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Why Jon Taffer Is Betting on the Restaurant Industry With Taffer’s Tavern

Feb 1, 2021

Jon Taffer 1851 Franchise Magazine Cover

Jon Taffer, renowned hospitality expert and entrepreneur, has become beloved by television audiences across the globe for helping transform struggling bars into vibrant, profitable businesses on seven seasons of Paramount Network’s “Bar Rescue”.

Now, the larger-than-life television personality is offering prospective franchisees the opportunity to take advantage of his famed standards with the opening of the Taffer’s Tavern franchise.

“Taffer’s Tavern origin is a fascinating story,” Taffer told 1851 Franchise, calling from Alpharetta, Georgia where he was helping prepare the flagship Taffer’s Tavern for opening. “About two years ago, I was looking at the casual dining model and knew it couldn’t sustain itself — the unemployment rate was incredibly low and no one could find employees. Plus, since many states have passed $15 an hour minimum wage and permit employee tip credits, wages skyrocketed, making the restaurant business model untenable.”

So, Taffer went out with an aggressive plan to recreate the casual dining model. “To reinvent it, we focused more on using computer technology in the kitchen, relying on robotics thereby reducing staff and cutting costs,” he said. “The future of food is not chefs, it is automated technology.”

A Focus on Sous Vide Offers an Efficient New Kitchen Model

To accomplish this, Taffer asked himself if it was possible to create a full-service kitchen without any raw protein. He partnered with Cuisine Solutions, which is bringing its innovative sous vide cooking technology to Taffer’s Tavern. Sous vide cooking is a system involving vacuum-sealing food, cooking it in a water oven and then charring the steak in a high-tech oven. With this method, the kitchen’s layout doesn’t need a hood-and-vent system and can be smaller, minimizing the number of employees needed to maintain a high-volume of orders.

The tavern’s packaged sous vide items have a shelf life that’s three times longer than a traditional product, allowing operators to maintain more accurate inventory levels, Taffer says. Plus, since all of the food comes packaged, prep time is almost completely eliminated. Additionally, integrated technology between the front and back of house helps streamline operations. When an order comes into the kitchen, the computer displays exact instructions on how to cook each dish.

Taffer worked for two years with Cuisine Solutions at its kitchens to develop the new menu. In addition, Taffer’s Tavern will leverage “Bar Rescue”’s popularity by featuring many of the cocktails that have appeared on the show.

The “Bar of the Future”

When it comes to the bar, Taffer’s Tavern formed a technology partnership with Krowne to bring his “Bar of the Future” vision to life with cutting-edge bar equipment, efficient design and advanced training programs. After creating the entire bar in 3D to present to Taffer’s team, Krowne re-created the bar in an immersive virtual reality world. This custom VR demo allows users to interact with equipment and create virtual cocktails from scratch. The team was also able to perform in-depth footstep analyses to ensure that the bartender can optimize efficiency with minimal movement.

“After we put this concept together, developed the menu and optimized the design of the tavern, it was time to sell franchises,” said Taffer. “Then COVID-19 hit, and somehow our new restaurant model was perfectly positioned for this new normal.”

Prioritizing Health and Safety

Developed long before the COVID pandemic, Taffer’s innovative concept features the kind of high safety standards for both guests and staff that are becoming essential in the restaurant industry.

Taffer established Taffer’s Safe Dining System as a signature methodology that sets new safety standards for the restaurant industry that franchisors would be wise to pay attention to. For example, Krowne’s new liquid CO2 glass frosters chill glasses instantly without condensation to maintain the ideal cocktail serving temperature and taste profile. The technology also sanitizes the glass upon contact with the supercooled, dry gas. Other elements include protocols for a no-contact, third-party order pick-up system, hand-scanning detection technology, eliminating the need for delivery drivers to come inside the restaurant, and a unique meal preparation technology where food is minimally touched to prevent cross-contamination.

Growth Through Franchising

With an aggressive growth strategy in place, Taffer has partnered with Fransmart as the exclusive franchise development partner for Taffer’s Tavern to facilitate the national rollout of the emerging brand.

“In the world of franchising, it is time for a new kind of restaurant business model,” said Taffer. “For one, we are 40% the size of a traditional restaurant design and our labor costs run 40% less than the average. I’ve consulted for franchise companies and franchisees over the years, and as they struggled to manage labor costs, the front of the house always suffered. By eliminating back of house pressure, we have more money to invest in the front-of-house, as well as more energy to promote connectivity and offer the ultimate in customer service.”

The initial Taffer’s Tavern launched in Alpharetta, Georgia, with a soft opening in late October and a grand debut in November on Nov. 18. It will be operated by Five Guys Taverns, an experienced franchisee. In addition, Cuisine Solutions has signed a multi-unit deal, as franchisee for the D.C. area starting in 2021. BG Hospitality Group, another franchisee, will launch five units in Boston and its nearby suburbs.

“I truly believe that the first thing people are going to do after quarantine ends is go out to eat,” said Taffer. “With the vaccine rolling out, restaurants are going to come back quicker than other businesses. But, after the pandemic, all the loyalty will be gone. The ones that build the right brand and connect with customers present an opportunity to get noticed. With 50% of restaurants closed and available real estate popping up everywhere, this spring could truly be the greatest business opportunity of our lifetime.”

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