Jon Taffer, President of Nightclub & Bar and star and co-executive producer of Bar Rescue, took the stage to thunderous applause late Thursday morning…and quickly jumped down into the crowd. You see, he doesn’t do podiums. He also doesn’t do subtle. “My job for the next 45 minutes or so is to change your friggin' life... I wanna change the way you think!” he shouted, “You have an open mind or you wouldn't be here, right?” There are 220,000 bars throughout the United States and yet only a handful of their owners, operators and managers chose to attend 2013 NCB. As Jon sees it, those who made the decision to attend this year are those who stand the best chance of making the changes necessary to achieve longevity.
“Let me tell you what Bar Rescue has taught me, because it's even more profound than 30 years of success," said Jon, pacing the floor of the packed auditorium. "I learned, after 35 episodes of Bar Rescue, more about failure than I've learned about success.” The television show has served to reinforce Jon’s belief that fixing a business easy, it’s fixing people that’s tough. It has also proven that the common denominator of failure is, in fact, excuses. “Nobody likes to look in the mirror and see a failure,” stated the Bar Rescue star, “We don’t want to own failure. We’re quick own success.” We need to realize that owning our failures will lead to success and when we succeed, everybody wins.
In addition to no longer making excuses and committing to owning failures, everyone in the industry needs to realize that this business is not about revenue as many believe it to be, but about guest counts. If your guest counts are down, you need to fix it. If your guest counts are up, they need to be grown. We also need to understand just what business we’re actually in. This is the business of reactions. “We don't serve food, we use food as a vehicle to get reactions from people. We don't sell drinks, we use drinks as a vehicle to get reactions from people,” exclaimed Jon, “He or she who creates the greatest reaction in this business wins!” He drove home the point that everything a bar owner does during every moment of every day is – and must be – designed to get reactions from customers. “We live and die by the reactions we create,” he said somberly.
Reactions are not solely for the customer, however. We need to create reactions within our staff, and that brought Jon to the topic of staffing bars. He estimates that about 30% of those working in bars should never have been hired in the first place. Behavior modification takes years, which is why, Jon joked, we have prisons. We need to hire people who already care, who want to work in bars, clubs and restaurants, who want to be involved in creating reactions. If someone doesn’t care, they can’t be taught to care. If they don’t want to smile at customers, they can’t be taught to want to smile.
In closing, Jon educated the audience on fixing and growing frequency, because if frequency has dropped, the business has lost relevancy. He’s proud of the fact that college professors teaching students about the hospitality industry vehemently disagree with his take on marketing, stating that marketing is simply three things: New customer programs, customer frequency programs and expenditure enhancement programs. If a business can increase guest frequency by just one visit per month, it can equal a 12% increase in sales. Jon also eschews the outdated belief that percentage points are all that matter: “What do you put in the bank, dollars or percentage points? You can't just manage by percentage points.” He encourages spending time on more effective ways of increasing and maintaining or growing guest counts through Internet marketing, research, menu engineering, controlling eye movement, assertive bartender selling, constant premium brand or size upselling, effective service ratios (never more than 24 people for every one server) and using the staff to sell promotions and products. “If you don't make changes, our time together was wasted,” said Jon to conclude his informative and invaluable keynote. Do not waste your time – begin making changes today.