As "Bar Rescue's" culinary producer, I’m fortunate to have a unique perspective on the behind-the-scenes process of making Spike TV's new reality show AND the featured bars a success. I work very closely with Jon Taffer, president of Nightclub & Bar Media Group and the head of consulting firm Taffer Dynamics, and our experts to improve the bars' drink and food programs, including menu development, design, pricing and installation of necessary equipment. I’m thrilled to be a part of Taffer’s team and eager to share the inside scoop with you.
As the only bar in Yorba Linda, Calif., that has a liquor license safely grandfathered, Canyon Inn has seen generations of Orange County customers. But because of it’s dive-bar-meets-strip-mall-meets-sports-pub-meets-battle-of-the-bands setting, the Canyon Inn is a confused little spot with an identity crisis, and bar tabs and clientele are at an all-time low.
Situated between pizza and tattoo parlors, the bar has seen better days even from the outside: The flowerbed has become a giant ashtray, band stickers adorn the shabby front door and the neon sign is half lit. The inside is even more dilapidated: The tile floor has sections missing, old chewing gum is stuck under tables and the bar top is falling apart. To be sure, this shabby place is dusty and dark!
Owner Paul Ambrus was a bouncer at Canyon Inn in the mid-1990s. When the owners retired in 2004, Ambrus got first crack at the keys. Since then, Ambrus says business is down 30%, and he knows something needs to change. Because Canyon Inn is the only bar with a grandfather clause (the town incorporated in 1967 doesn't allow new bars to open; Canyon has been in business since 1965), the local clientele runs the gamut. The array of customers varies dramatically throughout the day, shifting with the changing light, as the sun moves from east to west. From daytime faithful regulars to the evening’s younger college crowd, the Canyon Inn’s demographic is in constant flux.
“The daytime regulars and nighttime college crowd want two different things," Ambrus says. "How can I please them both?”
Enter Taffer, who encourages Ambrus to realize, “A successful bar needs to hook all crowds every day!”
Taffer explains his strategy: Ambrus must create different environments specifically for the older daytime crowd with lunch specials and happy hour cocktails. But once the clock strikes 9 p.m., the bar should feature an after-dark party atmosphere for the younger collegiate drinker, with a menu featuring fun, hip drinks as well as late-night eats utilizing the same in-house inventory.
A key element in achieving this dichotomy is menu engineering and design, of which the Stafford, Texas-based firm Patrick Henry Creative Promotions is a master. Menus are an effective tool in influencing guest purchases and increasing revenue. The design team at Patrick Henry uniquely handcrafts every menu for the "Bar Rescue" series to reflect each bar's concept and image, as well as its business goals. Love these guys!
I can’t give away much more than that, but tune into Spike TV this summer to see how the rescue panned out, and check out nightclub.com for exclusive coverage of each episode.