Jon Taffer may be America’s most notoriously foul-mouthed bar critic, offering sage advice to failing bar, restaurant, and nightclub owners and managers across the nation, but in this incredible interview with Male Standard, Jon reveals his genuine intentions and true passion for life, and of all the people he meets each day. Jon confesses that he’s not in the business of Bar Rescue, though his hit TV show on Spike TV can sure make it look that way, with over 30 years of entertainment and entrepreneurial expertise, Jon proudly proclaims he is in the business of making people successful; be that behind the bar, in a room full of beautiful woman, or when starting your company or three — he’s a man who doesn’t take no for an answer, or an excuse as an example.
Take it from a man who has stood on both sides of success, and who appreciates failure is not avoidable, but an indicator that it’s time to step up your game. Jon shares with us his experiences on hit TV show Bar Rescue, and how the late nights, early mornings, and long days only made him work harder to perfect his art. How he’s a family man, who also happens to be a fantastic wing-man, and why he reveals the truth in that male grooming is essential if you want to get anywhere in life. He shares with us some of his most prized wisdom, which you must use in your daily life, and confidently calls the shots on when to man up. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, life is not a game folks. This is the main event, so how are you managing your life as the lead bartender?
Introducing Jon Taffer, of Bar Rescue
Have you always been an entrepreneurial; how did that start?
When I was about ten years old, I went to summer camp and created a company called Aardvark Enterprises. We used to buy Coca-Cola for $0.20 a can and we would sell it to counselors for $2 a can late at night and we would sell counselor massages and services to the counselors. I had eight campers working for me and I’d pay them a quarter a night and I made $3 a night. So even when I was ten years old, I used to do this stuff. I’ve been doing it my whole life. As a matter of fact, right now I’m in the middle of writing my second book and it’s a children’s book. It’s the story of a brother and sister who open up a local lemonade stand, but they have inventory issues and then they got to plan their hours better. They’re not open at the right hours and it’s a book that teaches children the principles of business in a really fun way.
I know there’s a lot of kids that can use that, especially teaching entrepreneurship at such a young age, just because it’s so common to think, “Go out and get a job”, but starting your own business is definitely the way to go so that’s really great to hear.
That’s true. I got to tell you, jobs are hard today and sometimes we need to take control of our own lives. And, you know there’s a lot of people out there that are looking for jobs, struggling. I think maybe some people should say, rather than looking for a job, let me look for a job and pursue something entrepreneurial, because you know, an entrepreneurial idea can take off and many people have them, but don’t finish them through. How many times do people say, “I should try this. I should try that”? I’ll tell you this, I don’t regret anything I’ve ever tried, but I do regret things that I haven’t tried.
Knowing of your experience as a business owner, what do you feel is the common denominator of failure?
Before Bar Rescue, I’ve done about 800 consulting projects around the world for companies from high hotels to independent bars in Indiana, all over the place. It taught me everything about success for over 30 years. I really understand the building blocks of success, the words of success, you know, all the things it requires to be successful. Then I do Bar Rescue, and for 43 episodes, I learned more about failure than any business consultant in the world because business consultants are brought to businesses that can afford them, businesses that typically have a chance. I’m brought into places that can’t afford to buy me lunch. They can’t afford to buy me a plane ticket. They’re $900,000 in debt. They’ve made thousands of bad decisions that have led me to be there that day. I have experienced a depth of failure the past two years of my life that I’m going to suggest no other business professional has ever experienced. Now knowing what I know about success and knowing what I know about failure, I’m going to tell you that the education of that failure has been more meaningful to me as a consultant and here’s why; I have found the common denominator of failure. I’ve figured it out. I know exactly what it is and here we go. Excuses.
For example, you own a bar, a restaurant, a salon, a tie store, could be any of those things. You wake up in the morning, business isn’t good. It’s been a month, business isn’t good. So you blame the economy. You blame the president. You blame Congress. People are blaming Greece. “Aha. Greece did it. The bad economy in Greece destroyed my bar in Idaho.” The Mayor, construction in the street, recessions, the products stink. You look in the mirror every morning and you have a reason why that business is failing, but it’s never you. It’s always something else, right?
In Bar Rescue, I’ve learned that. That’s why I force them and that’s why it’s so confrontational. I force them to look at me and say, “I am failing because of me.” Now if you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and your sock store is failing and you say, “It’s the economy. God damn construction in the street. This mayor’s destroying my business.” Or you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and see a failure, say, “I am failing man. Other businesses are succeeding now, why not mine? I am a failure.” You’re not going to like it, but you’re going to change. As long as you can pass that blame to something else, you have no incentive to change.
When I make you own that failure, you don’t like it. You don’t like looking in the mirror and seeing a failure and suddenly you start changing things. I can fix any business. My challenge is fixing people. The only way I can fix people is by getting down to the core and making them accept the fact that their failure is due to them, only them and the choices that they make. Once they buy into that, their brain cracks open, and then I can walk right in and really change their behavior. You’ve seen it happen on some of my Rescue episodes. Obviously, it was almost more of a people rescue that it was a bar rescue or family rescue than it was a bar rescue. Last week’s episode was a great example of that, if you happened to see it.
So when I look in your face and challenge what you believe, you’re not going to like it. You’re going to dig your heels in. You’re going to fight back. These are your beliefs. That’s why Bar Rescue gets ugly, because when I dig my heels in and attack your beliefs, you are not going to like it. Hence, we fight it out but I have got to hold my ground. I’ve got to hold my ground because I have to make you see yourself as failing before I can fix it. That’s really in a nutshell the process that I go through in Bar Rescue before I try to change anyone.
One excuse we hear a lot is, “I don’t know how to get started.” Or “I have too much on my plate.” I’m sure you, as much as anybody, you’re a businessman, you have a ton on your plate. What does a typical day look like for you? How do you balance it?
I don’t like to let people down. As a person, that’s a powerful trait of mine. I don’t like to disappoint people I work really hard on my TV show because I don’t want to disappoint the audience. So when my employees need something from me, if I don’t do it I feel terrible about it. When a client needs access to me, if they don’t have it I feel terrible about it. If I have a deadline and I don’t meet it, I feel awful about it and I beat myself when those things happen. I don’t like it. So whatever I commit myself, I do overload myself sometimes. I’ll go in at one or two in the afternoon and I’ll shoot until two-thirty, three in the morning. I’m back at my hotel at three-thirty in the morning. I’ve been shooting all day and sometimes it’s a bad intensity, right? So my adrenaline’s pumping. I’ve been screaming and yelling. It takes me an hour and half to come down. I’m going to sleep at four-thirty, five in the morning typically because I don’t have to wake up at seven-thirty, eight in the morning.
My phone starts, particularly when I’m on the west coast. It starts early. I have responsibilities. I try not to book myself until ten, ten-thirty in the morning, but what happens is I just wake up on my own; my problem is sleep deprivation. What will happen is I’ll run three, four, five days going to bed at five, five-thirty in the morning and getting up at seven-thirty, eight. Just naturally waking up at that time. I start yawning. I’m exhausted during the course of the day. I don’t do energy drinks. I just don’t happen to like them. So every third or fourth day I wind up taking a sleep-enhancer. You know, an Ambien or something my doctor give me, and make sure I get at least six hours every third day or so.
I also run one of the largest trade shows in America, the Nightclub and Bar Convention in Las Vegas, I’m the president; one of the founders of it 30 years ago. That convention, it happens every year. It’s three years it’s been a Las Vegas convention. It’s the largest convention in the nightclub industry. I run one of the largest trade shows in America. Nightclub.com is our website. It’s the portal to the nightclub industry. We communicate with 200,000 bars every month through that website sending promotions and it’s like a bar intelligence website. You go there to get recipes and promotions and learn and we run that. It’s a media company. I also run Taffer Dynamics, which is my consulting company, where we do our products and our books and our publishing. Right now, as we speak, I’m building a studio in Las Vegas so that we can do a podcast, video podcasts, and create video content easier without having to go into other studios. So we’re creating a really great high-definition streaming studio. And on top of all of that, I have my wife and my daughter I want to spend time with. My daughter’s 24, it’s not like she’s a little girl anymore, but still I speak to her every day. I want to spend time with her when I can.
So I’m incredibly busy and what I find is this; I’m an insomniac to some degree because I work so much. If you research insomniacs, you’re going to find something interesting; Henry Ford, Harry Firestone, Thomas Edison, almost every one of the great industrialists of our time were insomniacs. When you look at a guy like Henry Ford, or Thomas Edison, this guy slept about three hours a day. So he was awake five to six hours a day more than anyone else and he used those five to six hours a day to be productive. If I work twice as many hours as somebody else, doesn’t it stand to reason that I’m going to get ahead faster? I’m going to learn more faster? I’m going to be exposed to more faster? I put in 20 hour days very often and it’s what’s gotten me here. So do I over-do sometimes? Yea, I do, and it takes its physical toll on me, but I’m passionate about what I do and I’ve been able to manage through it.
Let’s say, I have a dream of owning a bar or restaurant. What’s the best way for to get started?
Well, you know, first thing is work in one, period. You don’t know you want to own a bar until you’ve worked in one. Bar businesses are tough, man. It’s a lot of hours every day. It’s a tough business. You got to control your inventory by the minute. Theft is rampant. Lawsuits are rampant. Customer liabilities are rampant. Employee liabilities are rampant. This is not an easy business. Going into the bar business because you love business, not because you love bars. On the Murphy’s episode of Bar Rescue, the two frat brothers loved bars so they open up a bar. Look what happened. These guys lost a fortune. Back when I went in and did my Bar Rescue, you know what the first thing they did was? They sold it. The two of them looked at each other and said, “We should not be in this business,” since I had remodeled and set it all up, they sold it, got their money out, and they went into another business. You know, people that love liquor and love hanging in bars should not be in my business.
Would you say that business, the fundamentals of business, translate across many industries?
Jon: Absolutely, in my book, ‘Raise the Bar’ (that comes out October 8th) is all about the fundamentals. It’s funny, ‘Raise the Bar’ could also be the mantra of Male Standard, which is remarkable. Here’s the premise of the book. I don’t believe that any company’s in the product business. Let’s take a restaurant. The cook in the kitchen thinks he’s cooking an entree and the owner of that restaurant thinks the entree is his bestselling product. He’s dead wrong. When that plate hits the table, one of two things happens. Okay, let’s say you’re out with a friend tonight for dinner. You come to a restaurant of mine and you sit down at the table. The server brings the entree plate out, puts it in front of you. One of two things is going to happen. Maybe you’re going to react to it and I’ll see it if you do. You’ll sit up. You’ll look at it with enthusiasm. The plate looks great. You look at the other person’s plate and I see you guys physically reacting to that plate or food. Or nothing happens. So I suggest to you that the cook in the kitchen is not preparing an entree at all. He’s preparing a human reaction. He’s achieving it through the entree. So the entree is not the product. The human reaction is.
Let me take it a step further. I don’t play music in bars. I play human reactions. I achieve it through music. We don’t impress girls as guys, we create reactions in girls. When those reactions serve us well, we’ve got exactly what we want. We don’t serve people, we create reactions. I suggest that Verizon doesn’t sell cell service, they sell reactions. If they don’t treat you right, you’re gone. You react to things they do badly and you’re not going to be on Verizon very long, are you? When people relate too much to their product, they blow it.
I own the term ‘reaction management’, it’s actually mine, I own the trademark term. Everything in my life has been about reactions. I own the only patent ever issued by the federal government for controlling music to achieve the desire ambiance in hospitality properties. I took 60,000 songs, color-coded them, aligned them be beats-per-minute, even put them in listings by key so I can manipulate beats-per-minute levels and make you chew faster if I want to, dance faster, talk faster, slow down. I can manipulate lighting to create different body temperatures in you and effect the flow of morphine. There’s so many sciences that I can play with. The fact of the matter is, you’re not in the business of writing because the article doesn’t mean shit. It’s the way people react to it that matters. You’re writing a reaction, man. You’re achieving it through the article, aren’t ya? If you write something that gets no reactions, you’re not going to be writing for long. That’s my point. When a writer sits down and thinks he’s writing a piece, he’s wrong. When a cook sits down and thinks he’s cooking something, he’s wrong. We are all in reaction business and make no mistake, he or she that creates the best reaction wins. End of story. That’s life. Whether the reactions are with women, life, your boss, or your employees, when you get the right reactions around you, you win.
So, how do you do that in a pre-meditated way? How do I walk into a room with people with an understanding of the reactions I need to create and a plan to create those specific reactions knowing that when I do, I’m going to own them? That’s what my book is about. I mean, if you can dress like a millionaire, rent a Bentley, take a girl out to the most expensive restaurant in town, meanwhile you’re sleeping on the sidewalk somewhere in a cardboard box, but you pulled this off tonight. When that girl goes home, she’s fucking yours, man. Because she’s reacting to what you presented whether it’s true or real or not, doesn’t matter. She’s reacting to what she perceives. And those of us that can manage the reactions of others become millionaires. I’m one of them.
What is, speaking of the reaction in that sense, the lifestyle aspect. You know, as a guy, you want to get the girl. You want to be successful. What are some things that guys can do at a bar to get that positive reaction? How do you get that VIP treatment?
Well, you know it’s interesting. We when we look at women and we look at men, there’s a lot of statistical differences. I just did an episode on bacon for Bar Rescue and you’ll find this fascinating. 43 percent of men in America would rather have bacon than sex. That’s an actual statistic. That’s a hard number, man. 20 percent of men in America say they can’t live without bacon and bacon is a seventh most popular smell across men in America. Women don’t feel that way about any food product. So in as much as men think it’s sex, sex, sex, all you want to do is get laid, the fact of the matter is, it’s not true. In very many ways, women are more focused on intimacy than men are. So when you look at women and you start to pick them apart and I’ve been running nightclubs for 35 years. You know how many guys I’ve watched make assholes of themselves? You know how many pick-up lines I’ve heard? I see what works and what doesn’t.
Number one, a guy walks up to a girl that’s dressed in a way that clearly evidences pride. Her nails are done. Her hair is colored. Her dress is properly picked. She’s color coordinated. This is clearly somebody who has pride in themselves. They’re going to look for a guy who also has what? Pride. They’re not likely to be with somebody unkempt. So you go to a bar, nine out of ten women are dressed really really well and eight out of ten men are dressed like bums. That’s one. No girl likes that. Because what happens is you pass on pride for cool vanity, which makes you substance-less. So the first thing that women have to see is confidence and pride. That’s the number one thing that I believe they react to. You walk in with your chest out like you own the place. You can’t walk in like you own the place unless you look like you own the place. It’s a presence. It’s a feeling of confidence that you walk in. Nobody walks in that confidence when they’re wearing torn up jeans and flip flops in a fucking bar. If you don’t walk with that posture in that outfit, you don’t come off confident, you come off like an asshole. Years ago, let’s just pick horror movies for a moment because this is an interesting conversation. Years ago, women were always the victims in horror movies, weren’t they? Always the victim. Now they’re the enforcers. They catch the bad guy. They stand toe to toe with guys. There are badass women in movies today. You know, the day of the victim dainty woman is over. These women hold their own. You’ve got to hold your own too, brother. It’s a different world. Women have a confidence today and expect you to have the same. They expect you to have pride and cool comes from confidence.
I was with a bartender last night in an episode of shooting and the guy has his head shaved as a Mohawk, he’s got tattoos, you know, sleeves up and down his arms and this guy probably gets laid X amount of times a month. He’s fucking everybody in sight and I look at him across the room and I say, “You’re a failed bartender in a failed business that’s going to close in a week. What the fuck is cool about that?” Hair will never make you cool, man. Confidence makes you cool.
Can you fake confidence?
You got to fake confidence; you got to wear things that a confident person would wear. You got to wear things that somebody that money would wear because unfortunately money and confidence are equated in very similar ways, right? People that are wealthy tend to be confident or are perceived that way. People that are really confident and walk and carry themselves in that way are either perceived as wealthy or will be wealthy. So the two travel in hand. The fact of the matter is that you have to walk up to a girl, have her in ten seconds eye you up and down and make a determination of three things. One, this guy’s got some pride. Two, this guy’s got some confidence. Three, this guy could be interesting. That’s the walk-up objective. You’re not going to do that looking like a fucking bum. And when I go to bars and nightclubs today I’m shocked by the difference level of attire between the men and women. And I’m not suggesting you go in you’re in a sport jacket. That’s not what I’m saying. You know, you can still wear jeans. You can still be totally casually dressed, but you can do it in a way that portrays some connection to pride and style.
That’s just the way it is. I studied bars for 35 years. I’ve watched groups of women and I see who do they look at? When a table of five or six girls are in a bar, see, I’m a fucking nutcase, if you watch my show, you know this. I will stand in a corner of that bar and for an hour, hour and a half I will do nothing but watch that table. I’ll see where their eyes go, what they buy, what they smile at, what they don’t, but I also see which men they look at and which men they don’t. I’m going to tell you, the men they looked at were the ones described. The other ones didn’t matter. They were invisible. So you want to do it yourself? Go to a bar, pick a table of four women, go stand off in a corner and you watch the girls that catch their eyes; you watch the guys that catch their eyes. You watch the guys that they lean in, “Oh look at him over there.” Watch and then do what the they looked at. That’s the business of getting women, man.
What’s your Male Standard? What’s your motto or credo that you live by?
Simple. When I lay down on my death bed, my wife and daughter have to think the world of me, And that’s the way it works for me. You know, in Bar Rescue, I have been given this unbelievable platform where I can actually inspire and help people. If you want to do something fun, go on YouTube, there’s a video called ‘The Concept of Success’ that was made by one of my fans. Please do this, Victor, it’s a three-minute video. Go on YouTube, just put in ‘Jon Taffer The Concept of Success’, it’s a three-minute video and this guy was inspired to make this video by the work that I’ve done on TV. To think that I could inspire thousands of people to become entrepreneurs, you know, to be better. I was in an airport the other day, a young man walks up to me, about 22 years old. Urban guy, missing two teeth in the bottom of his mouth, comes up to me as I’m waiting for my breakfast at six in the morning in a Burger King in Atlanta airport. He goes, “I wanted to tell you that I’m a manager because of you.”
I said, “What do you mean?” He goes, “Well I used to work in the back and I would bring stuff in and out all day long and after watching your show I said, ‘I can be better.’ And now I’m a manager.” The guy walked away. That happens to me, Victor, 50 to 100 times a month. Tweets, emails, people that have told me I have changed their lives. I’ve inspired them. I’ve made their marriage better. Man, that is motivating. Do you hear me? That’s as motivating as anything that’s ever happened to me before in life. So to be able to inspire people is great, but at the end of the day my wife and my daughter know me, my heart, and my soul better than anybody in the world. They’re the ones that will judge me.
Where can we learn more? Where can we get the book?
Jon: The book is available at Amazon. Advance orders are available now. It’ll be in bookstores nationally, publicly released on October 8th, but it is available for pre-order on Amazon. And there will be some excerpts available around the country as well next month. People can see. The fourth season of Bar Rescue starts October 6th. And you know, I don’t know if you know this, I run the world’s largest nightclub and bar convention in Las Vegas every March. I founded it 30 years ago and it’s one of the largest conventions in Las Vegas. So I’m not just a bar guy, I run one of the largest trade shows in the world. I also run the Nightclub and Bar Media Group, which are newsletters, websites, a whole B2B media company for the bar industry. And I’m an executive producer of Bar Rescue. And you were talking about time before, I should mention this, the press release comes out tomorrow. My second show, Hungry Investor, we just picked up and we go in production on that in February. And I will have two shows on TV at the same time.
You are an inspiration, Jon. It was an honor to be able to interview you. Thank you so much.
About Bar Rescue Season 3
Spike TV’s hit reality series “Bar Rescue” will resume its mission to overhaul struggling bars nationwide when its third season, consisting of twenty episodes, premieres February 10 at 10:00 PM, ET/PT. From the producers of “The Biggest Loser” and “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition,” the series features Jon Taffer, one of the country’s top nightlife consultants, as he wields nearly three decades of experience in the food and beverage, hotel and hospitality industries to help give failing drinking establishments one last chance to transform themselves into vibrant, profitable businesses.