The Martini Brothers Have Painted Themselves into a Corner

This year, 6,500 failing bars nationwide will close their doors for good. If things don’t change soon, Martini Brothers Burger Bar in Youngstown, Ohio will become just another statistic. In 2013, Dan and Joey Martini opened Martini Brothers Burger Bar. Working on a tight budget, the brothers agreed to give building owner Jacob Harver an 8% stake in the bar in return for discounted rent. In the first year, the bar cleared $60,000 a month. But soon the Martini brothers discovered that Jacob had his own agenda. Repeatedly referring to the building in which the bar is located as a “cultural center,” Jacob uses a portion of the space as an art gallery. He uses the art gallery to host events that the Martini brothers claim don’t generate any money, including live painting events that drive away potential guests. Jacob says that he’s about $600,000 in debt, can’t afford to lose his building and needs Martini Brothers Burger Bar to succeed but the brothers say that he mooches off them and the bar, going so far as to take cash from the register and leave “IOUs.” Now losing $3,000 a month, Dan and Joey risk losing their bar and Jacob risks losing the entire building. With only 6 months left before they close for good, the Martini Brothers and Jacob have agreed to pull back the doors, bust open the books and make a call for help to Bar Rescue.

As his spies, Jon Taffer sends 2 Ohio food critics into Martini Brothers Burger Bar for recon: Debbie Snook, a food writer and restaurant critic for The Plain Dealer (Ohio’s largest daily), and Kevin “Spice Hound” Scheuring. For the bar, Jon brings in Speed Rack Champion Mia Mastroianni. Her unique recipes and agility behind the bar will shake up these bartenders’ abilities, forging a new identity for downtown Youngstown. For the kitchen, Jon brings in culinary master Mike Ferraro. His vast knowledge and expertise in traditional American cuisine will turn this kitchen around and steer it in the right direction.

The spies enter The Knox Building, a 3-story, 10,500-square-foot space with 2 unoccupied floors above and the Martini brothers’ bar and adjacent art gallery on the ground level. Debbie and Kevin find the floor sticky, only 1 martini on the menu, and a mural on the ceiling that simply seems odd to them. Jon, Mia and Mike watch on a monitor as the signature burger and cheeseburger the spies have ordered are ruined by Joey, who runs the kitchen: he smashes the juice out of the burgers and throws the fries into a bus tub, making them soggy. Mia notices that the bartenders don’t appear to be over-pouring and aren’t using fresh ingredients. During recon, several people who were in the art gallery – who are covered in paint – enter the bar with Jacob and cause a scene, disrupting the bar and disturbing the guests. Jon sees that Dan and Joey are making an attempt to serve guests, deliver a satisfying experience and generate revenue but are being hamstrung by Jacob’s antics.

The Sciences

  • It should go without saying but the physical bar itself should be the main draw. Anything that separates and pull guests away from the bar can never support it.
  • While some bartenders may think making strong cocktails will increase the chance of them getting a better tip from their guests, beverages that are too strong or too sweet discourage the purchase of a 2nd cocktail. Without the sale of the 2nd cocktail, check amounts are small, as are tips.
  • The inside of a potato is 17% starch, an organic chemical with the natural tendency to absorb liquids. When fries are cooked, starch locks in oil on the surface, causes over-browning. This gives the appearance that the fry is ready to serve when, in fact, the inside remains soggy. Rinsing off the starch ensures a properly cooked fry throughout.
  • The proper technique for cooking fresh French fries is to par-cook them. Essentially, you’re cooking them twice: cook them the first time at 300 degrees, cool them, then cook them again at 375 or 400 degrees.

The Relaunch

Martini Brothers is now The Federal, a nod the both the street they’re on and the building around the corner from the bar. It also works well for a bar or a restaurant. Just 6 weeks after the relaunch, food sales have grossed $48,993 and beverage sales have grossed $89,086.

To find out more about Bar Rescue episodes make sure to check out Spike TV

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