The NextGen Casual chain is looking to more than triple in size.
Jon Taffer is no stranger to taking business to the next level.
The Paramount Network star rescue bar has helped bars and restaurants reach new heights for years, and now he’s turning his attention to his own concept, Taffer’s Tavern.
The casual dining company’s first unit in Alpharetta, Georgia opened in late November 2020. The following year, Taffer’s Tavern opened a second location inside FedEx Field, home of the Washington Commanders, and signed three multi-unit franchise agreements for 10 locations. across Savannah, Georgia and northern and central Florida.
For 2022, the two-unit chain has settled more than triple in size at seven slots. Development in Boston and Washington, DC is already underway.
At a time when many restaurants are struggling with inflationary costs and staffing issues, Taffer believes his brand is best positioned to grow as certain partnerships have shielded Taffer’s Tavern from outside market pressures.
“We think we’ve cracked the secret of cost management,” he says.
The TV star has struck up a long-term relationship with sous-vide company Cuisine Solutions, which has eased supply chain delays.
“Our food inventory comes from Cuisine Solutions… We don’t have any supply problems for this type of product,” he says. “When people really evaluate the business model, I think we have certain efficiencies and cost savings that offset some of the negatives in the market.”
Although Taffer’s Tavern was relatively immune to commodity pressures, construction delays and long lead times for equipment slowed development by approximately 60 days.
To counter these issues, Taffer has partnered with Colliers and Northboro Builders to improve franchisee development. Colliers, an international commercial real estate company, identifies the best-suited markets for new units, while Northboro spearheads construction. The company said it entered into these agreements to ensure operators have access to preferred suppliers.
“The kitchen side worked well. I can’t say the same for the build,” he says. “I’m not a big fan of excuses, and today everyone blames the other guy. It’s hard to get accounts when the offer has become a sea of excuses.
Taffer says something has to change when it comes to inflation if the industry is to continue to thrive.
“It takes a new political environment for that to change, unfortunately,” he says. “Until a key policy shift occurs with respect to oil and spending, this [inflation] is not going to end. And that worries me in the long run for our industry… Maybe as an industry we need to get more politically involved in the policies that affect us.
Construction issues aside, Taffer is moving forward with growth plans. When it comes time to decide which markets are best for expansion, he uses a list of criteria to make the right choice.
Taffer and his team meticulously review data points (real estate and expense reports, industry-related competition assessments, and other aggregated information) to determine if consumers in a specific market are a match for Taffer’s Tavern.
The celebrity relies on his work on television and in the media to collect this data.
“The media work that I do has certain levels of penetration in every market across the country, and being a media brand, we get huge amounts of data,” he says. “Who’s watching, who’s listening, what the demographics look like, what markets they’re in, etc. This allows us to identify not only the greatest potential in the markets, but the greatest potential brand.”