Jon Taffer has pretty much seen it all. The president of Nightclub & Bar Media Group and host of Bar Rescue on Spike TV opened a bar outside Philadelphia in the '80s called Pulsations where a 27-foot, four-ton spaceship flew into the room and dispensed a robot who danced with women.
On the day the spaceship made its debut, Taffer realized he was crying. "I looked to my left and tears were rolling down his face. I looked at security and tears were rolling down their faces. I learned that through the use of technology, I created as close to a religious experience as possible? I learned at a very young age that reactions I created in other people controlled their destiny."
And that's what his new book Raise the Bar: An Action-Based Method for Maximum Customer Reactions ($26, New Harvest), coming out today, is all about, what he calls Reaction Management.
He talks about Morton's, the steakhouse. "At Morton's the lights are low, the waiter walks slow. If the waiter walks faster, the steak wouldn't be worth $60. The pace of the server is directly related to price."
After all, whether it's a nightclub, a bar, a restaurant, a boutique, all can create a defining moment.
He describes what people experience within their first three steps into a place. "Eyes can bounce all over the room. The eye goes to brightest spot in the room, then swings typically to the left. I know what you're going to see and not see? If you don't feel connected in the first three steps, you'll never feel connected."
Taffer will be at Tryst Nightclub at Wynn Las Vegas this Friday night signing copies of his book from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Here he talks about the bar he wants to open on the Strip, his new show Hungry Investors and whether Bar Rescue will be coming to Vegas this season.
The Vegas food scene is heading to the middle. Are there advantages to keeping a bar or club super fancy, or are following trends a good idea?
In the bar business, you follow trends or you create the trends. I like the word ride rather than follow the trends. We can sense when trends are going.
The deejay trend out of control. Sixty percent of the billboards in Las Vegas are for deejays. It's almost like drafting too many football players.
The pendulum will swing back. Somebody's going to sign major contracts and three to four months from then they will lose value. They're going to look at the economical return on investment as compared to what they're making.
Are there any bar trends you think are over?
Yeah, I tell you what. We've reached the end of $750 bottles. I think exclusivity has to become inclusivity to a greater degree.
Even as the operator of Nightclub & Bar, the parties are balanced across three or four venues. But a vast amount of Nightclub & Bar attendees don't want to go to those bars. They're too energetic, too youthful, they have four guys and no girls. They have 25 reasons they don't want to go there and they end up going to a bar. Nightclubs will reach a saturation point.
That said, I think there is a lack of great bars here. My dream is to create the world's best bar on the Strip. There's no great bar experience. You don't want to ignore the over 34 demographic.
I'm an STK fan. I love the steakhouse and they made it hip. The oldest restaurant in town is almost always a steakhouse. They redid it. It's hip and cool and energetic. I love the fun and the energy. I get it. This is a targeting choice.
On oversaturation in the nightclub market:
I think nightclubs start to get cannibalistic. The hip-hop market is competitive intrusion eroding at the competition. They're cannibalizing each other.
On Tao Group and XS Nightclub:
XS won Nightclub & Bar with $90 million plus and asterisk. It was almost a tie with Marquee, also at $90 million. Nothing like that exists outside of Vegas.
The nightclub portion of Marquee is not that big. Jason [Strauss] is brilliant at keeping the music level of energy high.
Jesse [Waits] has one of the finest environments in the world. The three-dimensional finishes and the dance floor in the middle of that
The decor tends to disappear at Marquee.
It's nice to see them confident and not deviating from that model.
It took until season three until Bar Rescue came to Vegas. You have a new 20 episodes set to air in 2014. Do you return?
We're returning. We just shot three in Vegas. We can't say anything yet. Then you would know the new names of the venues
It's pretty cool. We're doing more niche concepts, much deeper and thematic transformations.
It's important to me as a Vegas guy to come here. We're here for 21 days with a crew of 50-plus. And they like to party. I can do my part helping the city.
Can you enjoy going out and forget what you see?
I can. Who am I kidding? I'm not sure I can. I don't get angry. It doesn't destroy my night if the plates aren't right. If something's not clean, I'm going to leave.
Our 50th episode is shooting this week. People know who I am. With this celebrity, I really can't blow up everywhere. I tend to keep my cool.
Any famous places in Vegas you are just itching to rescue, but can't unless they hire you as a consultant?
I don't think I can say.
What about Gallery Nightclub?
That would have been more of a resuscitation.
Can you talk a bit abut Hungry Investors?
We start shooting in February for Spike TV. We travel around the country looking for diamonds in the rough. Two chefs — John Besh and Tiffany Derry — are partners with a few million to invest. We're looking for restaurants to invest in. Sometimes we each have a different opinion.
It's kind of like Shark Tank and Bar Rescue combined. It allows me to go into the restaurant business.
· All Coverage of Bar Rescue [~ELV~]