Airs On: Spike
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
About a year ago, I walked in on a friend watching a reality television series marathon on Spike TV called Bar Rescue. After watching half of one episode, I found myself staying for the entire marathon. I have now turned a couple of friends on to the show and they agree with me - this show is incredibly addictive.
Bar Rescue stars Jon Taffer, owner and chairman of Taffer Dynamics, Inc. In a career that spans three decades, Jon Taffer he has owned or flipped a number of successful bars and nightclubs. In this series, bar owners put their failing businesses in Taffer’s hands, submitting to his criticism and makeover ideas for the better of their business, hoping for one of Taffer’s incredible “rescues.”
Taffer is a businessman and a very successful one. That being said, he is used to getting what he wants and not being questioned about how he wants it. He also knows that he will never get the full truth about how horribly an establishment is doing until he sees it for himself. To that end, Taffer sends associates into bars chosen for rescue undercover, posing as patrons. Using hidden surveillance equipment, he checks out how quickly they are served, the friendliness/helpfulness of servers, the quality of the food/drinks they are served and more.
Once he has seen enough, he introduces himself to the owners and discusses his findings. He brings in bar specialists in the form of mixologists and bar chefs to check out the establishments as well, pointing out what works and what doesn’t. A “stress test” is performed in which Taffer’s experts teach the bar’s existing staff various drinks and menu items, then turn them loose on a crowd of patrons supplied by Taffer and his crew. This way, Taffer and his experts can see how the bar staff will work under pressure.
Finally, Taffer checks out market research in the bar’s locale, coming up with ideas that will fill the niche in the neighborhood market and gain the bar he is rescuing the most profit.
Now I know that some of the show may be a bit staged and some of the owners/staff arguments with Taffer may not be as heated as they are made out to be for the show - hey, face it, these fights bring ratings - but that’s not why I watch. I’ve been in a number of dives in my life…ones which I wish Jon Taffer had visited before I visited. In those establishments, I usually refrained from ordering drinks that came in glasses because the bar was sticky and grimy and in my mind, if they can’t clean the counters, what good will they be at washing dishes. I rarely eat in such establishments for the same reason and I have to say, if I saw any of the critters I have seen on this show running around, I would have jetted out of there right quick.
I love Taffer’s no nonsense attitude with these bar owners and their staff. Hey, he’s investing his time and money in this establishment and you asked for his help - why fight the process for crying out loud. And I agree with a great many of his ideas…not all of them, but quite a few. I enjoy trying to figure out the less obvious problems with the bar and how to fix them. Often times, Taffer and I are on the same page - I have to be honest and say that I love that.
The show is so addictive because we have all been to one of these places in our lives and we know just what we hated and what we would have fixed. I enjoy watching Jon Taffer turn a dive into a credible business and love some of his theme ideas. And some of those drinks sound simply delectable.
I should note that, having some suspicions, I did some research on the show and discovered - just as I thought might happen - that some of the bars went back to their old ways after Taffer left. I discovered that I wasn’t surprised as to the bars that reverted - they had owners who were most resistant to Taffer’s changes, like the pirate-themed Piratz Tavern or The Chicken Bone, whose owner was practically married to his bar’s name and couldn’t abide by his bar just being called The Bone.
Will this controversy cause me to stop watching Bar Rescue? Absolutely not! I enjoy watching the various fixes that Taffer and his staff apply and I love the fact that some of my ideas are actually on par with theirs. And Taffer’s biting business style - for some reason, I can’t get enough of it. I’ll keep watching as long as there are bars for Jon Taffer to rescue.