On Location with “Bar Rescue:” The Chicken Bone in Framingham, Mass.
When I mentioned to some co-workers that The Chicken Bone was about to be “rescued,” they were in shock. How could that be? They knew the place to be a great joint for wings, beer, live music and a lively crowd. It was always packed and practically an institution in Framingham, Mass. Why would such a crowded, popular watering hole need rescuing?
Well, apparently Owner Bill Rodenhiser knows firsthand the dirty little secret of the bar business: Just because a bar is packed doesn’t mean it’s making money. Luckily, Rodenhiser also knows enough to ask for help, and NCB Media Group President Jon Taffer was called in to dissect and resuscitate the business as part of his reality-show series “Bar Rescue,” premiering this summer on Spike TV.
Once a haven for the biker set, The Chicken Bone morphed into a kinder, gentler dive bar under Rodenhiser’s ownership, although it still sold plenty of its well-known hot wings and drew crowds with live bands (even charging a cover, not something a lot of bars can do in Framingham). He also held onto a lot of his long-time regular customers, but was finding that the Bone’s appeal to the younger set was waning. Perhaps the dive-bar charm of the cracked checkerboard flooring, chipping paint, dated mural of pop icons and American heros, combined with the overall dingy look and feel of the place, was fading.
But it seems his problems are more than just cosmetics and changing tastes. While sales are decent, costs are wildly out of line and operations could use an overhaul. On a recent visit during the episode taping, the vibe in the place was boisterous, but the staff was harried and hurried, taking way too many steps to do just about everything. The backbar and bar stations needed some serious reorganization and the tiny kitchen definitely screamed for an update to churn out enough signature wings to meet demand.
Taffer has his work cut out for him on this one, and one of the biggest challenges will be improving the business side while preserving what makes this local favorite a favorite. In fact, one member of our group was saddened that The Chicken Bone — her comfortable, familiar spot for a Vodka & Soda, wings and a good band — might not be the same after the Spike TV crew and Team Taffer completed the overhaul. Tune in this summer — “Bar Rescue” premieres on July 17 — to see what became of the Bone.
Watch for the premiere of “Bar Rescue” on Spike TV this summer and exclusive coverage of every episode on nightclub.com.