Bar Rescue is celebrating 10 years of Jon Taffer saving bars around the United States, but they’re not the only people he’s helped. Watching the Paramount Network show has also passed on great information to viewers, and in honor of the big anniversary, here’s a list of the 10 most interesting or important takeaways from over 200 episodes and counting.
10. The bar business is not for the faint of heart
If you learn anything from watching Bar Rescue, it’s how challenging owning a bar can be. Whether it’s the actual running of operations, or being able to handle a packed bar with everyone clamoring for a drink, or being able to discipline your staff instead of hanging out with them, there’s a lot that goes into a successful bar. Those stress tests that make up a huge part of every episode aren’t just exercises; they’re what a place should look like every night if it’s doing well. If you can’t handle that kind of pressure, or can’t multitask, or think you can sit in the office and not come out, this line of work is not for you.
9. Sometimes it’s the mission, not the money
Jon reiterates over and over again how a bar is a business. It’s not a social club, it’s not your performance stage, and it’s definitely not an art installation. But there are occasional times when there’s something more important than dollars and cents. In two different episodes, including Sunday’s latest hour, Jon and the Bar Rescue team have stepped in to save VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) posts. They’ve also stepped in when natural disasters have struck, such as the “Operation Puerto Rico” and “Hurricane Jon vs. Hurricane Sandy” episodes. In those cases there are higher causes, like serving our military and putting communities back together, that are what matters most.
8. Sports bars are incredibly overdone
There are so many sports bars in America, and Jon Taffer has been to several of them. There’s no arguing that a sports bar can’t be successful (the show has done sports bar-themed rescues) but “sports bar” on its own isn’t a concept. Some places just throw up a TV and some pool tables or sports memorabilia and think that’s enough, when what that leads to is a bunch of bars that are all generally the same. A truly successful bar finds something to add on top of being a sports bar, or even better, comes up with a concept that is completely unique. However, be wary of pirate-themed establishments.
7. The outside is as important as the inside
A lot of Bar Rescue episodes feature an exterior makeover, if not an outright name change. There’s an obvious reason for that: Jon is creating a new brand that doesn’t have the negative connotations of the previous one. But it’s more than a new sign. The outside of every bar is its first impression. It needs a visible sign or a new color that will draw your eye from the street. Or look for those calls to action that Jon often puts on windows so that people know what a business has to offer. Plus, the nicer a bar looks on the outside, the higher quality people think they’re going to get on the inside. So while all that new equipment is awesome, let’s also give it up for all the work Jon’s crew does to make bars look pretty.
6. It’s not about you, it’s about your customers
It’s amazing how often Jon has to argue with bar owners who defend their choices because it’s something that they want or decided they weren’t interested in doing. While it’s true that owning the bar gives you that power, to quote a famous Marvel line, with great power comes great responsibility. This is called the hospitality industry for a reason; it’s not about the owners or the employees, but the customers. They’re the ones who come through the doors and put money in the registers that keeps the lights on. Sure, you should have ideas and try things out, but you have to remember that this isn’t solely a place for you to hang out. If it was, it would just be a very expensive living room.
MORE BAR RESCUE: Read my interview with Jon Taffer
5. Drinking in a bar doesn’t mean you can own a bar
At least half of Bar Rescue episodes feature owners who have little to no bar or restaurant experience. People think that because they like spending time in bars that they can run one, or that opening or investing in a bar is an easy way to make money. Both of these things couldn’t be further from the truth. It takes a lot of time and effort to be a real owner, or even a general manager, and so many people have put all of their money or other people’s money at risk not knowing the totality of what they’re getting into. Don’t take that plunge unless you’re honestly prepared to. And here’s another thing: if you’re drunk enough that you’re not sure what’s going on, you shouldn’t be working behind the bar either.
4. Don’t live in the past
As mentioned above, Bar Rescue changes the names of bars a lot. It also sometimes deals with people who are hesitant to change because they don’t want to alienate their existing clientele. The problem is those customers aren’t enough or the bar wouldn’t need to be rescued in the first place. Change is frightening but it’s a chance to get a fresh start, whether it’s letting go of employees who are bringing a business down or letting go of issues with family members so you can work together. Holding onto the past doesn’t help you in the present and it certainly won’t help you build a future.
3. Surround yourself with the right people
Jon Taffer has decades of experience in the hospitality industry but even he doesn’t know everything. One of the great things Jon has done with Bar Rescue is introduced the nation to dozens of talented mixologists and chefs. He handpicks a team for each episode tailored to the area or the needs of a particular bar to teach the staff and to create menus that will be successful. He knows he can’t do it all himself, and thus surrounds himself with a hard-working crew and incredible experts who bring their strengths to the show. And because of that, we have gotten to know fantastic people like Phil Wills, Mia Mastroianni, Russell Davis and Rob Floyd, to name just a few.
2. Bars are an experience, not a destination
We as customers tend to think of bars as places to go, but Bar Rescue has pointed out that successful owners think of them as places to stay. A bar is not just the location where you get a drink. Every part of your visit is a step in the experience—whether it’s the theme that creates a vibe, or the interaction you have with a bartender, or the food that will entice you to stay and have another drink or two. Great drinks are important but they’re one part of a bigger picture. Even the best drink isn’t worth getting in a bar that also gets you sick or where fights are breaking out.
1. You don’t have to wait for Jon Taffer to save you
Bar Rescue is a show that’s ultimately about recovery and redemption. Jon Taffer helps people who are in difficult situations and teaches people how to fix their own mistakes. But he doesn’t just wave a magic wand or write a blank check and change everything. Jon doesn’t help people who aren’t willing to help themselves. He’s supported owners and employees as they’ve worked through personal tragedies, struggled with health issues, or repaired broken relationships. He provides the perspective, or the encouragement, for them to do the work. And that’s something you can take away even if you never own a bar. You don’t need someone else to come and make your situation better; you can make strides to help yourself. Even when things seem impossibly tough, you don’t have to give up. That optimism and empowerment is what’s at the heart of Bar Rescue, and what makes every episode worthwhile.
Bar Rescue airs Sundays at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on Paramount Network. Past episodes also stream on the Bar Rescue channel on Pluto TV.
Article content is (c)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.