Rescue Tour Rivets the Crowd in Chicago

With more than 230 bar, club and restaurant operators in one room, you’d think it would be a pretty raucous atmosphere. But minutes before the first Rescue Tour event kicked off yesterday, the meeting room at the Holiday Inn Mart Center in ChicagRescue Touro was eerily quiet. OK, it was early afternoon (maybe they 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 “Bar Rescue” notoriety — would unleash on them the fury they’ve seen directed at some of their peers on the Spike TV reality series?

If they were, their fears quickly were put to rest. From the get-go, Taffer was energetic, positive and informative and even entertaining as he delivered his tried-and-true toolbox of tactics for improving bar revenues. Joined by Chef Brian Duffy and expert mixologist Michael Tipps, both of whom have appeared on “Bar Rescue,” 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 were all real-world, perhaps the best advice echoed the lesson of every episode of “Bar Rescue” and everything we publish in print and online at Nightclub & Bar: Take control of your business.

For instance, during the Q&A, attendees brought their challenges to the trio. On everything from dealing with patrons who pay a cover to see a band but don’t buy drinks to employees who don’t follow procedures, Taffer turned it back to the operator. As the business owner, he chided, you need to trigger the buying behaviors you want in the guest and the actions you want the employee to take. “What you make the priority will be the priority, but you have to make it so,” he said. 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 today — and for the guest.

As the session ended, Taffer and his fellow speakers were mobbed by operator attendees wanting more. 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.

Next stop on the NCB University Rescue Tour is Philadelphia on Oct. 18 and Long Beach, Calif., on Nov. 1. Register here and I’ll see you there!



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