Bar Rescue: Should Weber’s name have been stripped?

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Sometimes, radical change is required.  The latest episode of Bar Rescue on Spike TV, in which a bar owner was being robbed blind by one of his staff members, was one of those occasions.  The bartender was proven by bar turnaround tough guy Jon Taffer to have stolen almost $1,200 in cash in just two recent nights – and he worked there for four years.  Yet the owner, Kervin, idiotically told the guy he could stay.

Well, it’s true that Kervin asked the stealer not to steal from him again, which must have made the thief feel really, really bad.   Ultimately, Taffer had to embarrass Kervin into taking the appropriate action – which was to fire the crook with extreme prejudice.  But as we found out at episode’s end, Kervin evidently decided to give the dirtbag another swipe at the till.

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Evolution, not revolution

On the other hand, sometimes evolution, not revolution, is the called-for approach.  I refer to the way in which Jon handled the name of the establishment:  Weber’s Place.  Rescuing a bar (or any other brand) can necessitate changing the name and associated imagery to properly reposition the brand.  In an especially memorable past episode, for example, Taffer evolved the name of a bar, well-known for its chicken wings, from The Chicken Bone to simply The Bone.  Part of Jon’s rationale was the unsightly logo adorning the sign outside the premises, explained to the owner thusly (and I am paraphrasing):  “You’ve got a chicken on your sign with fire coming out of its ass.”

An even subtler evolution was prescribed in the case of Weber’s.  Jon changed the bar’s format from a dingy live music venue to a Caribbean theme focused on rum-based drinks.  And so the name was simply nudged from Weber’s Place to Weber’s Rum Bar and Grill.

A revealing calculation

But wait:  this bar was a strip joint in a past life.   Wouldn’t that single fact justify changing the name completely?  Answer: only if the strip club’s negative associations outweighed the positive associations earned in the cumulative decades before and after the topless era.

Brand equity – defined as the degree to which the target market thinks positively about a brand – is extremely difficult to build and sustain over time, so you don’t make a wholesale name change lightly.  Because the calculation for Weber’s was not done on camera, all we can do is assume that Jon, a practitioner of what he calls “bar science,” did the math and found that the venue’s topless past didn’t, er, peel away that much brand equity after all.

Click here for “Anatomy of a Rescue”, by Jon Taffer Production Designer Nancy Hadley.

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