Business Show Review: Bar Rescue

Bar Rescue, on the Paramount Channel, follows a familiar format: a failing business has an expert come in and make it right…all in a week of filming. The context is bars with some kind of foodservice. The show has seven seasons so far and is a staple on the Paramount, with reruns throughout most weekends.

Bar Rescue Episodes

John Tapper, a sometimes bombastic bar expert, goes into bars with serious problems: horrible financials, bad service, bad inventory management, poor staffing, and a horrible food program. The episodes start with a “reconnaissance” where some allegedly anonymous people go into the bar and usually receive bad service, bad drinks, and food. This is all a bit contrived because it’s all caught on camera from multiple angles, so it’s far from anonymous or covert.

Tapper then goes into the bar and tells the owners, management, and staff how bad things are. This is where the personalities clash, which makes for some nice TV drama. The shows I have seen mostly show staff with moderate to severe lack of skills.

The next part of the show has a mixologist come in and show how to make some drinks and a chef that works with the kitchen staff. If you’re interested in mixing drinks or bar food, these segments are practical. 

Most of the episodes I have seen also incorporated a complete bar renovation and rebranding, including a lot of sponsored perks like POS systems.

Is the show worth an hour of your life?

It depends. 

If you run a bar or restaurant. This is your show.

If you run a small business that is B2C–business to consumer- (e.g. services, small retail) you’ll find some good ideas in each episode. Tapper usually has parts of the show where he shows his market research for the bar, and he emphasizes cost as a percentage of revenue and some solid metrics with which to judge and guide a business. As such, most business owners and managers can get several ideas from each episode.

Kona Impact is mostly B2B–business to business, but I still find the show worthwhile, especially if I want to watch something business-oriented on TV. I’d give it a solid seven out 10.

The downside of Bar Rescue

This is my major complaint with all “quick fix” shows: there is little follow-up, so we have no idea if the bar could make it. 

I would love to see a part of the show focusing on previous bar rescue attempts—successes and failures. Maybe this is a different show or episode, but I know from experience that business change is seldom accomplished in a week. Quick, massive changes seldom last.

Several websites have followed all the episodes and have checked the bars to see if they are still open. One reports that about 60% of the bars featured in the episode are still open.

I guess the drama is part of the show’s storytelling, but at times it does feel contrived and a bit excessive. It’s not to my liking, as I tend to lead more by example, modeling, positive feedback, and gentle correction. I feel that when one starts to yell, the situation deteriorates to a level where nothing can be communicated or learned effectively. But that’s just me, and if it works for Tapper (or, more importantly, TV), that’s fine.