President of Nightclub & Bar Media Group and star of Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” Jon Taffer spoke to a packed house of hundreds of nightlife industry professionals during the 27th annual Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show held March 12-14 in Las Vegas. During his keynote speech, "No Excuses: Taffer's Simple Science of Success," Taffer asked, "Who wants to make more money?!"
By the age of 24, Taffer had two revelations when it came to making more money. First, bar, nightclub and restaurant professionals do not have expense problems, only revenue problems. Second, the quickest, easiest, most profitable way to jumpstart revenue is through an establishment’s bar program. These revelations focused his approach to the bar industry, leading to 11 promotions in just five years and increasing his personal income more than 800%. The award-winning nightlife guru also has owned and operated 17 properties, was a founding member of the Nightclub & Bar Media Group Advisory Board, has been inducted into the Nightclub Hall of Fame and has worked with everyone from the National Football League to the Vatican. Therefore, when Taffer talks about fixing your business and thickening your revenue stream, you listen.
"Fixing a business is easy," Taffer said. “Fixing people is tough." Taffer believes in teaching bartenders, servers and other staff, rather than training. "Training is behavior modification,” he said. “All we can do is teach the people we hire about our business."
Taffer talks tough to hundreds of attendees during the 2012 Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade show in Las Vegas.
Hiring the right people from the start is key. To that end, Taffer suggested adopting his “Eight Adjective Answer,” which entails creating eight adjectives for each open position and conducting conversations — not interviews — with potential employees to find out whether or not they embody the adjectives on the list. When it comes to managing employees, Taffer encouraged owners and operators to observe and learn what talents their star employees possess that others don't as well as identify what characteristics their employees need to succeed and not simply fulfill their job descriptions.
Perhaps even more importantly, Taffer also outlined how to "manage for champions." Owners and operators should never waste time attempting to fashion below-average workers into average employees. Instead, time and energy should be spent on those who are getting better and making an effort, not just “getting by.” Also, owners and operators should strive to recognize limitations sooner rather than later, then move on to find their next champion.
Of course, a winning staff is only part of the equation. Customers are, obviously, another major part of success. Taffer rejects the teachings found in most textbooks in regards to hospitality, the bar industry and marketing. "We're not in a logical business, we're in an emotional business," he said.
Each and every person involved in the nightlife industry is in the business of creating reactions. "He who causes the biggest reaction wins," Taffer said. "Everything we do is a process, never a result. That process must establish a postive emotional reaction. That reaction is our product."
For example, a waiter at Denny's is expected to move quickly, walking fast to bring food and drink to the table. However, if a waiter at Morton’s walks at the same pace, the steak he is serving is no longer worth $60. The Morton’s waiter causes a negative reaction by rushing, thus cheapening the meal.
According to Taffer, all owners and operators should perform “reaction management,” which requires reading the reactions of both customers and staff. If those reactions are right — excitement and happiness rather than displeasure and disappointment — the money will come. Patrons will come back to relive those positive experiences and reactions — and bring their friends. "We create our future, we create our destiny," Taffer said. "We live and die by the reactions we create."
The bottom line: Each and every bar, nightclub and restaurant owner and operator must "step out of mediocrity," Taffer said. While a mediocre owner might utilize a marketing strategy for one patron visit, Taffer suggests that marketing for three will generate consistent revenue. Why? A customer is 70% more likely to stop in for a fourth visit after already having visited an establishment three times.
Increasing visitor frequency by just one visit per month will lead to a 12% increase in revenue. All owners and operators can make excuses about why their venues are failing, e.g., the weather, other businesses. In fact, owners and operators can blame just about anything but their commitment to escape mediocrity. As Taffer quite bluntly told the room: "The common denominator of failure is excuses."