Bar Rescue immediately hooked me. The show started in July of 2011 and has turned itself into one of Spike TV’s most popular shows. With an average of about 2 million people per episode, Jon Taffer’s honesty and direct attitude towards improvement has found an audience. It is a fake-reality TV show with cameras documenting everything which essentially makes the characters, actors. I overlook this though because the show contains wonderful information on the ingredients to creating a successful bar. [pullquote align=”right” background=”on”]I don’t embrace excuses. I embrace solutions.” -Jon Taffer[/pullquote] This post will document concepts, sciences, and strategies that Taffer uses to create the proper setting for a bar/restaurant atmosphere. It should be noted that the rescued bars have mixed success as 9 of the 49 bars rescued have since closed. This is most likely due to poor management rather than the changes introduced. Taffer has rescued 800 bars throughout his 30+ year career and is considered an expert on the subject.
[dropcap background=”yes” color=”#333333″]”Are you a business owner or a chump?”[/dropcap]
Drinks – Can the bartender make a proper drink?
- An average beer brings in $4.00 of revenue @ 75% profit margin compared to an average cocktail which generates $7.00 of revenue @ 85% profit margin. Bar owners need to understand that they should be trying to get their customers to spend money on the more profitable items.
- Bars should give water to the customers. Alcohol drinkers get sick with no water and water will keep them drinking alcohol longer.
- A great bar uses real glasses instead of plastic cups. Having the proper type of glasses for the proper drink is also necessary. An example, a chilled pint glass makes the beer taste better and is more desirable. When you pour a beer, the tap should not touch the glass on the pour.
- The temperature the beer should be poured at is less than 36 degrees. When poured at this temperature, the keg will yield 95%. If beer is poured at higher than 36 degrees, the keg will only yield 60%. The colder the beer, the better and also tastes better to the customers. A keg should yield about 120 pint glasses.
- Selling draft beer is more profitable than bottles. Turbotap is recommended to get the best balanced pour every time.
- The perfect cocktail maxes profit because the customer drinks more of them. Perfect base of sugar, acid, and alcohol. Too sugary is too filling. Too tart and they drink slowly. Poorly made drinks take too long to drink and this causes the ice to melt which also increases drink times.
- Beverage cost is the cost of the product / total beverage sales. 21% is the industry average which means if you sell $10,000 dollars of alcohol, it should only cost you $2,100.
Food – Is the kitchen serving items people want?
- Average time for food out of the kitchen is 12 minutes. Longer wait times annoy customers and will stick in their mind the next time they consider coming back.
- A boxed item in the menu should be the most popular and MOST PROFITABLE. A shadowed item should be the 2nd. Keeping only a few boxed or shadowed items draws more customers to them.
- People go out to eat to eat good food. If the bar does not take their food seriously, it is missing the mark on repeat business. Signature items should be on the menu and differentiate themselves from competitors products.
- People who eat food stay 52 minutes longer while in a bar. This leads to more drinks and is a huge missed opportunity for bars that do not serve food.
- A theme to the food should be cohesive with the theme of the bar. Meaning if you have a sports bar, severing ball game food would make sense.
Management & Staff – Are they competent?
- Confrontation among family and friends with businesses was apparent and ill-advised. It is difficult for closely knit members to tell one another the truth of when they are not performing. The family and friend dynamic lead to many failed endeavors.
- Cleanliness of bar and the kitchen was overlooked in many of the bars in Bar Rescue. It’s amazing how negligent management can be in keeping a clean atmosphere for their patrons. Such an obvious trait that gets overlooked far too often.
- The serving time of 50 seconds per drink is average. If it takes longer than this for a bartender to serve a customer, the bar is losing money.
- Overpouring was a common theme from uneducated bartenders. Most bars did not train their staff to pour the drinks properly which leads to loss of profit from serving too much alcohol in a drink. Overpouring also leads to bigger tips, which is why it is common among bartenders, but the customers drink less which also leads to less profit for ownership.
- This is a simple financial explanation of overpouring: An oz of liquor costs $0.70. Overpouring by a half an oz costs the bar $0.35 each time. If the avg customers order 3 drinks and there are 300 customers, that equals $315 dollars a night which translates to $114,000 a year. It adds up.
- When bartenders do not have proper training, not only do they make the drinks wrong but they do not work efficiently. Bad bartenders define the experience and weigh heavy on the reputation of the bar. It is also in the bartenders best interest to become efficient because patrons tend to tip less on slow and poorly made drinks.
- The biggest issue with management is that they do not know what they are doing. No leadership. No rules. No standards. A successful bar needs someone who knows what they are doing to run this part of the business effectively. Experience is key.
Bar Layout – Is the bar inviting?
- A bar needs social interaction and a friendly environment. The atmosphere has to welcome this. A circular bar flow is recommended. This means that people can move around smoothly and not get stopped by dead ends. Seats with no backs to them allow people to interact with others behind them.
- The bar’s drink station should be within arms reach and neatly organized for bartenders. A poorly designed bar leads to slower drink times and confusion because there is too much movement. Multiple stations should exist for drink creations. A service bar away from the main bar is also conducive to quicker serving.
- An up-to-date point of sale system is necessary for thriving bars. Organization is key for taking orders and getting the proper items to the right customers. Out dated bars who use paper and hand written notes for all orders waste time and are inefficient which costs money and makes the bar look bad.
- Big areas should have a one room feel to them. Some places like to close off sections but this eliminates a bond amongst the patrons. Large rooms with sea of tables in the middle is not desirable or inviting.
- When a customer walks into a room, their eyes go to the brightest spot. Lighting up shelved, high end liquor typically was used to draw customers to higher profit margin items.
- Fluorescent lights in a bar make people tired and reduce stay by 30%. Pendants are the most commonly used lighting fixtures for over a bar counter.
- Small items for decor do not work in a bar. Larger items easy to see from anywhere is preferred. Especially involving items that pertain to the community surrounding the bar.
- Having a photo booth for people to take pictures in your bar for social media seemed attractive.
The Bar’s Concept
- The idea has to be cohesive and make sense. This was a common theme that owners did not understand often. Take a good look at what is around the area and play into that. If a bar is on a golf course, it does not make sense to have a Wild Wild West theme. Owners typically have an idea in mind and implement it without learning the target market of that location.
- Involve the community. Owners want the community to be apart of what they are doing because they are the customers. Find ways to implement ideas that play into the community. An example, if your Oregon bar wants to cater to runners of the area, the bar should have a huge picture of Prefontaine to draw and connect with customers.
- Character stands alone in the market. A bar needs to differentiate itself from the competition and to do that it needs to ace each part of the recipe. The food needs to be exquisite and unique. Drinks need to be made perfectly and have a different edge that sets them apart. The staff needs to be friendly and buy into the theme that the bar is selling. If there is nothing that sets you apart, people will not come back.
- Jon Taffer brings it all together in ways that people without experience could never do. The thought process behind the name for the bar, the decor, the food and drink, and the target market are all considered before making over the bar. It is truly a fascinating process.
Most owners are not business people. They do not understand the sacrifice that it takes to maintain and run a profitable bar. They do not understand what the customers want. They do not understand WHY THEY ARE FAILING! Bar rescue had examples of owners drinking on the job and letting their employees get away with stealing. They are not trying to succeed. Success is not given, it is earned. Making everything about your bar perfect is what it takes to survive in this industry. This show taught me many ideas that carry over into more than just the bar business. Business is business and unless you understand how it works, you do not stand a chance. I have to conclude with Jon Taffer is an exciting personality and his wife is pretty damn attractive as well.