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Anatomy of a Rescue

The Olive Pit is reborn as O.P.

August 19, 2012 By: JoAnn Cianciulli


THE BAR

A frequent watering hole for the local blue-collar crowd, The Olive Pit, located in Orange, California, is the dive bar that nobody knows about—though it’s been around since 1962. The entrance is hard to find being buried in the back of strip mall where no one can see it. The Olive Pit is not a dive, it’s a disaster!

When retired banker Tim Eyerly bought the The Olive Pit in 2001 business was good, raking in $50,000 a month. But Tim treats his bar more like a hangout, spending his time drinking with customers and fondling the female bartenders. Under Tim’s control, The Olive Pit is hemorrhaging money and operating at a loss for the last 2 years, losing over $60,000 last year alone. The staff drinks on the job and Tim doesn’t seem to hold anyone accountable.

Recently his daughter Tracy intervened to try and change the fate of The Olive Pit, knowing her financial future was circling down the drain. Tim, who’s at an age where he’s comfortable in his ways, doesn’t believe Tracy has the chops to turn the bar around; their father daughter relationship is a constant tug-of-war of conflict and control.

 

THE CHALLENGE

Though The Olive Pit ostensibly is a cool neighborhood dive bar, the place looks … and smells, like a filthy wreck room—wreck being the operative word. If you can even find the place because of its lack of signage and curb appeal, inside the bar itself is dark, and deteriorating. Aside from the noticeable neglect of growing mold and corroded bar top, behind the scenes code violations of fire inspection and Ansul hood system maintenance has plagued the safety and success of The Olive Pit. Jon Taffer has little patience for Tim’s excuses, “A clean bar and kitchen costs just as much as a dirty one; money is not an excuse!”

Average food sales limp in at a mere $25 to $150 per day. The gals behind the bar overpour, comp drinks to regulars, and drink on the job. The Olive Pit lacks both a food and drink menu, with no signature items or forethought. The one-(wo)man kitchen not only prepares the food, but physically goes out onto the floor to actually take the customer orders (she does this by “memory”, without writing anything down.)

 

TURNAROUND TACTICS

Dive Bar doesn’t have to mean dump. A great dive bar should be clean, casual and comfortable with good product and good service. Jon brings up the bar’s upcoming 50th anniversary. “This is a great opportunity to step out of the dark and into the light. To rebrand not just the bar, but yourselves.” After much cajoling, Tim finally took Jon’s advice and turned operations over to daughter Tracy.

Since visibility was a huge concern, Jon created signage that people can truly see from the road that directed them on where to go. Taffer embraced The Olive Pit’s 50 year anniversary and coined a slogan to celebrate the history of this local gathering spot, “good times since 1962.” He explains, “this completely brands the bar. No mistake where you are and what you’re looking for.” And as far as the name change… “When people hear “olive” they think martinis and there are no martinis here. O.P. keeps the heritage, while making the name fresh. With the O.P. you’re no longer going to think of it as a “pit”!

Inside, the bar has been transformed into a hip and updated dive bar that’s comfortable and not at all scary. With stylish dark wood flooring and wallpaper reminiscent of the 1960’s, the décor now ties everything together and pays homage to the heritage of the

O.P. Retro lighting fixtures, giving O.P a more spacious and inviting feel, have replaced the horrid fluorescent lighting. The pinball machines, video games, and pool table placement has been rearranged to open up the space, helping delineate the bar area from the game area. A customer comments on the innovation, “O.P. has got a cool retro feel; like being in Grandma’s basement.”

The bar itself has been modernized. A new POS system installed by 2Touch POS so orders can be rung in by the bartenders and food tickets come out in the kitchen. One shaker and that’s it? Now they’re totally dialed in. We also brought in Bev-Intel liquor control system to track bar inventory and each and every ounce the bartenders pour for a full year. This system keep employee’s honest and the bar making money.

The kitchen has been power washed and professionally cleaned from top to bottom; all equipment is repaired and up to code. A new cook and hold oven, called the Alto-Shaam, replaces the deep fryer and freezer food. Perfect for a small kitchen, the machine allows you to cook in advance and hold items for service. The featured dish on the menu is handcarved roast beef sandwiches.

 

THE RESULTS

Since the relaunch the O.P.’s sales are increasing weekly, bringing in new clientele. Tracy is running the bar successfully and the staff is under control.


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