Jon Taffer is a businessman – primed and prepared for the natural ebbs and flows of the economy. However, like many, he could not have foreseen a pandemic lasting more than two years that has been catastrophic for establishments across 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 opening his third Taffer’s Tavern franchise in a post-pandemic world.
“Starting a small business is harder than ever,” he said. “We have labor issues, supply issues. The market is very noisy with competitive marketing and promotional activities.”
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“It’s hard to build a brand today, in today’s noisy world,” Taffer added, noting that he thinks “franchising is the best option for young entrepreneurs.”
“You get the offer through the franchise. You get all the operating systems, training and procedures. All surprises are eliminated in a franchise…They can help hedge your bet and mitigate your risk “, he explained.
Taffer also shared her tips for people looking to start a brand new business today.
“I’m confident that any viable market will find a business,” he said. “But no viable business is going to find a market. It becomes a real problem. So you have to identify markets that you can expand into, but understand that there are people in America who want to buy franchises.”
“There are businesses across the country that want to sell franchises for you…Go online and look for franchise sales,” added Taffer, whose franchised taverns are still its own separate entities.
As for rising inflation after the pandemic where people might not want to spend as much, Taffer said he doesn’t find it as daunting as others.
“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% ahead of pre-Covid levels.
“Yeah, you’re right, people have less money to spend, so they need to spend it more wisely. They’re going to exit where they feel best, they’re going to exit where they get the most perceived value.”
In Watertown, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, his third tavern has just opened. Four months into the pandemic, Middleby Corporation announced that it had partnered with Taffer to create a “newly developed modern tavern concept”.
With locations in Washington, DC, and Alpharetta, Georgia, the new development in Watertown presented itself as an opportunity for Taffer and his team.
“We designed Taffer’s Tavern with a model of labor efficiency in mind…Finding employees has been an issue for the industry for a long, long time,” he explained. “So we designed a kitchen that leverages computerized cooking and production techniques rather than humans.”
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Taverns are not uncommon in Boston – they resonate with the East Coast environment. Taffer says his restaurant will stand out for its “quality and depth.” He noted, “We’ve created an elevated tavern experience…we think we’re offering a $70-80 dining experience for about $35-40.”
The extensive menu, which features a long list of cocktails and an even wider selection of dishes, is tailored specifically 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, ‘Everyone needs to connect with their market’. ‘”
In a crowded industry, Taffer says he’s thought of everything to make his franchises stand out: “Our music is curated, not just played… Everything from the beats per minute curves, the music cycle, the content of the music, is organized to create reactions among the guests.” He is quick to add that the visuals, including sports, flavors and cocktails, “target this very specific demographic” that his team is trying to attract.
Taffer has also implemented what he calls a “five Michelin star cooking technique” called sous vide. Sous vide uses temperature to deliver a level of precision to foods that otherwise could not be created.
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Taffer says it’s his specialty, like he’s a chef seasoning a piece of meat.