However, it appears the beverage program—teeming with a collection of crafted cocktails, beers, and wines—deserves just as much of the spotlight, mixing 45 percent in the first few weeks. With a show named “Bar Rescue,” Taffer knew there’d be high expectations, so the bar was designed as such. Some of the cocktails are complex, so to eliminate extra pivots and wasted motion, Taffer’s Tavern worked with Krowne, a stainless-steel manufacturing company, to develop a flow in which the bartender doesn’t need to take a single step.
“So we call it a bartender cockpit,” Taffer says. “It’s sort of wraps around you. And you pivot from that central location. And there's no movement from side to side. Everything is right there. So working on this premise of a cockpit rather than a station and working with Krowne, we really effected unbelievable efficiency. So we're putting out more complex cocktails with more steps about as quickly as we put out a pretty basic cocktail.”
While Taffer welcomed innovation into his new restaurant, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is bullish on every trend in the industry, particularly ghost kitchens and virtual brands. He says he wouldn’t run to invest in those for Taffer’s Tavern, but he does note that digital kitchens may make sense for certain delivery areas where sit-down concepts don’t fit.
“I personally think that the ghost kitchen thing is going to be based upon branding expertise,” Taffer says. “And does a ghost kitchen have a branding advantage over freestanding branded restaurants with the exterior and a sign and market reputation and an address and all of that? I'm not sure. And I'm not sure I buy into a virtual brand premise. I also think that competing with the DoorDashes of the world is not going to be such an easy equation. So I'm one of the people in the industry who thinks that the ghost kitchen thing is a little over-exploited, over-energized, and doesn't necessarily hold water as it relates to the branding of a brick and mortar—driving by, it's been part of the community for years, has an in-person experienced neighborhood marketing program, a connection to a location. That stuff's not so easy to overcome.”
But that’s not to say Taffer’s Tavern isn’t in the off-premises game. The restaurant has a PUC system (Pickup Cabinets) in the back wall of the restaurant. For off-premises orders, the package is placed in a stall inside the kitchen. When the delivery driver or customer comes up to a specific cabinet, they scan it with their phone and the door pops open. The food never goes to the front of the house and workers never go outside.