Jon Taffer is a film producer.
• Nick Antosca (Nick Antosca is an American author of literary fiction and screenwriter. He is the author of five...)
• Adam Mansbach (Adam Mansbach is an American author, and has previously been a visiting writer and professor of l...)
• Samuel Lee (Samuel Lee was an English Orientalist, born in Shropshire; professor at Cambridge, first of Arabi...)» All Author Interviews
Hi, my name is Jon Taffer, and I'm back on reddit for my second AMA.
You may know me as host and executive producer of Bar Rescue. I have a brand-new app called THE BAR HQ for Android and iOS and my nightclub and bar convention is coming up in March (you can learn more on my site, http://www.jontaffer.com).
I want questions, not excuses.
Victoria's helping me out today. AMA!
Update Again, thank you. It's fun to do reddit. And thanks to everyone for coming to speak with me. Please check out my app, and watch my social feeds - I have some fun things coming in Spring and Summer. And if you're in the bar business, come to the Nightclub & Bar Convention in March! http://www.ncbshow.com
If this AMA isn't up to par by the end of the hour, do you plan on shutting it down?
YOU KNOW I WILL!
Actually, I like reddit so much, I might not quite shut it down.
But if you guys start pissing me off, I will!
Mr. Taffer!! Your show has become a sunday night staple for me, and one I watch with friends from afar (we discuss online in real-time) to stay in touch. For that, I thank you. I do have one question:
My friends and I tend to look up the bars you rescue on reruns and many appear to be out of business (or just haven't updated their online presence). Why is that? Do the owners tend to go back to their old ways when the cameras leave, or are there other reasons?
thanks again for your time!
I don't track (personally ) the success ratios of BAR RESCUE, but there are a few independent websites that do. And if you research those sites, those independent sites say that BAR RESCUE has an 80% success ratio. Which means 20% of the bars close. When you consider that these people are literally weeks from closing when I arrived, and the terrible practices most had, I'm pretty proud of that number. And dare i say - if I can be cocky for a minute - I'm told it's the best turnaround statistics of any business show on Television.
I challenge someone to do better.
Do you ever get sick of screaming?
And it's not something I like to do. But I gotta tell you: when I do it, it's deliberate. When I get angry, it's with purpose. My purpose is to solve a problem. And I never lose sight of that.
Jon, huge fan of the show. Question, do you cover the cost of the renovations and upgrades or do the bar owners have to pay some of it back?
I pay for all of it. My sponsors and I pay for everything. The owner doesn't pay one dime. We even leave them with food & beverage inventory. Plates, silverware, glassware, everything they need. There's a LOT that's left behind that you don't see on the show. I couldn't show you everything, it would get awful boring - but pots, pans, small wares, etc.
Hi Jon! I'm a huge fan of both Bar Rescue & Hungry Investors; I actually got my current boyfriend hooked on BR, and we watch reruns constantly.
I was curious as to how you recruit people for your stress tests and initial recon at the bars you rescue? I would love to do either one if you ever came to another Dallas/Fort Worth bar (I know you've visited a few in the past). Would the info be posted somewhere on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, or some other means of social media? Thanks, and have a great day! :)
When we shoot BAR RESCUE, I try really hard to keep it real. So if we promote that we're at a location, the bar will be packed, it won't be the normal customers, and the reality will be destroyed. That's why we keep it quiet - to protect the reality at all costs.
That said, the way we fill for stress tests is locally - we literally knock at the doors of local businesspeople and invite them in for those 2 nights. We keep it low-key by keeping it very local.
Hi Jon, I love Bar Rescue and am a huge fan of yours.
When you choose a bar to rescue, do you and your producers ever worry that the owners are looking for you to come in and revamp their bar just so they can then go and sell it for a profit? Do you put certain conditions on the owners to prevent this from happening?
We can't legally put conditions on what somebody does with their business. So that is not a possibility. However, we do an AWFUL lot of background checks. And we make sure they are truly in debt, that they truly are behind on their rent, we verify their financial situations. So it becomes EXTREMELY difficult for them to hustle us. I'm also very sensitive to that when I'm there. And candidly? If I caught wind of it, you'd find yourself with another walkout.
There's no B.S. on my show. If I sense that I will walk out.
Hey Jon, huge fan here. Even after spending ten years in the bar and restaurant industry, I learn something new from every episode of Bar Rescue. It also helps my wife see why I have such a passion for the industry. I'm in the middle of trying to write a short e-book to help wait staff maximize their tips and improve customer service, and I was curious what impresses you most about a server when you go out? Also, how hard was it not to slap the guy from Headhunters in Austin? Thanks for the great show.
Hahaha! He almost did get slapped, actually, and he did deserve it.
The important thing to remember about server training is it's not about the transactions, it's about REACTIONS. Servers have to connect with guests through their eyes, their language, and those are the most difficult skills to train.
Hire for personality, not experience. And if you're a server, be the most dynamic on the floor. The most dynamic always makes the most money.
The guy from 2nd State has had some pretty mean things to say about you and the show. Do you just ignore it, or does it bother you that you invested so much time and money into him and he runs his mouth? Thanks, big fan!
You know, I was called in there by his daughter.
And Tom is to me a hero. I believe he was a police officer, who served us for 30 years. And his daughter brought me into a difficult situation. He might say something bad about me, but I would never say something bad about him. He's a hero, enough said.
Hey Jon, do you still own any actual bars? If so, how involved are you in the day-to-day operations of them?
No, I had up to 17 at one point. I've sold them all in the past few years. And now I travel on the road 40 weeks a YEAR shooting television. So I really don't have much time. However, I still run my company - introduced my app - consult to key clients - and run the Nightclub & Bar convention in March in Las Vegas, which is the bar industry's largest international convention. So between all of that, I'm a busy guy.
Would you ever like to do a show with Gordon Ramsey?
I love Gordon. Sure! Our problem is we're on different networks and legally I'm not sure that would ever happen. But nothing would please me more than to work with him. Or Robert Irving, or Bobby Flay. I'd love to work with SO many people. Unfortunately networks and contracts preclude so much.
Hey John! I'm obsessed with Bar Rescue and wrote a song from the perspective of the bar owners. Here is my tribute to you! Enjoy.
I'm incredibly touched by the fact that you took the time to do that for me.
And there are fans that send me artwork sometimes, photos and pictures, I look at EVERY one, and the fact that people would take time to do that for me is still incredibly touching, and I really appreciate it.
John, I love your show but I especially love watching you yell at incompetent/stubborn people. Do you get into many shouting matches outside of your show in real life situations? Examples?
Not really. I don't. You know, BAR RESCUE is completely real to me. If there's one thing different than real-life - the 5 day limit. I only have 5 days to change that person's life. If I didn't have a 5-day clock clicking in my head, I have the time to be courteous. To SLOWLY move them in my direction in a more positive way. When I only have 3 days (1.5 days remodeling!) I have to be aggressive. BAR RESCUE is me totally being myself - just being aggressive with pressure of a clock ticking in my head!
Love the show. How many bars cant pour a pint of Guinness?!
Hahahaha. SHOCKINGLY - probably - dare I say more bars blow pouring a Guinness than getting it right? And the way it's served is every bit as important as how it's made. It's a shame that 8 out of 10 bartenders probably don't know how pour a proper Guinness. Which takes 120 seconds, by the way, complete.
I’m a huge fan of your work; thanks for doing another AMA! My question is, my brother is planning on starting his own business (a gym), and while he has some cool ideas, it’s all he has. He hasn’t figured out anything financial, his partner has “bad idea” written all over him, and any time my mom or I try to show any concern over it, he basically tells us to fuck off. We want to see him succeed, but we both know he hasn’t thought it out at all; he just seems to want his own playground. How would you recommend approaching a serious conversation with him?
This seems to me more a maturity issue than a business issue.
Your brother needs to grow up and see it as a business, not personal.
If, in fact, his partner's a jerk, your brother is going to have to deal with that later at some point. If he doesn't have a business plan, it's going to bite him in the butt. So he's making all the wrong moves. But maybe you have to let him do this, so he learns and figures all of this out.
Hey Jon Taffer, thanks for doing this! I was wondering what your favorite drink was at any bar you rescued. If so, why?
I think The Resurrection in Bourbon Street - that was DELICIOUS, that blue drink we did - because there were no other blue drinks. That drink is sold in a souvenir mug, and interesting statistic - they sell 16,000 souvenir mugs a MONTH.
They had to buy a warehouse JUST to hold the mugs.
That's probably my favorite, and most successful signature cocktail from BAR RESCUE.
was there ever a bar concept someone told you about, you said "That will never work" yet turned out to be a profitable business?
That's funny, I was told that about BAR RESCUE. I was told "you're nuts, that will never be on TV." I was told by the past president of Paramount television that I'd never make it. And as soon as I heard that, i became relentless.
So sure, I'm not always right. But I can mitigate risk, and create a better statistical likelihood of success than most people. But I can make a mistake too.
Hi John, if a movie was created about your life which actor would you want to play you?
Uh... the handsomest one I can find! Hahaha!
Boy, I don't know. i like Bruce Willis a lot. I think he could do a pretty good job. Clooney's a little too nice. I also think Kelsey Grammar could do it - he could be very intense.
Hi Jon! What is your favorite bar and where is it located?
You know, there are so many types of bars.
If I had to pick one I would pick a bar called "L pound" ( as in an English pound) and it's in the Montage Hotel in Los Angeles in Beverly Hills. And it has one of the finest mixology programs in America. Yes, it's expensive, yes it's a bit elitist and exclusive, but I can't deny that it's amazing.
Will we see more ethnic/minority bars rescued in the future? I would love to see an Asian Karaoke bar (not just Dimples-style) or an actual Mexican Cantina (not just an Agave Junction Cantina/Rocky Point Cantina/Lona'sCity Limits Cantina). The gay bar episode was also a good one, but that's only 1 out of 71 total episodes! Thanks!
I'm actually starting my 80th episode after the holidays! And yes - I did another ethnic bar - we've really worked hard to do an Asian bar- but you will see 3 more ethnic bars in the upcoming season. I try REALLY hard to mix up BAR RESCUE - not only do we try to look for different types of owners, but also bowling alleys, hotels, topless bars - we're always looking for things to keep BAR RESCUE new & entertaining.
About how much money goes into renovating a rescued bar?
It varies by the size of the bar. Obviously the bigger ones take more money than the smaller ones do. We just did one of our most expensive a few weeks ago - a little over $300,000. It's typically between $100,000-$300,000.
I've noticed in every episode a hidden sign behind the bar advertising the "Taffer Fire Shot." How often are these ordered?
They're called "Jonfires" and they were created when we did the episode "The Shot Exchange" where the kitchen caught bonfire! So the "Jonfire" was invented at that bar, and people liked it so much, that I put it in every bar I rescue. I don't track it, but I'm told it sells well. They are flaming shots.
How do you feel about cats?
Yeah, I love cats! I love animals. One of my objectives, and my wife & I are working on it, is to create a no-kill shelter for dogs & cats. There was a comedian who passed a few years ago, Buddy Hackett - he was in THE LITTLE MERMAID, I sat on the board of his no-kill animal charity, and have donated considerable money & time over my life into no-kill animal facilities, so yeah, I don't just LOVE cats, I put my money where my mouth is along with dogs. That's one of my passions. And I have a rescued animal sitting right next to me - I have a rescued border collie sitting next to me.
Hey John, love the show, what is your favorite rescue so far?
You know, it's funny, because it changes. And I'm not saying this as any kind of a promotional stunt, but I think my favorite rescue I shot a few weeks ago and it hasn't aired yet. You'll see it at the next group of new episodes in February, probably in February or March.
I'm not saying any more than that.
Ever thought of writing a Leadership book in regards to motivation?
Working on it right now!
Me and my wife never miss an episode of Bar Rescue, so thank you for that amazing show. In all of your travels, what city in America do you think has the best bbq?
That's a great question, because BBQ is such a unique thing - there's Mississippi delta BBQ, California BBQ, Memphis-style, Texas BBQ... a question like that is more a regional question than a city question. I will be much more specific : I prefer Memphis BBQ, I prefer dry-rub to a sauce, and off the top of my head, my friend Famous Dave from Famous Dave's makes the best BBQ of any chain in America. My favorite ribs in America are probably from Rendezvous in Memphis.
How did the idea of your famous "Butt Funnel" come to life? Also, why would you name it the butt funnel?
Well, it is - its purpose is to cause butts to get closer together in a smaller space. It's about social interaction, getting people closer together. It was something I came up with looking at a dance floor one day. "Butt funnels" are for more younger dance-club environments. I wouldn't put one in a Holiday-Inn-type-bar.
Hi Jon, I've noticed on several episodes that bar patrons have logos and images taped over with black tape before you make your first appearance in the bar. Is there an approximate time window that the bar knows you may appear for the rescue and are instructed to make the bar and patrons 'tv-friendly' in terms of copyrighted logos or non-sponsor logos?
The cameras arrive about 1.5 days before I get there. The people in the bar think I'm coming either the night BEFORE I get there, or the next day (so I arrive a day early) or I'm at another bar, not coming at all - so they are never sure if I'm coming, or when I'm coming. They never know, 100%. We have a table in front, that starts a day before I get there. And since our cameras are in the building, anybody who walks in must sign a release 1.5 days before I get there. The tape on people's clothes shows how REAL the show is - because if people are showing up in logo t-shirts or hats, and we have to put tape on it for legal reasons! If the show was set up, we wouldn't have them wearing logo t-shirts.
So again - whether I'm there or not, there's tape if the cameras are there.
Happy holidays Jon!
Huge fan of both Bar Rescue and Hungry Investors. I was curious to see what your thoughts were in regards to bars that you rescued who go on to change their name back, or abandon the concepts that you worked hard to implement. Does seeing that not bother you, or do you think that some bar owners only use you and your show for the free makeover and publicity?
You know, in the early days that wasn't the case. But nowadays, with the success of the show, there's a huge national platform when the show airs. But the fact of the matter is: to change the name of a bar, or the environment, BEFORE it airs on national TV, defies EVERY Logic of marketing.
So i unequivocally say that any bar owner who changes their name or concept before the show airs is an idiot.
And I don't believe there's a marketing professor in America who would disagree with that.
People want to come see WHAT AIRED. If you change it before it airs - you're an IDIOT. END OF QUESTION.
You going to do any bars in Canada?
I've done a LOT of bars in Canada over the years as a consultant. Yes I would love to and I hope to do it soon.
Jon, you are a huge inspiration to me in leadership. Your take-charge personality has helped me tremendously in the past few years of college. I am graduating college in May with a degree in Business Communication. What would be your advice to people who are about to begin the journey into the real world?
(PS thank you for the retweet earlier!)
That's a great question, and my compliments & congratulations to you on graduating college - that takes discipline, and so does success, so the fact that you've completed this has put you on the path of success already.
Here's my advice:
Every place I've worked when I was young was famous, or special. I only worked for places I could REALLY learn, and from people I could REALLY look up to.
ONLY work for those who you want to emulate. And for operations that you would like to own. And then you'll keep growing.
What is your favorite type of sandwich? the answer to this is very important to me
if I had to pick ONE sandwich - that would exclude a hamburger. My favorite sandwich would be a great burger... but if I were to travel around the country and see the most famous sandwiches in each city probably my favorite would be an Italian beef sandwich in Chicago.
THEN AGAIN... a pastrami sandwich in New York is irresistible too!
So you caught me! I am indecisive at times!
Calgary AB has a bar named Ranchman's , it is wildly popular here but I heard it was because you payed it a visit? Can you confirm?
I've spent a considerable amount of time in Calgary. There's a bar called Roadhouse, a dear friend of mine who's up there owns it. I love Calgary, particularly during Stampede.
Hey Mr. Taffer, a few questions for you: How much money do you make per episode and what kind of things do you like to buy? Do you have any pictures of you when you were younger? Also, would you ever or have you ever sported a beard? One last thing, have you ever injured your vocal chords from all the yelling on the show? Thanks!
Now in season 4, I make a considerable amount of money per episode - I won't say how much, I'll keep you guessing. Let's just say I don't invest time into things that don't pay me well.
And yes I do have pictures of when I'm younger, and I'll tell you what: if you watch my social feeds, I'll shoot some out there JUST for you.
I had a beard many years ago. I didn't like it and shaved it off.
Yes. The only time I ever actually lost my voice was at the Spirits on Bourbon episode, because when I did do a deal, it was during Halloween on Bourbon Street. And I had to scream so loud it actually did hurt my voice.
What in your opinion are the most and least successful bar consulting jobs you have done that were not shown on the show "Bar Rescue"?
Thanks in advance for any answers and I hope you have a great day.
Boy... years ago, I opened a nightclub outside of Philadelphia called "Pulsations" for a gentleman called Leon Altimos, who is no longer with us, and it was the greatest project I've ever been involved in. But any large projects - it's a team effort that makes projects great. Sometimes I'm a leader in these projects, roles vary project to project, but one of my most satisfying of all time was "Pulsations." I'm not going to say which one was my least satisfying, because to say it would be to identify the individual who owns it. As a consultant, your success is tied to the individual you're working with, and you can do great work, but your work is limited by delivery.
I have fired many clients. I don't take on things that I think can fail. I'm fortunate I can be selective.
Hi Jon, big fan...been hooked since Season 1...how do you decide on which experts to use on each show? I miss Duffy and Tipps those guys were great working with you. Have a great holiday season!
You know, it's their abilities, their capacities (the foods, beverages, products that they know) and the kind of bar I'm in. So I mix it around. I also consciously try to bring in new experts - particularly new chefs & mixologists - new people, creativity, keeping things moving around.
Will we ever see a return of you in casual clothes like in the pilot?
Also, I've noticed in 2 episodes that the name of the bar got revealed to the owners, then an advert break instead of the other way around which normally happens. Are some episodes outsourced in terms of editing?
Thanks Jon, love the show.
Hahaha. I wear what i wanna wear. These days I've been wearing black t-shirts a lot more often. I may, I may not? I'm into sport jackets these days, and every jacket I wear is custom made by Martin Greenfield from NYC, the finest tailor in America. And every jacket i wear that Martin makes for me - he also makes the suits for Obama, the presidents of the past few years, and he also made the suits for BOARDWALK EMPIRE. So I'm guessing you're going to see the jackets for a while.
Which "drinking holiday" do bars over serve the most? Cinco de Mayo or St. Patrick's Day?
I think St. Patrick's Day is farther reaching. obviously both can be opportunities for bar owners to cause over-intoxication. If I had to pick one, I think St. Patrick's Day has a bigger footprint than Cinco de Mayo does.
Which shocks me, because I don't know HOW people drink green beer, but that's a separate topic.
Hey Jon, I think I remember you rescued a bar around here in Orange County, CA. I can't remember the name. Also do you have any advice for someone trying to self train as a bartender?
Yes. Work for a bar where you can learn something. The biggest frustration I have for BAR RESCUE is when I go into a bar, and I meet a bartender with a wonderful personality, amazing appearance, and they've worked in a shot bar for 7 years and they know nothing except pouring shots or pouring a beer. If you want to learn to be a GREAT bartender, then you have to work in a place with a great cocktail program.
I just bought myself a shaker set for an upcoming party on a whim with little to no knowledge of mixing drinks. As a guru of bars and bartending, what are some easy non-traditional drinks you would recommend to impress friends and strangers?
If you go to Nightclub.com, there are great drink recipes there and all the recipes from BAR RESCUE are there. If you go to TheBar.com, that's a Diageo site, and there are a lot of the mixologists from BAR RESCUE showing you how to make drinks. So those are 2 great resources!
Hi Jon, thanks for doing this AMA! My boyfriend is thinking about becoming an investor in a bar this year. What advice do you have for someone trying to get into the bar business, who may not have a lot of career experience in hospitality? I'd love to pass your advice along!
Here's my advice: NEVER BE A MINORITY INVESTOR IN ANYTHING. That's number one.
If I've learned anything, it's that you should own 51% of what you do, and then you control your destiny, not somebody else. And if you don't know enough about the business to run it, and own 51% of it, than you shouldn't invest in it.
It's cold and hard, but you'll lose your money if you go minority piece on a rookie business - every time.
Hi John, great show. Keep it up, one of my favourites when it comes to 'rescue' style shows.
Do you ever plan on coming to Australia? There are some pubs over here which would benefit greatly from your expertise.
My partner says you have a lisp or a slight speech issue which I don't seem to be picking up when watching your show. Is it true or is she more mental than I thought she was?
What's the success rate of the bars you've rescued? Ramsay's website lists which ones are still going strong and which have changed owners/closed down and I'm interested in knowing how yours are going.
Now that the whole Pyrates fiasco is well over and done with, what did you think of their reaction to your changes, their social media postings and the state of the bar at the present moment?
What's your favourite casual/regular drink?
1) Yes, I've been down under before - Australia & New Zealand both, and we hope to be there next year, and you're right, there are some pubs that could use our help no question!
2) I think the only speech issues I have is the propensity to say "fuck" all the time. Other than that, i think my speech is just fine.
3) 80%. approximately.
4) You know, it's almost like going into a playroom of children, and they're playing Pyrates, and you want them to play something else. The kids are gonna cry, and scream and yell, they like their swords and eyepatches - and that's what it was like. It was like being in a room of kids that want to play Pyrate. And by the way - playing Pyrate in the end is not going to make them money, and I'm told they are closing. And life is strange - they can say all they like, but if BAR RESCUE hadn't gone there, they would have closed a lot earlier, that's the irony of it.
5) I like a Godfather, which is a nice scotch, and I just a nice drop of Amaretto in it. Or I have a big bar in my house, as you can imagine, I get all the new products, and I love playing with the flavored vodkas and all the new spirits - but if I'm out drinking, I'll get a nice Scotch.
You must get deluged with requests worldwide, do you see the show having different hosts in different countries and you'd pay some of them a visit? The show's a long overdue concept and can see it going for decades - as long as people keep tuning in and getting good ratings. Also, any plans to do a board game or video game based on the show?
I'm actually working on an app game right now, which I'm really really excited about, which would be the GAME version of BAR HQ, and I'm really excited about it - it's very cool. And yes, there are some international objectives that we have. And there are some other shows I'm working on as well. So YES to all of the above.
Hey Jon, a pleasure to be able to pose a question to you! My family and I love watching Bar Rescue each week and I listen to your talk on the Concept of Success almost every morning (I've even quoted it in public speaking at my school).
My question is this: I know there are lots of memes and jokes on you running for Presidency someday but do you take any of it seriously? Would you ever really get in the candidacy race? I would love to see America fixed by your no excuses policy and you'd garner tons of support! Thanks for taking the time to read!
Your buddy up in Canada,
You know, when I read those things, they're very flattering.
I'm not going to go out and declare a candidacy when there are so many people out there with so many qualified resumes. But that being said, if for whatever reason, I could declare a candidacy...
If I were in that situation, I think I could make a difference.
I guess I would have to be drafted, is the answer. And it would take an awful lot of people to make that happen.
Want to be my campaign manager? :)
Hey Jon, I love the show and haven't missed an episode since it started.
Earlier this year I went to the stress test for End Zone Sports Bar. Once the doors opened I was in there for about 5 minutes before you told everyone to come back the next day for another attempt. What happened with that? Was there a filming error or something? I noticed that none of the footage from the time I was there was used. Just curious. Cant wait for the next season!
I'm not certain. I believe there was a technical issue (I believe it was an audio failure) so that's why that happened.
But I'd say THE END is doing well, and I keep in touch with the guys, and it's a fun bar.
Hello Jon :) need my fix of bar rescue! Your an amazing man. How does 1 go about submitting a bar to be rescued? Happy Holidays to you and your family :)
Go to the website http://www.jontaffer.com, and you'll see the BAR RESCUE page, and you can see a page - SUBMIT A BAR for rescue.
We are shooting 30 episodes for season 40 - there are 20 more episodes to come, starting up in February!