Bar Rescue is a show that is on Spike TV. Jon Taffer is called to help out failing bars in the hopes that the bar can become successful again. After watching the first three seasons of the show, it seems to me that he is able to improve the finances of the majority of the bars he fixes.
I haven’t quite figured out exactly what all the “bar science” involves, but can confidently say that the show is entertaining. While I have no interest in opening a bar myself, I still was able to learn a lot about what not to do. There were certain big mistakes that several bar owners made that stand out.
Don’t spend your retirement money to open a bar.
Some of the bar owners used their retirement money to purchase their bar. They cashed in a 401K, or spent their “life savings”, often without having any idea how to run a financially successful bar. Even worse, some owners spent their parent’s retirement money on the bar, assuming that the bar would be super successful and that they would be able to pay back mom or dad right away. This leaves the bar owner (and possibly his or her parents) with a HUGE loss when the bar fails.
Don’t buy the bar you had fun hanging out in when you were in college.
There’s a reason why that bar is up for sale. It is no longer making the money it used to back in the day when you were in college and the bar was new. People buy these bars out of nostalgia because it makes them feel “warm and fuzzy” to be the owner of it. They think it will be fun to own that particular bar.
This view colors everything they do with the bar. They hire the buddies that they used to hang out with in that bar. The owner (or owners) use the bar as their own, personal, party, and drink away their profit. Their memories of what the bar was like years ago, when they were young, gets in their way. They don’t want to make any changes to it (even if the bar needs some serious updating).
Don’t let the bar kitchen become a biohazard.
Jon Taffer gets incredibly angry when he discovers that the bar he is trying to save has a filthy kitchen. He does not hesitate to throw away food that has gone bad. Usually, he demands that the chef and the kitchen staff spend the entire night cleaning the kitchen. There have been times when he requires the bar owner to help, too.
It is understandable. Jon Taffer is trying to prevent customers from getting food poisoning. What perplexes me is why people let their kitchen get to the point where it is not only disgusting, but also a health hazard. To me, it’s a “no-brainer” that the kitchen in the bar needs to be clean.
Don’t rehire employees who steal.
The Bar Rescue show involves “hidden cameras” so that Jon Taffer can see what is really going on in a bar that he has been asked to rescue. More than once, the cameras reveal that an employee has been stealing. The thief usually admits to it after it is made clear that he or she has been caught on video. In more than one case, an employee was handing out drinks to customers, not ringing up the sale, and pocketing the money.
Jon Taffer strongly encourages the bar owner to fire the thief, and so, they do. But, later on, for reasons I cannot fathom, the bar owner rehires the person who was caught stealing from them. This is incredibly dumb! That person is going to continue to steal from the owner. They have been taught that there is absolutely no consequence for doing so.
Don’t drink in your own bar.
It seems to me that the bar owners who get drunk in their own bar have completely given up all hope of things getting better. They start drinking away their profits. They “party” with customers who they feel are their friends – and end up giving out free drinks and shots. In one episode, the waitresses were angry because the owner was making it impossible for them to get tips. The customers were literally sitting around and waiting for the owner to give out free alcohol.
The other problem that happens when owners drink in their own bars is that they are no longer capable of running the bar. They aren’t checking to see if the bartenders are over pouring drinks. They have no idea how long it takes customers to get a drink or food. They aren’t ordering supplies. They are oblivious to the neglect (the dirt, the damage, etc.) that is ruining their bar.
Don’t make your employees work for free.
More than one bar that was featured on Bar Rescue had employees that were working for free. In most cases, the owners wanted to pay them, and even promised to pay them, but they simply didn’t have the money to do so. There was one bar in which the owner was intentionally not paying his workers.
Two things happen when bar owners fail to pay their employees. They quit – and find another job where they will actually get paid. Or, they stay and stop caring about the quality of the drinks, the food, or the customer service. A failing bar, with employees who have stopped caring about their job (because they aren’t getting paid) is only going to get worse.