“It Was Horrifying and Scary”: Bar Rescue’s Jon Taffer Describes the First Time He Screamed at Someone on Camera


Jon Taffer has a reputation for screaming — but it didn’t come naturally.

“I’ve never thrown food at anybody in my personal life, or embarrassed a man in front of his wife, or any of those things,” he says. “The first couple of times I did that on TV was horrifying and scary.”

Taffer hosts the hit TV show Bar Rescue, where he helps turn around struggling bars and restaurants. His screaming fits are a hallmark of the show, helping it achieve massive popularity and recently air its 250th episode.

So how did he became so famously irate? The answer, he says, has nothing to do with good TV — and everything to do with good management.

To appreciate the lesson, he says, you must first understand how Bar Rescue is filmed.

Before his TV career, Taffer helped fix hospitality companies — but that process that could a month or more. Each episode of Bar Rescue is filmed in only four days, which means he must compress a lot of work into a tight schedule.

When he started filming the show, Taffer says, tried helping business owners more subtly — but it wasn’t working. He remembers one of his earliest episodes, where a bar owner simply wasn’t responding.

“I was in a jam,” Taffer says. “I couldn’t save this guy in four days if he didn’t freaking listen to me. He’s gonna lose his house. He has two young kids. His wife is in a corner, hysterical, crying. This guy’s counting on me. This isn’t TV, man — this is real to me! The cameras happen to be there, right? So how do I motivate this guy?”

Taffer tried everything he could think of. Yelling and scaring the guy worked; it seemed to shock the guy out of his stupor. Taffer tried experimenting after that — jolting people with fear and adrenaline, forcing them to confront the reality of their failing businesses, until they moved at a breakneck pace.

In turn, Taffer says, he started leaning into the role more — becoming more brash, cocky, and never showing weakness. “It was a dynamic change to my personality,” he says.

Taffer says there’s a lesson here for all managers — although he’s not advocating for managers to yell and scream.

Instead, he says, managers should step back and ask: What does this situation need from me?

Managers often need to step outside their comfort zones and become the leader their company or team needs. Maybe they need to be more assertive, or better listeners, or bigger personalities, or more comfortable with fast, hard decisions.

“I’m successful in Bar Rescue because I modified my behavior to the situation, Taffer says.

“The first time you fire someone, or the first time you look at somebody and say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m passing you up on a promotion,’ or you deny a raise, or any of those types of things — it takes courage to attack those situations,” Taffer says. “And candidly, where people fail as a TV host —and where they fail as a manger — is when they don’t have courage.”

Taffer shared more about his evolution, and his lessons for managers, on the Entrepreneur podcast Problem Solvers. Listen here or by clicking this audio player:

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