothing left due to the laziness and mismanagement of their son Scott. With the Cantina only weeks away from saying hasta la vista, the Massimiano’s have made the call to Bar Rescue to help save their sons failing business.

 

Rocky Point Cantina Bar Rescue THE CHALLENGE

Tempe Arizona is the home to Arizona State University (ASU), the largest public university in the nation. College student of legal drinking age spend an average of $900 a year on alcohol. Tempe’s close proximity to ASU floods the areas watering holes with college students; totaling $65 million a year in sales. But Rocky Point Cantina fails to dip into that profit stream.

To get the customer perspective, Jon Taffer sends three young girls from ASU into the bar. Now, the average age of an ASU student is 22 therefore these girls are the bars target audience. Once the girls enter the venue they move from one empty bar to another trying to get someone to serve them a drink. When they finally find a bartender they order food (hot wings and chicken quesadilla) and drinks.  The first drink tastes like juice and there are no beers on tap only bottles. The bar has a draft system in place and Taffer is confused on why they only sell bottled beer. Bars can make more money of draft then they ever would on bottled. It defies logic.

The bar is covered in filth and when the food finally arrives (via Jason who just cooked it) it’s completely inedible; they can’t even tell what type of meat is inside the quesadilla. Dismissing the food the girls head to the bathroom and capture just how disgusting the facilities are.

Taffer has seen enough and decides to send in his team (Russell Davis and Tiffany Derry) in to confront the owners, picking apart everything that they are doing incorrectly. Here is just a brief list of some of the most disturbing things they found:

-          The caked on filth behind the bar and in the kitchen
-          Pool noodles being used to soak up the mold in the beer coolers
-          Numerous health code violations in the kitchen
-          Mislabeling and storing of food products
-          Poorly made drinks by untrained bartenders
-          Animosity between the staff and Scott  

However, if you watch Jason every minute he seems to find something else that is wrong.  All while Scott is sitting on his ass in the office on Facebook. Scott believes that he is above the petty task and that the GM shouldn’t have to help out with any of the day to day duties of running a bar.

Scott becomes so upset at the staff meeting that he leaves.  However, he returns moments later after a loop around the block to own up to his mistakes and tell his parents that he is a failure.  Jon decides that Scott needs to clean the feces infested bathroom to prove that he is here to help and turn around the business.

Taffer decides to test their skills again during the stress test and what is the first big mistake they make?  They forget to put the cash registers out.  Fran and Mary rush into the office to open the safe in order to help the bartenders. With no cash register no transactions can take place or be recorded which halts business completely. This misstep was the first out of many that followed during the night including Scott disappearing, leaving his staff to dig themselves out of the massive hole they are in.

The next day Taffer gives the family an ultimatum to bring in a manger to run the place or he can’t help them.  

 

THE TURNAROUND

Rocky Point Cantina is a 10,000 square foot open air space with an unused center island bar, a back bar with two speed wells and a separate indoor concert venue.  The wall bar is being used but the island bar isn’t.  Island bars are the most interactive areas of all. It provides an area where guests can look at each other make eye contact and not stair at a wall while waiting for drinks or ordering food.

Havana Cabana Bar Rescue

When the bar got off track and went into a male music direction they alienated the vast majority of the population. Taffer decides to change everything making the center bar the most important asset in the space. An island bar shape compared to a galley or l-shaped bar allows customers to see one another better which increase social interaction. When people are stimulated socially they have more fun, stay longer and spend more.

Taffer cannot complete all of these changes and training in five days without some help.  Therefore, he brings in Nightclub & Bar Bartender of the Year in 2012, Russell Davis to help behind the bar. Russell’s experience elevating college bars makes him the perfect professor of mixology for Rocky Point. To help in the kitchen Taffer brings in culinary expert Tiffany Derry. Having opened one of the hottest restaurants in Texas, Tiffany can turn any lagging kitchen into a goldmine.

With a skeleton staff of only three people (Scott, Jason and bartender Anthony) there is no way that the bar can function properly.  Therefore, Jon brings in three more bartenders and two more staff members to give the venue a chance.

Russell starts with a bartending boot camp to train Anthony on how to elevate his skills. He explains to Anthony that he wants to make sure that he fills the glasses almost over the top with ice to make the drink look full. The process of chilling a cocktail with ice occurs only when the surface melts and dilutes the liquid around it. More ice mean more surface area and a drink that will become colder faster.

Once the Cuban theme is decided on Russell continues his training with Anthony and the three new young female bartenders. Rum is one of the central liquors in the new cocktail program; the fruity and refreshing flavors are things that customers are going to want to drink in the hot desert. The first drink they create is the Diablo del Dol (sun devil) the ASU mascot.

In the kitchen Tiffany works with Jason to create dishes that will work for their target clientele all made with fresh ingredients and not mystery meat.  Tiffany teaches Jason basic techniques including wearing gloves when cutting chicken and how to properly place fingers when cutting.

With the new Cuban theme Tiffany creates a signature sauce called a mojo that they use on everything and can easily adjust to get the flavors that they want for different dishes. Without having to create a bunch of different sauce they will be able to cost product costs and make more money against the items that they sell. They also create shareable items or small bits that will work well with their target demographic which is the price sensitive college student. This way they will be able to bring out good value cocktails and food items that work really well.   

Fran, Mary and Jason make the decision to bring in an experienced manager to run the bar even though Scott is not happy about it. Taffer brings in Steve Lynch as the new manager. He is the general manager of Four Peaks Brewing Company - Tempe’s  highest volume bar and restaurant and Arizona’s top destination brewery. For 15 years Steve has worked at Four Peaks which sits just a half a block away from Rocky Point Cantina. He knows how to produce millions of dollars a year for a business.

 

Havana Cabana Bar Rescue THE RESULT

Havana Cabana Bar & Grill is a party bar for a party bar and replaces the filthy, mismanaged failing bar that was Rocky Point Cantina. With a new interior design, cocktail and food program and management the bar has been set up for success. And so far the bar has been doing just that.  Six weeks after the relaunch Havana Cabana has been bringing in up to $6,000 a night and Steve continues to train Scott as a general manager. Anthony, after walking out in the night of the relaunch, asked for his job back and Scott refused. 


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