3 Ways Jon Taffer’s Bar Rescue Sets Unrealistic Expectations
Do you watch the reality bar and restaurant shows? Truth be told, I can only watch them when my wife isn't around because she hates it when I actually yell at the TV. In this case, I want to share with you three ways Jon Taffer’s Bar Rescue sets unrealistic expectations for restaurant and bar owners not featured on his show. Click below or keep scrolling to read what I respect about his process and why it sets unrealistic expectations.
I recently watched an episode of John Tapper's Bar Rescue. It was the Paradise Cantina, Las Vegas episode, which was recorded during the pandemic. And again, truth be told, Taffer was on point. The owner’s sales were already decreasing by 30 percent before the pandemic. Taffer told the owner that the pandemic was an excuse for his current troubles, there was something else going on in his business way before the pandemic hit and the pandemic just magnified it. Taffer said the challenges he was facing were all a result of a lack of management, waste and bad training.
These are truths in our industry that often take operators out. Taffer was on point. He talked about:
- The importance of consistency, making sure the guest gets the same product every single time, that the drinks are the same every single time.
- Accountability, holding his team accountable, who were giving away drinks, literally robbing him of his profits. They had poured probably $3,600 in what should have been rung up in the register, but only $1,800 was actually rung up.
- Knowing your numbers so you actually understand that there was over $150,000, if I remember correctly, that was left on the table because of bad management.
And he was right. All of his insights and advice were sound and on point.
With all that said, here's where I have a problem with the show.
***Now, disclaimer here: I've auditioned for several shows myself, and if I get the opportunity, I would accept these unrealistic expectations in order to help as many operators that I can and gain the notoriety to explode my business. So this, again, is no way a negative on what Taffer is doing. It’s just an explanation of why you can’t expect the same results unless Taffer’s in your restaurant.***
So the gist of the show and what it takes to make it work is really over about four days, right ?
There's day one, the evaluation. Taffer and his team come in with hidden cameras and they say, look, look how bad the food is. Look how bad the drinks are, look how bad the consistency is, look how dirty the place is. You know, depending on how many episodes you've watched, you've seen some really scary stuff. While a lot of that is set up for TV, that's a reality in our business, many of us don't know what's going on in our business because we don't really look at it with a customer's eyes. We want to blame others.
Day two of the show is the stress test. Taffer comes in and says, OK, here's my team. We're going to help you in the kitchen. We're going to help you behind the bar. We're going to tell you a little bit about what's going on. But first, we're going to stress you out. We're going to put a line of people in and see how you handle the stress test.
Understanding this is great for TV, this is where I diverge. I don't believe in a stress test. Like if I'm opening a brand-new restaurant, I'm telling my member, my client, hey, you're going to do a soft open. Click the lights on a Monday and tell no one. Oh, by the way, this is after two, three, four days of friends and family in a controlled environment where we test and train and test and train because I don't want to open up on a Friday. I don't want you to open up on a holiday because that's when you’ll have your butt kicked. And then everybody in the world thinks you suck because everyone's new and it was an opening night.
Day three is the remodel and retraining. Now the remodel. Even if sometimes it's lipstick on a pig, it's pretty cool when you can have your place remodeled and changed in a way that your guests can have something new. I will tell you dollars to doughnuts that anybody that invests in their business, whether it's paint on the walls, renovating a bathroom, making cosmetic changes, your sales will increase. It's a brilliant piece of the Bar Rescue model, as well as the uplift and pride that comes along with seeing the change. When you're the operator, you can get stuck in the rut and seeing the same thing day after day can wear you down. The remodel is a great booster.
Also on day three is the retraining of the staff. Now, the beautiful part is Taffer brings in experts. He's got mixologists behind the bar, menu experts, flow experts, etc. And these people bring in their sharp eye and skills. For example, the guy behind the bar in this episode was teaching him how to make great drinks, how speed and consistency were important not only to profitability, but to get satisfaction in the kitchen.
The chef was like three or four times nominated Michelin star, right. In basically a sports bar, for all intents and purposes, in the kitchen that had one cook. Now, I don't know about you but a new menu takes a lot more training than what they get in the show. I have to believe there's a little bit of a time lapse between these four days and it may not be four consecutive days. There’s just too much to learn to pull it off in a day. But that's what it looks like on TV.
Day four is the relaunch. This is when we line up all the people. The place looks brand new and beautiful. The staff starts to kick butt and the owner is happy. So why would I think that's unrealistic?
There are three things that make me think, man, this show – and any other show like it – is really unrealistic for the following reasons:
Number one, you can't change a company culture in four days. If there's one thing you really look at, even Taffer talks about it, is holding your people accountable, retraining them, making sure the guest has a great experience, turning the owner around into the leader that restaurant or bar needs. That can't happen by clicking your fingers and overnight, bang, you're there. It takes time. In fact, I would tell you, it takes six months to a year to change company culture. It requires changing people, changing your mindset as the owner, being introspective and again becoming the leader your restaurant needs. That doesn't happen overnight.
Number two, you can't insert a new menu, new drinks, new point of sale system, new electronics and everything else Taffer shows, overnight. I used to be a franchisor, and we had cookie cutter sports bar restaurant ready to go for our franchisees. Even with everything practically done for them, it would take weeks for the new owner just to figure out how to use the sound system with the 12 different direct satellite boxes so that we could have all the different games playing to the sound system, to karaoke, to whatever it was. And when have you ever seen a point of sale system get installed in one day and everybody magically knows how to use it? And programmed perfectly? That can't be done overnight.
New menus take planning time, procurement of products, testing recipe costing cards, pictures, build charts, prep systems, ordering systems, etc.
On a side note, I wish I had Taffer’s skill at making the flow work. I can walk into a place, tell you what's wrong, but he really has a talent for changing the environment for the guest. None of this can be done overnight.
Number three, there's so much more to running a profitable bar or restaurant than the show has time to share. You have to put systems in place for everything. There's not a system too small or too large in your business from counting out a bar door the same way every single time to going to dollars per hour worked and advanced analysis of your labor. You've got to have systems in place for hiring and firing. You've got to have systems in place for ordering product, prepping product, controlling the waste, preventing theft, taking inventories, recipe costing cards, etc. There's so much that goes on that you have to get done.
And the truth of the matter is you can't snap your fingers to make it happen overnight, let alone in four days. It takes six months to a year. And there is no freaking finish line. There's no end of the show in your life where, you know, high five, we've got everything done. There's always something else to improve and do better at.
The show's great TV. People who don't understand the restaurant business love to watch the drama and everything that goes on in restaurants.
Here's the message I want you to take away from this video. You need to take a page directly out of Taffer’s playbook but know there's no one coming to rescue you. There's no Taffer walking in your building tomorrow to rescue you.
You have to be the one to take the bull by the horns and ensure the future for your bar or restaurant is bright. How will you do that?
- What are you going to do so that your business ensures consistency for the guests that they the same experience every single time? How will you make sure Restaurant 101 is dead on point? That’s hot food, hot, cold, food cold, a clean, safe environment for the guests and employees, wow customer service, and an incredible product that comes out in the same portion size and in the same flavor profile. How do you ensure the cocktails come out with the same portions, the same flavor profile, the same look, and ensure your guests don’t notice anything but the guests they’re with?
- What are you going to do in your business to ensure the accountability? Are you putting systems in place, training your managers on what the job is, how to do it, how well it should be done, more importantly, by when and then holding them accountable, or what I call answerable? When you've done that, there's no conflict. They know exactly what you want done, by when and how well. And now you have a management team that can run the business. There is no conflict when you call them on doing something they've done incorrectly.
- Finally, what are you going to do in your business to ensure that you know your numbers? Do you have the right chart of accounts? Do you have the right systems in place so that which you measure improves? Do we have a budget to know the targets we need to reach for? Are you using a national average found in an industry rag or on the Internet? Because that national average is not specific to your restaurant. Using the wrong numbers can crush your business.
Taffer is not walking through your door. Chances are you will not be a featured restaurant on Bar Rescue. It's time for you to take ownership for your mistakes and decide to learn how to change. Make that commitment today and learn what you don't know to become the leader your restaurant needs.
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