The show begins with two guys standing silently next to each other, looking angry and exasperated. Already, we know where this is going. This week's disaster de jour is R.G.'s Lounge in Independence, Mo. Nine years ago twin brothers Randy and Rick bought the business and as is nearly all the examples in the show, it was initially a success. Customers were drawn to the twins "larger than life" personalities, but when they begin to fight, the atmosphere in the bar changed. The bar and the clientele have aged, and even though the brothers live across the street from each other, they don't talk. With the pair $139,000 in debt and losing $5,000 a month, son (and nephew) Tyler secretly reached out to Jon Taffer hoping he could turn the business around and fix the family relationship.
Taffer brings in some helpers, including Kansas City restaurant owner and James Beard award-winner Celina Tio, who describes the dated facade of the building as "looking like a bingo parlor." For the bar, he brings in Mia Mastroianni, who is the head mixologist at the Soho House in West Hollyood, California. Before he enters to introduce himself to the brothers, he talks to Tyler, who has been his inside mole for the previous couple of weeks. Tyler has a lot of footage of the brothers sniping at each other, which is a bit scary to watch. It doesn't help that the crowd is increasingly old, with one young customer explaining that "My Grandfather comes here....a lot." That comment is highlighted with a shot of a birthday balloon that reads "You're HOW old?" "This isn't bar," Taffer complains. "This is a sock hop!"
The bar is within a mile of the home stadium of both the Royals and the Chiefs and in theory should be drawing sports fans. Taffer notes that a surprising number of those fans are women and he sends in a local woman to be his mystery customer. When Rachel sits down, the brothers are fighting so much they don't notice her. After five minutes, she finally flags down veteran bartender Erika and asks her for a "fruity drink." When she asks Erika what's in the drink she gets, she's told "Vodka, some red stuff and club soda." Mmmmm. The drink is terrible and she opts for a draft beer. Which turns out to be warm. She then bravely orders a french dip from the kitchen and you can expect it to be horrific and perhaps including squirrel and/or week-old bread.
The kitchen is run by Walt who has been there "forever." Tyler describes him as lazy and unmotivated and that seems to be the case. The hidden camera shows him wiping his mouth with a towel, then using the same towel to wipe the counter. The french dip is comprised of a "Steak-Um" type meat that he microwaves before putting on the grill. I would describe it as looking like dog food, but that would be an insult to dog food. The pan he is using to cook bacon doesn't look as if it's ever been cleaned and everything just looks filthy and gross.
As if the atmosphere isn't bad enough, one of the customer, Tiffany, is blindly drunk. She's making barking noises, screaming and coming off a bit scary. And yet Randy keeps serving her drinks, which is not just irresponsible but probably illegal. The sight of her stumbling around drives Taffer to the breaking point and he enters the bar to confront the brothers.
Taffer begins berating Rick, asking if he should have continued to serve Tiffany. Rick shrugs it off, as does Randy, who eventually notices the disturbance. Taffer calls a cab for Tiffany, but she stumbles outside and begins yelling at the cars driving past. That prompts a police car to stop, and she begins yelling at the officer that she didn't want to leave the bar. Tiffany ends up in custody and Taffer leaves the bar in disgust, vowing to return the next morning.
The next morning Taffer returns and admits that he doesn't want to even help the brothers. But he decides too, primarily because of Tyler's eagerness to clean things up at the bar. He then speaks to the staff, who tell him the bar needs a younger crowd. One of the waitresses says the bar's demographic is "65 and up," an age range that probably only makes sense for a VFW bar. The staff also puts blame on the twins, telling Taffer that many nights they don't even want to walk into the bar themselves.
Taffer talks to the brothers privately and learns that the main problem is the inheritance the twins received after the death of their mother three years ago. Randy was the favorite and basically received everything, leaving Rick with an old Lincoln Town Car. As you might imagine, that did not sit well with Rick. For his part, Randy says that Rick is jealous and it's not his fault that mother hated Rick. Neither brother believes they can reconcile and listening to them, that's easy to believe.
Celina heads to the kitchen while Mia goes behind the bar and they both find the disasters you would expect to see. Mia pulls a towel out of the beer cooler that is covered in a brown slime that looks like mud. Even worse, she finds fruit flies inside an open bottle of rum. At this point, if I were a customer, I would be projectile vomiting. In the kitchen, things are just as bad. Walt admits that there's no cleaning schedule but claims he cleans everything once a week. Based on the grease and slime covering everything, his week must last five years. Walt argues that he's doing things just fine and that sparks a screaming argument between Taffer and the "cook." The screaming builds and Walt pushes Jon into the stove, prompting the production crew to step in. In the end, everyone calms down and Walt admits that this job means "everything to me." He reluctantly agrees to a thorough kitchen cleaning, though he still blames "management" for the problems.
Back in the bar, Mia is attempting to retrain the wait staff from "Cocoon: The Bar." Taffer says the bar needs some new, younger staff to shake things up and brings in three local bartenders looking for a job. They are going to train everyone together and if the older staff can't keep up, they'll be gone. Mia introduces the staff to three new drinks and tests them in pairs, one new and one veteran bartender. It's sad to watch, because while the vets need their jobs, they all struggle to get thr drinks right. In the kitchen, Celina talks to Walt about the French Dip sandwich she saw being made the previous evening. She shows him the correct way to make it (and which meat to use) and she admits that she's surprised how quickly he catches on to the new methods.
That night it's time for the "stress test," where Taffer fills the bar with a bunch of customers to see how things work under pressure. These tests never go smoothly and it's difficult to imagine this staff of sad sacks will perform any better than the norm.
The bar opens and quickly fills with a younger clientele. Jon is introduced to Tyler and pretends not to have met him before. Even though Tyer has been serving as the inside mole to Taffer. It isn't long before the veteran bartenders fall behind and customer are waiting 30 minutes for service. One customer at the bar complains she'd like to order food but no one has looked up to notice her. As she says that, Randy is standing directly in front of her, looking down as he makes a drink.
Things are also a disaster in the kitchen. The order tickets are impossible to read and none of them have table numbers or anyway to identify the customers. Walt handles the preparation just fine, but despite his efforts, no one collects the food to deliver it to the customers. Celina asks Rick to step in and help and he just stares at her before walking away. Behind the bar it's unorganized chaos. The veteran bartenders step up to the challenge but there's no management in place to organize the service. No one knows who needs a drink or which person is responsible for which part of the bar. With Randy walking around aimlessly, Erika stepped in and organized the staff behind the bar and got things settled down. Towards the end of the evening, a very drunk man came into the bar and while Randy played around with his cellphone, Rick stepped in, refused the drunk service and called him a cab so he wouldn't get back into his car.
After service ends, Jon talks to the staff and reviews the evening's service. He compliments the veteran bartenders and elevates Erika to head bartender following her successful decision to step in and organize the service. But he has nothing good to say about the brothers, especially Randy, whom he criticizes for talking smack about Rick in front of customers. After Jon, Mia and Ceina go outside, Jon reveals his thoughts for the new bar. He wants to make the place an interactive sports bar, combining the closeness of the sports stadiums with the popularity of video games. But the big question remains: can he get Rick and Randy to reconcile?
The next day Jon meets with the twins and he reveals that Tyler has been his mole. Tyler tells them that he loves them both and can't pick sides. He also reminds them that their mom (his grandmother) would not want them fighting over the inheritance or the bar. They agree to refrain from talking bad about the other brother in the bar, but it's hard to imagine all that anger will easily go away just because of an on-air intervention.
Taffer reveals his plans for the bar, to be renamed "BarCode." One of the biggest changes was to eliminate the stage and dance floor and replace the stage with interactive "game pods" where customers can play video games. When the new look is revealed, the bar is sleek and contemporary, but I can't help wondering if this approach will really draw a new clientele. Of course, the show hypes the success of the makeover but I'm not sure I'm convinced the twins will remain friendly or that customers will pay to play a PS3 in a sports bar.