Here's How To Tell You Just Stepped Into A Great Bar, According To Bar Rescue's Jon Taffer - Exclusive

It takes a lot of work to run a great bar — and if anyone knows that for sure, it's Jon Taffer of "Bar Rescue" fame. The host has helped revive and reinvigorate dozens of failing bars throughout the course of his career, which is no small order. Many bars fail, and you have to have the right stuff to make it for the long haul. It's a tough business, to put it mildly, and one in which bar owners can use all the help they can get.

As most of the work that goes into making a bar a success is behind the scenes, during an exclusive interview, Mashed asked Taffer to share some of the insights he's picked up over the years. He reported that he can tell almost immediately if a bar is any good, saying he knows "within three or four steps" if the bar is destined for greatness. 

"It takes me probably about eight or 10 seconds," Taffer went on. "I hear the music. I smell the environment. I look at the tabletops. I look at the back bar, I see the organization, I see cleanliness. I see who they chose as employees. I see how those employees are dressed. I see what's on the tabletop. How is the tabletop setup?"

How long most bars last, according to Jon Taffer

According to Jon Taffer, "the average bar will last five to seven years." Think about that for a moment: even with all the blood, sweat, and tears of the owners, managers, and staff, most bars close well before the 10-year mark. So what differentiates the few that survive? "It's interesting, when you look at a first timer, their success rate, it's not very high," says Taffer. "I've read and seen that one out of 10 or so will make it for first-timers. But for second timers, people that have experience, it's about 50/50. So, the trick is if you know what you're doing, you can open. And it's about 50/50 that you're alive a year later."  

Taffer went on to explain the reason he thinks so many new bars fail. "It depends upon the concept. Remember, anything that's trendy is endy, right? Trends end. So classic neighborhood bars last forever, classic nightclubs last a much longer period of time. So to those that are interested in this business, I've always been one who says: 'I stay in the mainstream.' I stay in the mainstream because it's the biggest marketplace. ... It's the easiest to realize. So mainstream concepts that target a mainstream audience are always going to be the longest lasting."

What is the success rate for bars that appear on Bar Rescue?

Bars that are helped by Jon Taffer and his "Bar Rescue" team do a lot better than your average institution — as in often twice as well as businesses "helped" by similar operations.

"I don't know what the impact [of the pandemic] has been," Taffer said, but speaking to pre-pandemic success, he shared with Mashed: "There's an independent bar website called Bar Rescue Updates that we have nothing to do with. It's run by an independent group ... and they have their own advertisers and everything that they do. They had us tracking at about 68% success on all of the operations. I must say when — and there've been articles written on this — when compared to the other restaurant and bar transformation shows our statistics are far higher, in many cases by over two times."

You can catch the newest season of "Bar Rescue" on TV and Paramount Network's streaming platform now.