Back to the Bar: Most Stubborn Owners

In the last few years, Jon Taffer has put his heart and soul into rescuing nearly 100 bars across the nation. But the question is: What happens when he leaves? Do they continue to succeed or without Jon do they fail? He’s returning to the bars that had the most stubborn owners. They think they’re being filmed for a simple follow up but what these owners don’t realize is, Jon is sending in his spies. They’re trying the food, drinking the drinks and getting the overall customer experience. From the intel they gather, Jon will make his own judgment.

Jon headed back to Sorties in Bellevue, Nebraska. Then, he did the unthinkable: he went back to O’Face in Council Bluffs, Iowa where he walked out. Jon then checked in on Canyon Inn in Yorba Linda, California. And finally, Spirits on Bourbon in New Orleans, Louisiana. There were some truly shocking updates when he went Back to the Bar.

Jon sent three Air Force airmen to Sorties for recon. Their mission? See if they could get food and drinks in 30 minutes or less. Gary, Jose and Anthony were impressed with the décor and vibe of Sorties, took a seat and were approached by co-owner Jerry. The spies told Jerry they needed food and drinks within 30 minutes, ordered three signature cocktails and three dishes and the co-owner went to work. In bar science terms, a three-top table should have their drink orders in no more than 5 minutes; the Sorties staff got the drinks out in just four. The food also came out in a timely fashion and the recon team were all impressed and, as one last test, asked if they could celebrate the excellent service they had received by having a drink with Jerry. The more professional, happier Jerry declined their offer. Sorties’ sales are up 120% at $33,000 per month. Now flourishing, the increase in sales has allowed Jerry to build a new home and, possibly best of all, Sorties has won several Sarpy County People’s Choice Awards for Favorite Bar, Best Cocktails and Best Happy Hour. Jon declared this a resounding success.

Bar Rescue fans remember Matt and Karen Overmyer, the owners who were so stubborn and so out of touch with the realities of running a bar that Jon had to make good on his threat to walk out. Things are bad when Jon Taffer can’t go through with a rescue. Karen had nothing nice to say about Jon walking out on O’Face: “Jon Taffer is an idiot. We had a lot of potential and he didn’t get to know us or what we were about before he walked out. We definitely wanted to prove Jon wrong and turn this into a successful business. We’ve made a lot of changes. We all thought it was a good idea to bring Amanda back.” Yes, Amanda is back and as recon team Brent and Erin found out, she still doesn’t really know what she’s doing behind the bar. The Rob Roy and Old Fashioned the two ordered were unpleasant to say the least. The spies weren’t expecting anything great from O’Face and a confrontation with an inebriated and hostile regular simply reinforced their expectations. Shockingly, Matt actually protected the spies and booted the overly aggressive, offensive regular from the bar himself…since he had fired security guard Sick for being a Jon Taffer supporter. Spy Erin stated plainly that she would never feel safe at O’Face by herself because of the bar’s mostly male crowd. For a bar to thrive it needs, on average, 60% women on any given night. On the spies went in for recon, the bar had only 21% female guests. As bar sales are down 15% and kitchen sales are down 30%, Jon has declared this bar a failure, surprising no one.

Canyon Inn, the bar that served canned soup and saved their foam, is still serving canned soup. Spy and Bar Rescue expert Russell Davis was disappointed to learn this unfortunate fact. Pauly, possibly the most stubborn owner ever to be featured, changed the name back to Canyon Inn Sports Bar & Grill from Canyon Saloon Spirits & Steaks and undid the rest of Jon’s changes after just two weeks. Shockingly enough, Pauly believed that two weeks was enough to judge whether or not the changes were working at all for his bar. Speaking in terms of bar science, sales are tracked monthly so the minimum amount of time an owner, operator or bar manager can give changes in order to determine their effectiveness is, of course, one month. Former general manager Jonny, the only person willing to work with Jon and embrace change, quit and is purchasing the direct competition to Canyon Inn, The Royal. Russell attempted to discuss Pauly’s failure to give Jon’s changes a fair shot but only encountered a heated argument. The numbers, lack of a general manager and the same old regulars are slowly killing off Canyon Inn. Sales are down 12% and Pauly blames President Obama. Jon doesn’t embrace excuses and has called this bar what it is: a failure.

Finally, Jon send Chef Ron Duprat back into Spirits on Bourbon. Owners Brad and Steve were excited to see Chef Ron, who they consider a friend. However, they were also a bit anxious about the chef tasting their gumbo. The owners stepped back after Jon left their bar and took a look at all of the changes. In Brad’s eyes, Jon had given them an outline for success and they massaged and tweaked the changes to make them work for Spirits on Bourbon. They’ve changed the design of the Resurrection Cup, have gone through numerous shot chairs, added a cemetery theme to their outdoor area, came up with a mascot and even purchased and customized a hearse as a marketing vehicle. Chef Ron was also pleased to see that they kept his gumbo recipe and have embraced being consistent in every aspect of business. Spirits has added dueling pianos to the bar, which is where bar science comes into play. Owners must consider the acoustics of their venue when bringing in live music. In a small, enclosed bar with non-reflective surfaces such as padded booths, a piano’s sound has less room to travel before it gets absorbed, resulting in a stale tone that fades in less than one second. A large open interior with reflective surfaces – which Sprits on Bourbon features – allows a piano’s tone to travel for up to two seconds. Spirits on Bourbon is going through 5 to 6 bottles of spirits every night because of the shot chair, liquor cost is consistently under 17%, beverage cost is consistently under 21%, food cost is consistently under 28% and sales are over $1,000,000 per year. Brad is investing in rental properties and Jon has declared Spirits an incredible success.

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