On Location with “Bar Rescue:” Angry Ham’s Garage, Framingham, Mass.June 27, 2011 By: Michelle Mitchell
As Nightclub & Bar Media Group’s marketing director, I had the privilege of going behind the scene as Spike TV filmed the last episode of Season One for its new reality series "Bar Rescue." I am part of Jon Taffer’s management team at Nightclub & Bar Media Group and am lucky to witness his undying enthusiasm and commitment to the nightclub and bar industry. Starring in “Bar Rescue” is yet another avenue for him to share his knowledge.
Was Angry Ham’s Garage on Beacon Street in Framingham, Mass. doomed from the get-go? Just getting approval to obtain the liquor license previously held by a restaurant was a challenge. In September 2010, three partners — Timothy C. Hanna, Richard Oleson and former Boston Bruins player Lyndon “LB" Byers — were denied twice by the city of Framingham’s board. Were they denied because nearby elderly residents were concerned their new neighbors would be loud and rowdy? Was the name “Angry Ham’s” too offensive to residents? Perhaps it was it the six drunken-driving convictions racked up by two of the three partners? The real reason likely was a combination of the three, but once Hanna bought out Byers and Oleson — the two with the drunken-driving convictions — Angry Ham’s Garage received the green light and was in business.
Officially open in November, the pub and restaurant met with moderate success, but lack of curb appeal, employee discipline and management control has severely stifled the bar’s potential and profits.
Angry Ham’s Garage recently got a new lease on life when the bar industry’s best repairman, Jon Taffer, head of consulting firm Taffer Dynamics, president of Nightclub & Bar Media Group and executive producer and star of Spike TV’s new reality series “Bar Rescue,” drove into the parking lot to fix it.
I was lucky enough to witness from "Bar Rescue’s" onsite control room during some of the early filming at Angry Ham’s Garage where Taffer, with seemingly little effort, lured out good, honest (and sometimes tearful) feedback about the bar’s woes from employees. The staff, including the bar manager, chefs, servers and Hanna as well as Olseon and Byers (who remain investors, not partners) were spilling their guts with lots of raw emotion. I was drawn in from the beginning.
Lack of leadership, an unclear pecking order, a disengaged owner, no established bar rules and little communication were common themes shared by the staff. Poor branding and curbside appeal is a problem too: The sign and the building give no clear indication that the establishment is a bar or restaurant, not a service garage! Perhaps the most shocking was the amount of product unaccounted for during a four-day period.
After identifying the problems and engaging the staff, Taffer goes to work using his proven strategies and tactics developed during his nearly 30-year career. He also engages a team of experts, including world-renowned Chef Brian Duffy and Diageo mixology expert Brian Van Flandern. Together Taffer and team work on everything from curb appeal, establishment branding, menu and drink choices, menu design and, perhaps most importantly in this instance, a clear management structure and defined establishment rules.
My time spent at the taping ends at this point. After the training takes place, they’ll spend a couple of days transforming Angry Ham’s Garage and relaunching it with a big reveal to the locals. I frankly can’t wait to see the final results when this episode airs, as I’m already emotionally connected to the Angry Ham’s Garage staff. I have no doubt Taffer and team will work magic and the staff will have the tools they need to operate more efficiently and effectively. In my short time on location with "Bar Rescue," I am rooting for Angry Ham’s Garage. If the owner and staff take Taffer’s wisdom and advice to heart, I am sure this will be one pub and restaurant running in mint condition!
Join me and tune into Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” when it premieres on July 17.