For over 30 years,has traveled the country saving hundreds of bars from failure and ruin. During last night’s episode of hit show , he traveled to a rural area of Tucson, Arizona, with chef-owner Anthony Lamas, an expert in Latin cuisine, and mixologist and cigar expert Jacob Forth to rescue the Original Hideout, first established in 1952.
In 2008, Ramiro Flores, a defense attorney practicing law in the Tucson area, invested a portion of his life savings to become a co-owner of the Original Hideout. His goal was to invest in a business he wouldn’t have to work on every day, hoping it would become successful enough down the road that he could work less an as attorney.
Like many owners before him, Ramiro’s only bar experience was visiting bars and ordering drinks. After he had been involved with the business for a year, he bought out his business partner. Quite a strong move for someone who hadn’t truly learned every element of the business and finely honed the necessary skillset. Ramiro brought on his brother Raoul Ramirez to act as manager and offered him 33 percent ownership to his 67 percent. Unfortunately, Raoul had the same amount of experience in this industry: zero. Raoul, formerly a corrections officer, estimated he had received no more than three weeks of industry “training.”
Another issue? Ramiro wasn’t providing full support to Raoul, meaning the former corrections officer was left with the daunting challenge of handling disobedient team members on his own. As Raoul tells it, Ramiro’s method of “management” is placing calls to Raoul ask if everything is going well and drama-free.
Not surprisingly, forced to manage the bar by himself, Raoul began to treat the staff as he would unruly prisoners. Running a bar as you would a prison? Not a great plan for success. With nowhere else to turn, Ramiro decided to pull back the doors, bust open the books, and make the call for help to Jon Taffer and Bar Rescue.
The area in which the Original Hideout is located is 71 percent Hispanic, 68 percent single, and has a median age of 32 years. The road on which the bar is located is well traveled. Unfortunately, during recon it was shown that the venue it rather dark on the outside. Both Chef Lamas and Forth said they wouldn’t even notice the bar’s signage.
During recon it was revealed that Ramiro is $300,000 in debt. Taffer also explained that Ramiro put the money into the bar and hired Raoul as manager, expecting him to figure things out. Raoul, on the other hand, has said that he expected Ramiro to be at the bar to help him more. There was frustration on both sides, and that’s not conducive to success or longevity for any bar.
Taffer pointed out the back of house to Lamas, which consisted of chef Lisa and cook Manuel. Forth would be dealing with bartenders Gloria (Ramiro and Raoul’s sister), Patty and Summer. The Bar Rescue host sent two women into the Original Hideout who know bars and are familiar with Tucson, Suzette and Melissa. During recon, they tried to order draft beer and a Mango Margarita, and asked to see a cocktail menu. The Original Hideout, however, didn’t have draft beer, mango mix, or a cocktail menu. Strike one, strike two, strike three, just like that. At least Gloria was pleasant.
Putting their focus back on the kitchen and observing chef Lisa and cook Manuel, the trio watched the former set a tray of raw chicken on top of a garbage can; rinse raw chicken in a colander in the dish sink; put the raw chicken in a prep area and let it drip all over the place; drop the raw and wet chicken in a fryer with a shocking amount of froth on top of the oil, meaning the bottom of it wasn’t clean. All of this while Raoul “supervised,” by which Taffer explained meant he didn’t train the kitchen staff, or clean or organize the kitchen. So, what did he do all day while at work? Realizing that they needed to intervene before the chicken or any other food was served to guests, Taffer sent Chef Lamas in to shut down the kitchen, instructed Forth to shut down the bar, and he intended to confront Ramiro.
During a heated confrontation in the kitchen, Taffer asked Ramiro what the deal was when he brought on Raoul. He explained Raoul was supposed to run the bar and be “the nuts and bolts guy.” Ramiro would put up the business end. Raoul had $0 invested to Ramiro’s $300,000. When Taffer suggested that Raoul either didn’t respect Ramiro’s money or was in idiot—or both—Ramiro disagreed, although he blamed Raoul for the problems in the kitchen and the bar.
After Taffer tossed poorly prepared food around to make his point that nothing done in the kitchen was correct, Raoul chose to tell him that he was being disrespectful. That didn’t go over well, considering that Raoul was being disrespectful to the guests by risking their health. Taffer and his recon team left, instructing Raoul to clean the kitchen by the time they returned in the morning. You’ll want to make sure to catch this episode to watch the confrontation, which took place less than 10 minutes in! Ramiro left the kitchen to converse with his friends. That choice didn’t sit well with Raoul, so he wished his brother good luck before removing his mic and leaving the bar. Ultimately, he ended up running away from Ramiro down the sidewalk.
Ramiro attempted several phone calls to Raoul the next morning. His wife picked up and told Ramiro that she had been told not to speak to him. Ramiro hoped his brother would return because he didn’t want him to miss out on Taffer helping to turn the bar around.
On Taffer’s return to the Original Hideout it was revealed that the bar had made less than $500,000 the previous year and was losing about $6,000 each month. Ramiro was optimistic that the bar could be rescued but placed the blame for the failures squarely on the shoulders of Raoul, who blamed the kitchen issues on Lisa, who made excuses and claimed she was a good cook. When asked why she still had a job at the Original Hideout, Ramiro conceded that was his fault. It turned out that Raoul didn’t want Lisa as the chef. She had left once but when they needed another cook Ramiro brought her back. Gloria said that she felt 60 percent of the problems stemmed from the kitchen. In her opinion, the back of house did whatever they wanted to do, and the kitchen was always dirty.
Having heard all this new information, Taffer explained to Ramiro that he was treating Raoul unfairly. He went as far as to say that Raoul had a legitimate claim that he had been treated incorrectly because Taffer had assumed, with the information he had been given, that Raoul had control over the kitchen. It was unfair to claim that management was Raoul’s responsibility when Ramiro was impeding his authority. When Ramiro claimed that Lisa would be gone “right here, right now” if it were up to him, Taffer called him out on his copout. He had no problem bringing a problematic employee back into the business but didn’t want to be the one to deal with the consequences. Taffer forced Ramiro’s hand, saying that if he owned 67 percent of the business he needed to make an ownership decision and fire Lisa. He did.
With Lisa gone, Chef Lamas was able to help the kitchen start over. The first new menu item he introduced was the Navajo Taco, a fried-bread taco with adobo-spiced ground beef, cumin, coriander, paprika, black beans, slaw with chives, and a touch of lime. Elevated bar food, right out of the gate. Another new dish was Roadhouse Chili, a simple dish that can be made ahead of time and served quickly.
While Chef Lamas was doing his thing in the kitchen, mixologist Forth was working with the bar team. He noticed a large array of vodkas behind the bar. When he asked what most guests were ordering he was told beers and shots. With a Hispanic population of 71 percent, more tequila needed to be on the menu. Forth introduced a blanco tequila cocktail, one with reposado, and a drink featuring mezcal. The Boozy Watermelon Cooler is made by muddling watermelon and cilantro, adding half ounces of lime and agave, pouring an ounce-and-a-half of reposado tequila, and shaking with ice. Strain over a large ice cube. The El Matador begins with a rocks glass prepared with a worm salt rim, which is exactly what it sounds like: worms that live in agave plants are ground up with salt when they’re plump. In a pint glass add an ounce of pineapple juice, a quarter-ounce of agave, a half-ounce of chili liqueur, and an ounce-and-a-half of reposado tequila, and ice. Stir for 15 to 20 seconds and pour into the prepared glass.
During bar training, Raoul’s wife called Ramiro and told him that he wasn’t coming back. The Original Hideout was without a manager and without a kitchen manager. Taffer explained to the staff that he expected big problems during the stress test but applauded the amount of fight in Ramiro. Gloria and Ramiro came up with a plan: Ramiro would handle back-of-house issues and Gloria would work front of house.
As was to be expected, Ramiro’s lack of experience showed during the stress test. People seated at the bar were able to place orders (some of them, anyway) but people seated at tables had not been acknowledged and therefore couldn’t place orders. Ramiro, who understood business but now a bar needs to be run, hadn’t even noticed. Lack of experience translated to a lack of coordination, communication, and proper delegation of tasks. Thirty minutes into the stress test food was coming going out cold, food was coming back, half the room had yet to order food, only about 15 percent of the room been served, and guests were leaving. It didn’t take much longer than that 30 minutes for the call to “Shut it down!” to echo throughout the room. It was time to train, fix management and operations issues, and renovate the bar.
While the staff took their training seriously and caught on, that didn’t make up for the need for a manager. Either Raoul needed to return, Ramiro would have to take up the position, or another manager would have to be hired. The reality was that Ramiro had an active legal practice with a full calendar—he couldn’t manage the bar full-time. But he was into the bar to the tune of $300,000 and needed to protect his investment. The solution was Gloria, Ramiro and Raoul’s sister, stepping in and stepping up.
The name of the bar was kept as a nod to its history and importance to the community. The exterior had been updated and was much, much better lit. The interior received an extensive renovation which included a stage that could be hidden by a wall feature, stools and a table. Three Harbortouch POS systems had been installed (two behind the bar and one on a wall), a bacanora (moonshine tequila) “still” that dispensed a specialty shot was situated behind the bar, and Taffer got the Original Hideout a lifetime subscription to inventory tracker Bevinco.
Six weeks after the renovation, the Original Hideout’s sales were up 25 percent, Manuel was running the kitchen, and Raoul returned as a manager.
Taffer’s Cut the BS Excuses that Hold you Back” during Questex’s at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday, March 26 from 11 to 11:45 a.m. Based upon the New York Times Bestseller, Don’t BS Yourself!: Crush the Excuses That Are Holding You Back, Taffer’s keynote, sponsored by Paramount Network, will offer methods on how to increase productivity and revenue through challenging the habits and processes business owners use to justify failure. Don’t miss out on this lifechanging keynote!, entrepreneur, CEO and hospitality trailblazer, will deliver the keynote “