Food & Beverage Magazine had a wonderful opportunity to take a moment with Jon Taffer and ask him a few questions
- I start at about 6:00 in the morning; get out of the hotel about 8:30 after about an hour and a half on my computer doing emails. Then I start shooting “Hungry Investor” at about 9:00am and I’ll shoot until 10:00pm, and then go back to my hotel, work on my computer, go to sleep, and start all over again the next day. When I shoot Bar Rescue, it’s the same but Bar Rescue starts later. We start shooting about 11:00am then shoot until about 1:00am. Production takes up a huge part of my day.
What techniques and tools do you use to keep yourself organized?
- There’s so much going on right now in my life that I can’t keep it organized. Sometimes it’s too much. Instead I keep it prioritized, and that’s what’s in important. Rather than keeping 30 things organized, pick the top 10 and keep them prioritized. Get to the next 20 later.
Was there a person in your career who really made a difference?
- If you’re asking about a mentor, I haven’t had a mentor in my life per se, and any one individual who has done that. There are people who given me opportunities: Leon Altama comes to mind. Leon passed away several years ago. He gave me the opportunity to build an open pulsations night club outside of Philadelphia with “arroba nor spaceship” and it was clearly the best night club in the world. He didn’t mentor me but he gave me a huge opportunity to find the people in my life that I would say that are more about providing me with opportunities than mentoring. The fact is: there are not a lot of mentors in the bar and night business. I sort of found my own way.
What three character traits would your friends use to describe you?
- Aggressive, but sweet, and at moments an incredible pain in the ass.
Who is your role model?
- You know if I had two role models I would pick surprising ones. I would pick Thomas Jefferson and I would pick, believe it or not, Howard Hughes and put the two people together and that is pretty much what I think I would aspire to be.
What do you love most about your job?
- Helping people. The other day somebody came up to me at an airport while I was waiting on breakfast and told me he used to be a dish washer and now he’s an assistant manager all because of me. He teared up and gave me a hug and I teared up too. To think that my TV show can impact people around America or around the world and change a life or two, or put a few extra dollars in somebody’s pocket, or get a kid to college, that’s what’s inspiring.
What things do you not like to do?
- If there’s one thing I really, really don’t like to do it’s to pack, dance, and believe it or not, I don’t like to take too much time off. I find it detaches me from life.
What’s the one accomplishment you’re most proud of?
- I would have to say Bar Rescue only because it wasn’t it my life three years ago and everybody who I met and everybody who I told about it thought I was crazy. That I would never get the show on the air and the show didn’t have any legs, everybody told me I was crazy. But I pulled it off. It’s now the number one show on Spike and one of the hottest shows in all reality television. Had I listened to people on the way, I would have never done this. So the fact of the matter is Bar Rescue is an example of following your own dreams and your own instincts, not the instinct or guidance of others. Remember: if I fail or you fail you want it to be because of you, not because of somebody else. Own it! Don’t let somebody else steer your life.
- I think we’re going to see a pendulum swing back in to beer this year. I think beer is going to make a real comeback. I think beer cocktails and craft beers are going to make a huge comeback in the next few years. That market has been a little soft. Spirits have had a great run, particularly the flavored spirits, but if there’s anything I’ve seen in all my years in the business, it’s that pendulum does swing back and forth. We’re going to see a whole new type of beer: healthier beers, organic beers, wider beers, beer cocktails, and flavored beers. I believe the sector is going to explode in about two years.
Who is your biggest supporter?
- I think my biggest supporter is my wife, Nicole, who has been rock solid behind me now for eighteen years, and I would say this with her sitting in the room or not sitting in the room. I truly believe with my heart and soul that Nicole is my biggest fan.
What would you want to have as your last meal?
- I’ll take a stake from CUT in Beverly Hills.
Are there any foods you just don’t like?
- I’m not a truffles guy. I don’t get the whole truffle thing to tell you the truth. I’m not big on curry, I’m not big on cilantro, and I’m not big on truffles. Other than that I’m in!
Do you have a favorite recipe?
- I think my favorite food recipe is a rustic Italian dish which in Italian is called clams posillipo. It is clams in a tomato soup in the shell, and whenever they have that on the menu I will drive fifty miles to get it. I have a thing for clams and Italian food. You put Italian recipes and clams together and I’m all in.
If you had just one wish, what would it be?
- That the political environment of our world would change, and that people understand that when we fight wars and when we partner up, we win. There’s a lot of losing going on these days by politicians and everybody else out there, and I wish everyone would just step back, take a deep breath, and ask themselves a simple question: “What’s in it for me if I don’t make sacrifices?” The fact is: there’s nothing in it for any of us if we don’t get along.
Are you working on any big projects now?
- Oh yeah the biggest ever, and I’m not going to tell you anything about it! No I’m just teasing. Yes, I’m working on Taffer TV, which is probably the most exciting project I’ve ever done. In thirty years of giving seminars and workshops and getting notes from people about how they couldn’t come, or it was too far, or that they couldn’t afford it, we found a way to bring all of the educational content and work that I do right to the bar operator for under $30 a month, and Taffer TV is the product. We’re going to be delivering the best bar education program in the world for increasing revenues, growing guess counts, lowering costs, and growing and promoting your business, and it all airs under the Taffer TV banner this June.
- Well the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show is twenty-nine years old, and I’m one of the founders. I’m excited to say that this is our best years ever! Attendees are up about 35%. We have just had to take more space in the exhibit hall because we have so many exhibitors. Nightclub & Bar are the three most important days of the year and they’re the three most important days for the industry. I work incredibly hard to make sure it’s an unbelievable event. Anyone that is in the food and beverage industry that doesn’t go to the Nightclub and Bar Show this year is crazy; they should get into another business. In the bar business, we’re one idea away from our next $200,000 in sales. One idea! There are hundreds of ideas at Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show. If you don’t go, you don’t get ideas, and you don’t grow your business. That doesn’t make any sense to me.
If you were to give someone just one piece of advice, what would it be?
- Understand that it is the most rewarding profession there is. The great thing about the food and beverage industry is that we make people smile for a living. Whether it’s smiling at a plate of food, smiling at a cocktail, smiling to a piece of music, or meeting someone else at a bar or restaurant. It is making people smile and providing a great social experience in a safe environment. I’m proud to be a part of it. The second public building ever built in America was a bar. The first distiller in America was George Washington. One of the first vintners in America was Thomas Jefferson. Bars are a great business; it’s the fiber of our country, and I’m really proud to be a part of it.