Life's Not Always a Beach..at Marley'sSeptember 15, 2013 By: Mary-Kate Dunphy
Warwick, RI is home to 83,000 people, a beautiful Atlantic shore line and the failing bar, Marley’s on the Beach. Owner, Kevin, stepped out from behind a desk to fulfill his dream of owning his own bar, borrowed money from his wife Michelle and opened Marley’s. The $170,000 used to start up Marley’s was taken from Michelle’s 401K plan; the couple put everything they had into their business, they even held their wedding on the beach patio.
The couple thought Marley’s would be an instant success due to its close proximity to Iggy’s –Rhode Island’s world famous clam chowder house. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Kevin and Michelle’s inexperience proved detrimental to the business and Marley’s got a reputation for bad food, bad service and even worse nightlife.
Losing her investment, Michelle stepped in as head owner while her husband, Kevin, lost interest and faded in the background. Dumping all the responsibility on his wife, Michelle quickly became overwhelmed. It quickly became evident that she needed help.
Marley’s on the Beach has a 75,000 square foot space, a c-shaped bar, six beers on tap and an outdoor beach area in the back. The bar faces west, providing the perfect sightline for sunset every night from the patio; Marley’s has the stage, they simply do not know how to utilize it. Michelle has put $250,000 into her business and is now losing $4,000 a month. Each month, the losses at Marley’s increase along with Michelle’s animosity towards her husband, Kevin.
Taffer sits outside Marley’s on the Beach with Chef Brendon Collins and owner of the successful Iggy’s next door, Dave Gravino. Dave leases the building to Michelle and Kevin and gives them a break on the rent; he says that if Marley’s does not have a great season, the sun will permanently set on their Beach.
As they sit and watch, Taffer sends 200 people into Marley’s for an impromptu stress test and the outcome was as expected; the staff did not know what to do. The employees look stunned and the kitchen hadn’t even finished setting up.
More people than Marley's has ever seen are in the bar, some waiting over an hour for a drink and food going out to the wrong tables. While all this is happening, Kevin is sitting downstairs in the office while his wife sinks at the bar. When he finally makes an appearance upstairs, Kevin stands aside and watches his staff fail while talking to a buddy. At this moment it is clear to Taffer that he needs to get in there. Taffer immediately confronts Michelle and Kevin and comes to the obvious conclusion that Kevin needs to help.
In the kitchen the head cook, Diana, has been sending out food all night that people described as, “disgusting.” Chef Brandon Collins inspects the kitchen and finds that all the food – the soups, chicken, beef etc. - are all significantly off in temperature which will cause people to get sick. When Taffer and Collins address this issue, Diana gets defensive and walks out on her team.
The first stress test for Marley’s on the Beach was a complete failure; Taffer shuts down the bar for the night and invites the customers back after the rescue is complete.
During the next stress test, the bar was extremely slow. At one point there were 18 tickets at the bar with the first one being put in 25 minutes before. The kitchen on the other hand, does well; they are cranking out orders but there is no one to bring out the food. Marley’s is extremely disorganized; there are long waits for drinks and food is going out to the wrong tables.
Elese, the assistant manager, adds greatly to the confusion when she should be the one solving the problem. She gives up and begins to cry; Taffer then tells her that Diana is not the problem and now Elese is the one on thin ice.
The older crowd eventually moves out as it gets later and the young people drift in. There is no music or lighting; there is no reason for anyone under 30 years old to be at Marley’s on the Beach after 7 o’clock.
During the stress test, Diana proved herself and Elese proved to be detrimental to the business. Michelle is forced to fire her friend Elese and vows to start managing with her head rather than her heart.
The next morning, the staff meets with Taffer to discuss the stress test and the game plan. Diana, who walked out the previous night, showed up for the staff meeting; Jon dismissed her by telling Diana that by neglecting her duties was her resignation. Michelle then gives her a second chance; Diana has one night to prove herself by keeping organized and properly cooking her food or she’s out.
Taffer then moves onto Michelle to address the Kevin situation. The marriage should be placed first in their long list of problems, and Marley’s is severely damaging their marriage. Michelle explains to her husband that Marley’s is her dream now and she wants to continue with him as a silent partner. Although Kevin is reluctant, he agrees in order to save their business and their marriage. Once Kevin leaves and the work begins.
Russell Davis comes in to train the staff behind the bar, and needless to say, he is not impressed with their bartending skills. He decides to use rum as a main ingredient for many of the drinks he trains the staff to make because the number one spirit sold in Rhode Island is Captain Morgan spiced rum. In addition, two new employees are brought on to help behind the bar and as a server, Melissa and Sue Ann. Taffer also brought in a seasoned manager named Chris to help run the bar.
Taffer changes Marley’s on the Beach into St. Michelle Beach Club, based on a fictional Caribbean island, clearly named after the owner, Michelle. Taffer created two different concepts; there’s happy hour for the over 40 crowd and then there’s the nightclub which adheres to the young, dancing youth of Warwick. For the two different crowds, there are two different menus; Jon, Russell and Brandon came up with food and drink menus that are tropical and correlate to the proper demographic.
St. Michelle’s has been painted and transformed into a nautical paradise that the employees are extremely excited about. There are tables on the dance floor, which will come off when night strikes. Pastel colors surround the room and when the lights go down, fun, colorful lights will surround the dance floor. The beach patio was amplified, implementing new furniture, a redone tiki bar and fire pits.
Taffer projects that within four hours, St. Michelle’s can cultivate $2,800 which translates to $750,000 a year during happy hour alone. Being that the state of Rhode Island does not allow bars to discount booze, happy hour will consist of discounted food. It is proven that people stay 52 minutes longer at a bar when they order food, so discounted food will do St. Michelle’s a world of good.
During the relaunch, the bar was pumping out drinks that looked beautiful. The kitchen was even more impressive, cracking out orders with ticket times of 3-4 minutes when just a few days ago, it took 45 minutes to get an order out onto the floor.
The transition between bar and nightclub went smoothly and the younger crowd was excited to have such a hip hang out in town. St. Michelle’s is now the ‘cool’ place in to go.
The first night as St. Michelle Beach Club went nearly perfect and Michelle is excited to start paying off her debt. Marley’s on the Beach undertook a complete transformation into St. Michelle Beach Club. Marley’s was a failure and St. Michelle’s is a double-wammy money maker; the owners and staff could not be more pleased.
Six weeks after the relaunch, food and drink sales at St. Michelle’s went up 30%. Kevin remains a silent partner and only shows up to the bar with Michelle’s consent. Their marriage has greatly improved due to compromise and understanding. Michelle, Kevin and their staff are going to do infinitely better than before their rescue with St. Michelle Beach Club.