Toucans is Anything but a Day at the Beach
In 2004 best friends and New Jersey natives, Jamie and John teamed up with the goal to open a bar 40 minutes north of Miami in sunny Hollywood, Florida. For over a year Jamie and John worked day any night, fighting their way through two hurricanes and pushing towards success. After all the hard work, owning the bar started to become fun and money was flowing. They were making approximately $80,000 a month.
Then Jamie was hit by a storm he couldn’t weather; he lost a son. Unable to handle the greif, Jamie dove deeper into the daily operations of the bar, lashing out at everyone around him including his best friends and partner, John. The former two best friends have gone from fighting for their business to fighting each other. Now they barely speak, working at the same place but not on the same goal.
The lack in communication has resulted in a staff free-for-all, a rundown bar and a dwindling customer base. With over $250,000 worth of debt between the two of them, Toucans Oceanside Bar & Grill is less than 5 months away from closing their doors for good.
Hollywood, Florida is one of the top 10 beach destinations in America, bringing in tourists from all over the world to enjoy the sun and the sand. The boardwalk which Toucans sits on has 8-9 thousand people a day that walk on it. Unfortunately, Toucans is not able to catch any of the tourists or local boardwalk strollers.
Toucans is a 3,000 square foot space featuring an oval shaped bar with two speed wells and an outdoor deck and patio. The bar has 50’s diner’s tables and Irish bar chairs in a beach environment painted white. This dated and in cohesive theme isn’t helping the profitability of the bar.
Once inside Jon Taffer and this experts sit at a table and analyze the property and the staff. They end up flagging down the staff to ask for someone to take their order. When the bartender finally comes over Jon orders multiple drinks. When she doesn’t write anything down he asks her why she doesn’t have a pad of paper. This demonstrates that they have accepted that they are not going to be busy and are setting themselves up for failure by not being prepared.
After briefly speaking with the owners Taffer floods the bar with 60 customers. With two bartenders, both owners and the cook, they should be able to pull off serving all of them. However, not even 5 minutes into the challenge the bartenders stop entering drinks into the pos system and start giving away shots for free. One bartender gives away two bottles of Patron in shots. In addition to the bartenders pouring money down the drain there are bugs in the bottom of the liquor bottles.
Things don’t get much better in the kitchen. It’s a disaster. There is grease all over the floor, unwrapped food sitting at room temperature and rat traps all over the place. The cook becomes so upset and overwhelmed that he quits in the middle of the shift because he isn’t receiving any help.
The next day when Jon returns to the bar the staff has cleaned and the cook has decided to come back. He feels as though the owners left him hanging and aren’t doing anything to help the situation. However, with Jon in town he sees the bar as a possibility and gives Jon his word that he will not walk out again.
During the team meeting, Taffer points out that the owners are waking up to a failed business and each day they are not doing anything different to change their fate. Therefore, Jon puts the owners on the spot. They need to start making firm and authoritative decisions and hold their staff accountable for their actions. They cannot let the bartenders continue to give away thousands of dollars of product every night.
In order to bring the bar back to life Taffer brings in experts Chef Nick Liberato who runs his own beachside bistro and Florida native and master mixologist Kyle Mercado. They immediately get to work training the staff in proper techniques.
Kyle’s familiarity of Florida flavors can turn any blundering bartender into a crafty cocktail slinger. He works with the bartenders training them on how to correctly make a zombie; balancing the spirit and juice for a full flavored cocktail. He also has them work with fresh fruit including kiwi, star fruit and mango in order to get their cocktails apart from other bars on the boardwalk. Using premium spirits they create new cocktails and shareable drinks.
During the stress test the bartenders are put on their toes with Kyle yelling out commands on how to make cocktails and coaching them on speed and accuracy. They need to make more than one drink at a time in order to succeed.
With his skillful technique Chef Nick can turn any washed up cook into an outstanding chef de cuisine. He begins working with the cook on how to properly shuck and present oysters to customers. In order to properly shuck the oyster you want to slight pop the end and then slowly work your way around the sides, being careful to keep all of the juice inside. Once the top is popped off its time to clean around the edges of the oyster and then flip it over in the shell releasing more juice. To enhance the overall presentation of the oysters they create a complimentary topping and grill the oysters to perfection. In addition to the oysters Chef Nick introduces other fresh seafood including shrimp skewers.
In a tropical location rats are a factor that needs to be dealt with. They live in walls and floors and can infest a dingy bar. Bar owners need to use a professional extermination company to keep them at bay or they will take over the bar, as such at Toucans. Taffer calls in the professionals to deal with the problem.
Once the staff is trained the next 36 hours consist of Taffer and his team completely revamping Toucans. They add new pos systems, novelty glassware, bold signage and distressed décor. With the new historical concept they nailed the demo, provided logic to their food and beverage. With these changes the bar is now set up for success.
Taffer turns Toucans into Bonnie & Read’s, a pirate themed bar that has roots in Florida history. The new look and menu added a new energy to the bar and the staff. Six weeks after the re-launch the bartenders continue to hone their craft, the kitchen is clean and organized and Jamie and John are now working together restoring their friendship and business.