Bar (Culture) Rescue

Jon Taffer, the host of the reality show Bar Rescue, told Jordan Harbinger that a dysfunctional bar is really made up of several other “disses” that arise from the individual level, including being disjointed, disconnected and dissatisfied.


Here’s an analogy to help think about what he’s saying: picture a bicycle wheel. The bar itself is the tire. It’s the name, face, and physical contact with the outside world. The people that work for the bar are the spokes. They distribute the weight and support the tire. The bar’s culture is the hub. Culture is thrown around as a fancy business school word but don’t let it be intimidating. Here it represents what literally and metaphorically binds people together to do their work.


When Taffer is assessing a business, occasionally throwing a plate or two and figuring out how to improve upon a dysfunctional situation, it’s the “disses” that he’s focused on. A messy kitchen is like a flat tire that can be patched on the spot. An empty position is like a missing spoke that can be replaced/hired for. The culture of the business and how it operates is the hub, and to turn dysfunctional into functional everyone has to be brought onto the same page. If you’ve seen the show and its success rate (apparently around 70% of the bars really do get rescued), you know that just about anything is possible with the right mindset. Every “dis” just needs to be addressed.


To not be disjointed the people need to know what their roles are and how they fit together. To not be disconnected the people need to know how and when they communicate. To not be dissatisfied they need to feel good about the rest of the wheel and why they do what they do. When the hub holds the right spokes in the right place and makes sure they are properly connected, supported, and stable, then even a flat tire can roll-over.


The questions aren’t easy to ask and the solutions aren’t easy to find, but these are the building blocks. The most dysfunctional bar can become functional when the hub supports the spokes, so they can properly support the tire, and the whole wheel can roll through the world. As Taffer has proven, get the culture right and you’ve got a durable business.