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Do bar owners that don’t drink have a greater chance of success?
YES – don’t build a bar for yourself, build it for your customers. At the end of the day, your customers are the ones that are paying you so you have to keep the focus on them. If your main reason for opening a bar is to have somewhere for you and your friends to hang out, then build a bar in your basement, and stay out of the industry. That being said – don’t drink in your own bar! Keep it a business and keep it professional! No one wants to see the owner of the bar neglecting their customers because he or she is over in the corner with their buddies getting hammered. If there’s a big crowd tonight, and your staff is working hard to keep up with the demand, you better be right there with them, getting these customers what they want! GET TO WORK!
What is your favorite drink?
I like a “Dry Godfather” which is 1.5 oz of Johnnie Walker Blue and a few drops of Amaretto served on the rocks.
Can I have a ‘Shut It Down!’ t-shirt?
Yes, we have a variety of apparel and merchandise available at https://www.jontaffer.com/shop/
Who are your biggest mentors?
Thomas Jefferson – his vision, his convictions, his ambition, his politics, and his finesse have all had a powerful influence on me.
Howard Hughes – he was a man who stepped outside of his box all of the time and pioneered the best inventions!
And finally, Walt Disney – Walt Disney had an apartment above Disneyland where he would watch the entrance gates to the park and from there, he could see the facial expressions of people entering and exiting the park. Disney was the pioneer of reaction management – he created the human transaction experience. And then he made the transactions twice the price!
What is the schedule like for shooting an episode of Bar Rescue?
We shoot for five days. On the first day, I arrive and do the recon. I also go around and look at the other competitors of the business in the surrounding neighborhood. Day 2 is the most brutal day for us on Bar Rescue because that’s the day of the stress test. We start early in the day and we train all day long, then we do the stress test until about 3 or 4 in the morning. Day 3 is all about the training – my experts go in and teach them how to bartend, cook, and any other skills the staff needs training on. Day 4 is transformation day, when we remodel the bar. Day 5, the final day, is the big reveal. We typically show it to the staff around sundown, and then the bar opens to the public. The entire rescue is a 5-day, 12-hour process…it’s brutal!
What motivates you to rescue bars?
Rescuing a bar for me is MORE than just the bar, it’s the employees – watching the faces of the bar owners and their staff after a big reveal is a very unique experience, which is something you don’t see a lot as a consultant. To be able to turn around their businesses is unbelievably exciting and rewarding – it’s more than just the bar, it’s their families, their livelihoods, and their retirements on the line. These people on Bar Rescue are really, really in trouble…. So we’re changing lives, and that’s the best part about every rescue.
Would you ever do a show with Gordon Ramsey/Robert Irving/Bobby Flay?
I love these guys! Our problem is that 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 these amazing chefs. I would love to work with SO many people, but unfortunately networks and contracts preclude so much.
Do you own any bars?
In 2020 I opened my own casual dining franchise, Taffer’s Tavern, and have locations poping up all over the country. Stop in if one is near you!
How did the industry become a passion for you?
I went to college for political science and got a bartending job. And when I got into this business, I realized that making people smile for a living is actually a pretty cool thing. I got into it when I was young and was really passionate about it, and now I’m somewhat of a nutcase. I’m almost a scientist about the business now, along with the science of “reaction management.”
Do you ever get sick of screaming?
YES! It’s not something I like to do, but when I do yell, 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.
Have you ever injured your vocal chords from all the yelling on the show?
Yes – the only time I ever lost my voice was during the Spirits on Bourbon episode. The filming took place during Halloween on Bourbon Street so I had to scream so loud over the outside noise that it actually injured my voice!
Do you cover the cost of the renovations and upgrades or do the bar owners have to pay some of it back?
My sponsors and I pay for everything. The owner doesn’t pay one dime. We even leave them with food & beverage inventory, along with plates, silverware, glassware, and everything they need. There’s a LOT that’s left behind for the bar.
How do you pick which experts to use on the show?
I pick experts based on their abilities and their capacities (the foods, beverages, products that they know) and the kind of bar I’m in. I also try to bring in new experts – particularly new chefs & mixologists to keep things moving around.
Where do you get your suits?
Every jacket I wear is custom made by Martin Greenfield from NYC, the finest tailor in America. He also makes custom suits for Obama and the cast of Boardwalk Empire.
What is your advice for someone trying to be a bartender or break into the industry?
If you want to learn to be a GREAT bartender, then you have to work in a place with a great cocktail program. Work for a bar and gain experience! Work for places you could REALLY learn from and from people you REALLY look up to – only work for those who you want to emulate.
How do you recruit people for your stress tests and initial recon?
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 with a different crowd than the usual customers and the reality will be destroyed. That’s why privacy is key to protecting the “reality” aspect at all costs. That being said, we fill for stress tests by asking local businesses.
How did the “Butt Funnel” start?
The purpose of the “Butt Funnel” is to get butts to move closer together in a smaller space. It’s about social interaction and getting people closer together. It was something I came up with when I was looking at a dance floor one day. “Butt funnels” are for more younger dance-club environments.