Has your once-great business lost its mojo lately? That was the case for Downey's Irish Pub & Restaurant, a storied Irish bar in Philadelphia that recently was the subject of an episode of the Spike-TV series Bar Rescue.
After being acquired by top Italian chef Domenic Centofanti, Downey's went into a slide. When Bar Rescue's bar expert, Jon Taffer, toured the joint, he found a long-dead mouse lounging in the top of the brick pizza oven hood. The conditions were filthy, the food nothing short of a health hazard. Revenue had slid and the business was $3 million in debt.
The story of Downey's turnaround provides a road map for any business looking to rebuild.
Find a no-bull expert -- then, listen up. Taffer about rips Centofanti's head off over some of the discoveries he makes. "You're a professional chef?" Taffer barks after finding meats left out at room temperature. "Shame on you! You might be a great chef, but you're a lousy manager." A willingness to hear the naked truth about what you're doing wrong is the first step down the road to improvement.
Be clean and uncluttered. It doesn't cost money to keep your place of business spotless and haul away clutter. Taffer targeted the overstuffed "trash room" at Downey's, which was crammed with old boxes and other junk, sitting right next to an uncovered bin of uncooked French fries. Yuck!
Drink your own Kool-Aid. At one point an Irish chef brought in to help revamp the menu makes Centofanti taste each of his appetizers. They're vile, and he didn't even know.
Share your recipe. One of the reasons the dishes had gone off was that Centofanti kept his recipes in his head, and hadn't create a recipe book for the other cooks to use -- so the dishes varied, often for the worse. Make sure your entire staff knows how to create exactly the customer experience you want.
Don't give up. A death in his family put Centofanti into a depression, and he let it affect his attitude at work. For too long, he just didn't care. If you can't keep your mind on business, get help until you're back on your feet.
Boost your visibility. Downey's was given an exterior signage upgrade that made it the clearly visible hub of its neighborhood.
Find an angel. In the end, Downey's was really saved by the magic of television. The show poured likely hundreds of thousands into a makeover for the bar, including new chairs, floor refinishing, and a new commercial stovetop and walk-in cooler. If your business is too far gone, it may be time to look for an investor who can put in the capital needed for a turnaround.
If you need more help growing your retail business, this show comes with a bonus. The producers have teamed with SCORE (formerly the Service Corps of Retired Executives) to provide a toolkit with dozens of links to resources, live events, and other support.
What are you doing to make your business better? Leave a comment and tell us your strategy.