Will Cliques Have to Wave their White Flag?August 18, 2013 By: Mary-Kate Dunphy
Fort Bragg in Hope Mills, NC is one of the largest U.S. Army’s military bases with a population of 57,000 military personnel and 11,000 civilian employees. Cliques, a bar run by former Marine Todd Harr is just 13 miles from the base. The median age of Hope Mills is 21-29 and the average household income is $48,000; making it a perfect place to run a prosperous bar.
When Todd acquired Cliques in 2009 it was successfully run; catering to the thousands of people living and working at Fort Bragg. Then in 2011 Todd was deployed overseas and Cliques was left without its commanding officer. With no one to take charge, Cliques success went away with Todd. He returned six weeks later to a failing bar. During Todd’s deployment, his employees slacked off, partied and some even became romantically involved. With the bar spiraling out of control, Todd became angry and aggressive with his employees; he blames his staff and takes no accountability for his own failure.
Today, Cliques is losing $4,000 a month and is $140,000 in the hole. Todd is less than six months away from being forced to retreat.
Renowned consultant, Jon Taffer and his team of experts stake out Cliques to make their assessment. First things first, Cliques? “It reminds me of teenage girls and a prom dress shop,” states Taffer. It’s feminine and there is nothing manly nor military-esq about the name Cliques. One the inside the disappointment continues. The décor is tacky and there is nothing manly or military friendly about the bar.
Taffer sends in three people associated with the military to obtain the customer perspective. It is clear from the first order that the bartenders have not been properly trained; a ‘manly’ drink was ordered, and a waffle flavored shot was given. As for the kitchen, it took 25 minutes for a plate of nachos to get to the recon table. A plate of nachos should never take 25 minutes, enough said.
In addition to the terrible service it’s hard for the patrons not to notice the boxing/punching game in the bar. This is a problem; a game built to have men punch it only perpetuates violence, escalates testosterone and is just begging for an accident. And, of course, that is exactly what happened during the recon. A man punched through the boxing game and left with a bloody hand. This game is bad for business and is a law suit waiting to happen.
After Taffer witnesses the bloody hand he is just waiting to see what else is wrong with the bar. As he sits with Todd, his abrasive attitude is apparent indicating that he may be his own worst enemy. He is arrogant and takes no accountability for anything. There are roaches in the beer cooler, in the kitchen, and in a container of flour. Who does Todd blame? Not himself, he blames his employees when in actuality it is his job to oversee his staff and correct the problems at his bar.
Due to the tension the attitude issues spill over onto the employees. The dynamic between two of employees causes a problem for the bar. Bartenders, Lizzie and Jameson, act like children due to a past relationship. The two verbally and physically fight while on the job. People come to a bar to relax and have a good time; they do not come to enter a hostile environment. Taffer and his team quickly realize that what this bar needs is training, an attitude adjustment, and organization.
During the stress test, Taffer packs the bar with military personnel. Todd does not listen to professional chef, Nick Liberato, in the kitchen. Why listen to the professional? Needless to say, the kitchen failed that night. At the bar, Jameson cracks under pressure and needs serious training. Lizzie shines through the ruble of a mess her coworkers have created. Kim, the manager, only added to the confusion of the night. Todd is just as unorganized and refuses to take criticism which will be his demise if he doesn’t smarten up. The night was a complete failure; there were extremely long waits for drinks and badly cooked food.
Taffer sits down with Todd and both come to the agreement that Todd’s attitude is the real issue. His employees rebelled against his bully managerial style and to rescue Cliques, his ignorance must be eliminated. Todd accepts that he is wrong and the rescue can move forward.
To help the failing bar reinforcements were brought in: two veterans looking for work were brought in to help the struggling staff and become permanent members of the Cliques staff. Peter O’Connor, master of whiskey for Diageo, continues to train the employees behind the bar by teaching them simple cocktail recipes and techniques that will help them on the job. O’Connor creates a drink menu full of manly, whiskey cocktails with military inspired names to draw the military crowd in.
Todd finally gives into his ego and decides to listen to Liberto in the kitchen. This seems to be the biggest step taken in the entire rescue process; Todd’s arrogant, know-it-all attitude was truly a cancer to his business. There is nothing wrong with accepting help from more experienced people.
Taffer completes the rescue by transforming Cliques into the military bar it was meant to be. Cliques is no more; 22 Klicks Bar and Grill is now in business. In military jargon, a ‘klick’ is a kilometer and Fort Bragg is 22 kilometers away from the bar. Taffer turned the interior of 22 Klicks into a real military bar; it is a testament to those who serve America and it is a hats off to Todd. There are now military photos throughout the bar, a counter in the shape of a tank, new lighting and more.
Lizzie and Jameson have learned to act mature and have realized that their behavior was detrimental to the business. The bartenders and the cooks in the kitchen were all stars during the relaunch; both were getting slammed and while things got a bit shaky, the staff pulled through and came out on top. Kim stepped up during the relaunch and actually proves that she can be a leader. Todd is acting like a real owner and then some. It seems that this bar has been successfully rescued!
After the relaunch, 22 Klicks has done very well for itself. The military clientele that Jon invited back returned to the new 22 Klicks Bar and Grill and their sales have gone up 50%. At the rate he is going, Todd will pay back is $140,000 debt by the end of the year.
Taffer was extremely satisfied after this particular rescue because for so many years he has appreciated the military and their service to our country. Taffer is pleased that he could help a veteran turn his life around.