Ever walk through your place after a tough night and find yourself humming a few bars of “Rescue Me,” the old Fontella Bass classic? Maybe your ceiling is leaking and your bathrooms are in desperate need of a remodel, or your bartender’s hand is in the till and product is walking out the back door. Maybe your staff has morphed into a bunch of gum-chewing, disinterested slackers who are texting when they should be taking drink orders. Maybe you’re overleveraged and getting your proverbial butt kicked by the swanky new place down the block that’s backed by deep-pocketed partners. Or maybe you’re dealing with all of the above.
Since April, Nightclub & Bar Media Group’s own Jon Taffer threw a lifeline to 10 bars around the country facing these and other challenges. Armed with decades of experience starting, running and consulting with bars, clubs and restaurants, Taffer and a team of experts — flanked by a television crew numbering more than 50 people — took control of each bar, turning it around in a mere four days. When his unscripted “Bar Rescue” debuts on Spike TV July 17, Taffer will shine a light on what it takes to run a bar successfully, revealing what we all know: This is not a business for the faint of heart.
“Everyone who’s ever walked into a bar thinks they understand our business, but what they don’t understand is that it isn’t an easy business — it’s very complicated and very difficult,” Taffer says.
One of his goals with the show is to demonstrate to viewers the professionalism and passion of bar and club operators.
“This will increase [viewers’] respect for our industry and our business, and create excitement for us,” he says. “People now look at the restaurant industry and know it’s a tough one, but too often our business is discounted. I’d like the world to know that we’re a sophisticated industry of outstanding operators who want to do a really good and socially responsible job.”
To make that point, he’s got to fix some dysfunctional bars.
The bar at Blue Frog 22 in Chicago awaits its “Bar Rescue” remodel.
“What we love about ‘Bar Rescue’ is the idea that every bar has its own unique issues and carries its own baggage, not unlike every family,” says Sharon Levy, executive vice president of original series and animation at Spike TV. “Jon has the ability to go in, cut through all the BS and help people rebuild their businesses from the ground up. And the process is so engaging. We see the conflict, the bad decisions, the whole ugly mess to get at what could be a thriving bar.”
In each episode, the team uses six steps, which at times can be painful for the bar’s owners and staff. First, there’s recon, during which Taffer or an expert mystery shops the venue. Then, there’s the take-over: Taffer and the team take control of the business and embark on a crash program of revising everything from operations to menu offerings and retrain the staff. Third, he conducts a “stress test” to see how the staff manages under the new systems, menu and standards. Then, the place is shuttered for 36 hours and renovated; some bars even get a completely new concept. Amid much excitement, the new look is revealed to the owners, management and staff, and finally, to the public in a grand reopening.
Star of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” and Nightclub & Bar Media Group President Jon Taffer talks to Chef Brian Hill about the food menu at Swanky Bubbles in Philadelphia.
While the public will learn about the complexities of the bar business, bar and club pros are sure to pick up plenty of useful tips, insights and ideas. Taffer and his team of pros get into everything from how to evaluate a local market’s demographics and street-traffic patterns to how to maximize business, to pulling dead weight off of a drink menu and the impact of things such as barstool style and height on a guest’s length of stay. Be sure to tune in — after watching each episode, you’ll no doubt go into your place the next day fired up and ready to make some changes for the better. NCB
Exclusive Coverage on Nightclub.com
After each episode, go straight to nightclub.com for information and extras available only to the Nightclub & Bar audience:
- Exclusive video outtakes. Commentary from the rescued bar’s owners, managers, bartenders and staff, as well as Jon Taffer and the experts involved in the turnaround.
- On-location blogs. Find out what it was like on the actual shoot for each episode.
- Business case studies. An industry insider’s walk-through of the operational, financial, personnel and marketing challenges faced by each bar, the tactics used to correct the issues and the outcome.
- Shop the show. Learn more about the products and services used to breathe new life into each business.
Then, stay tuned to nightclub.com as we check in with each bar to see how business is going a few months after the “rescue.” Are the bar’s management and staff able to keep the momentum going?