Happy Labor Day!
Bar and nightclub business consultant Jon Taffer helps struggling establishments improve operations by identifying issues (with personnel, service, technology, facilities, and offerings) and implementing tried-and-true solutions to improve customer experience, attract new customers, and create repeat customers.
Taffer treats the bars and nightclubs like they are businesses, which they are. Bars and nightclubs are intended to be fun entertainment venues but they can only exist when there is a positive cash flow and they are providing value. The quicker managers and employees realize this, the quicker they can begin to reduce wasteful activities and habits and start becoming financially viable.
The show’s five-day transformations are like a complete Lean transformation for small businesses. It’s as if they’ve instituted week-long kaizen events that touch everything in the business.
Each show I’ve seen has started out with a fact-finding mission by one of Taffer’s associates doing investigative work undercover. A lot of customer-facing issues are discovered this way – bad service, bad food, bad drinks, staff interaction with patrons, patron-patron interactions, and safety.
After Taffer meets with the management and the staff shortly after the recon work, the first major project tends to be a major 5S effort. It’s hard to implement improvements when all of the work is being done in an unorganized and non-standard environment, so everything gets cleaned and organized – unneeded stuff (like spoiled food) is thrown away, a semblance of order is implemented so that everything has a place, and there is a LOT of cleaning typically resulting from years of neglect and health code violations left uncorrected.
The kitchen, bar, and wait staff receive some expert training in their occupations – learning how to cook properly and possible overhaul of the menu, the bartenders learn how to properly make drinks and perhaps adding to the drink repertoire – before what Taffer refers to as a “stress test” of putting all of the employees in a high-production evening with lots of customers hired to essentially make them crack.
This stress test essentially becomes a PDCA implementation – Plan, Do, Check, Act. The staff has learned how to do a lot of operations properly through expert training, and then on a small scale they implement these changes when they count and see what works. After the stress test the team regroups to check what new ideas need to be reconsidered or what can be further added.
There are so many other Lean elements in the show that keep me glued to the television – standardized works for the cooks by having recipes kept in sight at all times, regular 5S concepts maintained in the establishment, patron flow through the restaurant, elimination of excess motion behind the bar, visual controls of temperatures to optimize yield of beer, making multiple servings of the same mixed drink that is ordered frequently (use of small batches but making one at a time is a lot of excess motion), point-of-sale systems helping error-proof – that I won’t examine in great detail here, but it stands as a reminder that bars and restaurants are businesses, and all businesses have key operational processes that need to be optimized.