On a Mission

With more than 230 bar, club and restaurant operators in one room, you’d think it would be a pretty raucous atmosphere, and yet minutes before the first Nightclub & Bar University Rescue Tour event kicked off on a sunny Tuesday in October, the meeting roomTour logo at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza in Chicago was eerily quiet. It was early afternoon (maybe these operators worked late the night before), and they were there on a serious mission — namely to drill into their business practices — but I had to wonder: Were these bar pros nervous that the star speaker — NCB Media Group President Jon Taffer, now of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” notoriety — would unleash on them the fury they’ve seen directed at some of their peers on the reality series?  

If they were, their fears quickly were put to rest. From the get-go, Taffer was energetic, positive and informative — even entertaining — as he delivered his tried-and-true toolbox of tactics for improving bar revenues. Joined by "Bar Rescue" co-stars Chef Brian Duffy, corporate executive chef/product development at Seafood America, and expert mixologist Michael Tipps, who’s worked as bar manager at the Soho and Tribeca Grand Hotels in New York City, Taffer offered up his best practices. This is not to say he wasn’t forceful and direct, he absolutely was. On the topic of comping drinks and other items, he urged, “No freebies! We are not running charities, we’re running businesses! I do charitable contributions, but they’re separate from my business. My business is about making money. So manage your comps so they are credited in your costs and no freebies!”

While the tactics and tips Taffer suggested were all applicable to the real world, perhaps the best advice echoed the lesson of Taffer Chicagoevery episode of “Bar Rescue,” as well as everything we publish at Nightclub & Bar: Take control of your business.

During the Q-and-A, attendees brought their challenges to the trio. On everything from dealing with patrons who pay a cover to see a band but then don’t buy drinks to employees who don’t follow procedures, Taffer turned it back on the operator. He chided the business owners, saying they needed to trigger the buying behaviors they want in the guest and the actions they want the employee to take. “What you make the priority will be the priority, but you have to make it so,” he added. In other words, as the owner of a bar or club, no one else is to blame for your business’s failings and no one else can take credit for its successes but you. You set the tone and identify the priorities for the employees — from proper pouring to what menu items to move or change — and for the guest.

As the session ended, operator attendees mobbed Taffer and his fellow speakers, wanting more information and advice. Several attendees told me they learned a lot and couldn’t wait to get back to their businesses to get all of the moving parts under control.

The Nightclub & Bar University Rescue Tour made two more stops — Philadelphia and Long Beach, Calif. — both of which sold out. Look for more Rescue Tour-styled sessions on the program at the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas. Visit NCBShow.com for more information.  NCB

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