Jon Taffer is a businessman — prepped and primed for the natural ebb and flow of the economy. However, like many, he couldn’t have foreseen a two-plus-year pandemic that was catastrophic to establishments all over the country, especially the restaurant industry.
Taffer isn’t fazed — and doesn’t want small-business owners to be discouraged, either.
The “Bar Rescue” star spoke to FOX Business, where he explained his laid-back mindset amid the opening of his third Taffer’s Tavern franchise in a post-pandemic world.
“Starting a small business is more challenging than ever,” he said. “We have labor issues, supply-side issues. The marketplace is very noisy with competitive marketing and promotional activity.”
“It’s tough to build a brand today, in today’s noisy world,” Taffer added, noting that he believes “franchising is the best option for young entrepreneurs.”
“You get supply-side through the franchise. You get all the operations systems and training and procedures. All the surprises are eliminated in a franchise… They can help you hedge your bet and mitigate your risk,” he explained.
Taffer also shared his advice for people who are looking to start a brand-new business today.
“I’m of the belief that any viable marketplace will find a business,” he said. “But not any viable business will find a marketplace. That becomes a real issue. So you need to identify the marketplaces where you can grow, but understand there are people around America who want to buy franchises.”
“There are companies around the country that want to sell franchises for you… Go online and search franchise sales,” added Taffer, whose franchised-taverns are still its own separate entities.
As for rising inflation following the pandemic where people might not want to spend as much, Taffer said he doesn’t view this to be as daunting as others might.
“What if I told you I don’t see it as a challenge, I see it as an opportunity,” Taffer said. “When you look across the country, there are many markets where restaurants are 25, 30 percent ahead of pre-Covid levels.
“Yes, you’re right, people have less money to spend, so they need to spend it wiser. They’re gonna go out where they feel better, they’re gonna go out where they get the most perceived value.”
In Watertown, Massachusetts, right outside Boston, his third Tavern has just opened. Four months into the pandemic, Middleby Corporation announced it had teamed up with Taffer to create a “newly-developed, modern tavern concept.”
With locations in Washington, D.C., and Alpharetta, Georgia, the new development in Watertown posed as an opportunity for Taffer and his team.
“We designed Taffer’s Tavern with a labor-efficiency model in mind… Finding employees has been an issue for the industry for a long, long time,” he shared. “So we designed a kitchen that leverages computerized cooking and production techniques over humans.”
Taverns are not few and far between in Boston — they resonate with the East-Coast environment. Taffer says his restaurant will stand out for its “quality and depth.” He noted, “We created an elevated tavern experience… we believe we’re providing a 70- to 80-dollar dining experience for about 35 to 40 dollars.”
The extensive menu, which offers a long list of cocktails and even wider selection of food, is specifically designed for the location. Taffer explained, “You’re not going to find New York pizza at Taffer’s Tavern Boston, you’re going to find a lobster roll… When we looked at our franchise models, we said, ‘Each one needs to connect with its market.'”
In a saturated industry, Taffer says he’s thought of everything to make his franchises stand out: “Our music is curated, not just played… Everything, the beats-per-minute curves, the cycling of the music, the content of the music, is curated to create reactions in guests.” He’s quick to add that visuals, including sports, flavors and cocktails, “target that very specific demographic” his team works to entice.
Taffer has also implemented what he calls a “a five-star Michelin cooking technique” called sous vide. Sous vide utilizes temperature to offer a level of precision to food that otherwise could not be created.
Taffer says this is his specialty, just as if he were a chef seasoning a piece of meat.