The Staff at Bryant's Ice House Gets Wild...CatteredApril 13, 2014 By: Mary-Kate Dunphy
After 31 years of being a part of the family accounting practice, a man named Jeff ventured on his own and bought a bar called Bryant’s Ice House in Katy, Texas. Katy has a small population of 15,636 people; however, an additional 13,000 blue collar workers are in the area every day which is a 70% boost to the population daily. The bar fails to pull in the locals and the blue collar workers thirsting for an after work watering hole.
Jeff kept the same name and poured $1,100,000 into purchasing Bryant’s Ice House, a biker bar with a bad reputation. Despite Jeff’s efforts, to reinvigorate the dying dive, he kept the old name and as a result the old clientele went nowhere fast. In addition to the rough crowd, the bar itself is positioned down a dimly lit, deserted road which discourages its potential patrons.
On top of overlooking the bar externally, Jeff lacks the ability to reign in his feisty employees. Customers, tired of enduring the staff’s fighting and aggression, more often than not, head for the door.
In addition to his $1,100,000 debt, Jeff has already lost his home. Bryant’s Ice House is losing $6,000 a month and Jeff’s dream is at the end of a dismal path.
The most noticeable problem that Bryant’s Ice House is its location; Jon Taffer and Russell Davis actually get lost on the way to the recon. At one point Taffer says that the bar is in the worst location he has ever seen. A young girl will not drive down a dark, eerie road at midnight to go to a bar, and men won’t go either if they can’t even see it.
After calling Bryant’s and finally tracking down the bar, it’s clear that there are excessive amounts of drama within the business. The bartenders violently fight behind the bar in front of customers; the fights get physical and at one point, a soda gun was used as a super soaker. They are blatantly causing Jeff to fail and he does nothing to stop it due his fear of confrontation. Employee interaction is a key factor in operating a properly functioning bar. If your guests feel uncomfortable they will leave and if the employees are fighting amongst themselves it prevents them from actually doing their jobs.
To go along with the bar staff’s hazardous behavior, most are not particularly good bartenders. It is clear it is necessary for them to go through extensive training behind the bar. It can take the bartenders as long as 90 minutes to get people drinks on a busy night.
The maintenance man and security guard, Randy, gets drunk every night; during the recon, he is intoxicated, obnoxious and chases girls out of the bar. Employees drinking in the workplace will never reflect positively on your business, nevermind drinking on the job.
Bryant’s Ice House does not have a kitchen in the actual bar; instead they have a food truck out back, which has a good quality, clean kitchen inside. It would cost approximately $150,000 to implement a kitchen of that caliber into the bar, by having a food truck, Bryan’s is saving about $70,000 and the positive is that you can also move it to other locations.
While the food truck is a solid investment, the practices in which the truck is run are more than questionable; all food that is served at Bryan’s is frozen. Frozen food might seem cost effective but in actuality, it eats into the bottom line. When frozen food is dropped into the oil of a fryer, moisture escapes into the oil, decreasing the temperature by as much as three degrees; the lower the oil temperature can lead to longer ticket times which can result in a 25-30% drop in food sales throughout the night. Frozen food isn’t creative, it has no concept and there is no branding potential.
The food ticket system at Bryant’s is also an issue; ticket times run as high an hour and Brian, the cook, often has to leave the kitchen because his servers are not there to run the food.
Jeff agrees with Taffer that the biggest problem at his bar is that it was someone else’s dream; he went all in on the property but he did not go all in on his actual dream. Jeff is very willing to learn and open to change and the first step he took in the direction of change was firing two bartenders who were detrimental to his business, one who was stealing from the business and one who simply was too ignorant to take on bartending fundamentals. Jeff also promoted one of his bartenders, Nadya, to bar manager after proving herself in a stress test.
Jeff brings in two new bartenders and a server in for training with Texas native Russell Davis behind the bar. Davis provides the staff with basic training along with tips that will help them during busy nights, such as make more than two drinks at a time.
To help the cook, Brian, Taffer brings in food truck expert, Eric Regan. Brian has been a cook since age 11, so he does have great potential. Once the frozen food dilemma is addressed, Regan brings in fresh ingredients for Brian to work with from now on. Regan also helps Brian brush up on his time management skills and ticket times.
Now that Jeff is finally building up his courage and acting like an owner, the bartenders have trained and the food truck is on its way to triumph, Taffer can get to work on a new concept for the bar. Being that there are 13,000 industrial employees that work within one mile of Bryant’s Ice House, there is a huge opportunity for happy hours. This bar needs signature food and beverages in order to get people down that dark road. Taffer, Davis and Regan conclude that this is going to be a working’s man bar; hardy, Texas portioned sandwiches and whiskey cocktails.
Bryant’s Ice House was converted into The Wildcatter Saloon; a wildcatter is a risk taking industrial worker who hunts for oil and Taffer wanted to pay tribute to the history in Katy. A large panel truck with “The Wildcatter Saloon” was parked at the end of the street so people will now know a bar exists down the road. Once people turn down the street, there is also a large sign, again, leading customers towards the bar.
Randy, the badly behaved maintenance man, was given a chance to prove himself by working 36 hours straight with the Bar Rescue team in the remodel. Saying he came through for his boss and friend is an understatement.
All the wood inside Bryant’s Ice House was darkened for The Wildcatter Saloon; it gives the atmosphere a more intimate feel which increases length of stay. Taffer excessively branded the bar, and placed the logo everywhere possible.
The food truck was no exception; it is now a full blown Wildcatter truck. There was also a system put into the truck so that Brian is ensured a food runner when needed and he will never have to leave his respected position at the grill.
Two POS systems with two drawers were put in behind the bar to avoid waiting time and confusion. A third service station was also implemented which will increase capacity by 1/3.
During the relaunch of The Wildcatter Saloon, the staff works as a team and everything seems to come together. Ticket times in the kitchen ran just 6-7 minutes and the hardy sandwiches were a hit, a woman told Brian that she felt as though she was eating from a four-star restaurant. The staff of Bryant’s went from a catastrophic failing performance to working a perfect opening at The Wildcatter; customers ensured that they will be returning with their buddies after work.
Six weeks after the relaunch, food and beverage sales are up 35%. As head bartender, Nadya has hired two additional staff members and the employees have continued to work together. Jeff has taken on a true leadership position and is pleased to report that The Wildcatter Saloon has seem many new faces each night.