In a nutshell, Bar Rescue is like Kitchen Nightmares, but for bars. “Renowned bar consultant” Jon Taffer goes to a struggling bar in _____ (Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, etc.). He talks to the owners and staff. He renovates the restaurant, revamps the menu, and usually changes the place’s name and theme. Midway through his five-day process, Jon has a “soft run” where he tests the new beverage and food menus. At the end of the five days, there’s a grand re-opening where the bar is packed and tra la la.
Jon’s big on the concept of bar “science,” and since true scientists just threw up in their mouths a little, allow me to explain. Running a bar is like running any business: there are best practices. When you’re serving cocktails, for example, you should always mix them a certain way. They should taste consistently good, and they should be just strong enough and just sweet enough to make people hungry. Best practice.
When you have a theme, your menu, décor, and atmosphere should match the theme. Don’t serve Italian food at an Irish pub. Don’t play country music at a sushi-and-sake bar. Best practice.
And beer? Beer turns out to be an incredibly finicky beverage. It must be stored and served at certain temperatures. In a specially-cleaned glass. Dispensed at a certain angle. If you mess up any of these aspects of the keg-to-gullet process, you’re doomed.
As with restaurants, the failure of bars usually comes down to an owner who wasn’t ready to be an owner. Sometimes they bought the bar because they were fans. Sometimes they bought the bar because they wanted somewhere to drink for free. Sometimes they bought the bar because they’re a chef who really wanted a restaurant but this was the best they could find. You get the idea. Hey America: don’t start a small business unless you have a large pile of liquid assets and no expectation of return!
What really makes the show, though, is Jon Taffer. This guy:
YOU DON’T MESS AROUND WITH THAT GUY. Whereas Gordon Ramsay and Robert Irvine will yell at you in a British accent, this guy will have you whacked with no compunction whatsoever. Look in his eyes and tell me differently.
My research indicates that many of these places end up closing anyway, despite Jon’s attempts. But if you’re going to go down, what a delightfully-loud way to do it. Full episodes available on Spike.com. Don't make Jon angry.