Bar Rescue - Kalaveraz Cocina-Cantina / Sierra Madre Cantina - OPEN

Kalaveraz Cocina-Cantina Bar Rescue

On this Bar Rescue episode, Jon Taffer visits Kalaveraz Cocina and Cantina in Escondido, California.

Kalaveraz Cocina-Cantina is owned by Juan Magana, who bought it when it was called Anejo’s Bar and Grill in 2018.

Juan has got years of experience in food retailing as well as watching his parents run a restaurant and was confident in his ability to run one.

Anejo’s was a popular, busy, local restaurant so it looked like he was buying a ready made success.

But it was shut down the day Juan signed the papers due to health violations from vermin infestations.

The closure of the bar made the local news and led to a bad reputation of the bar.

Juan has spent about $250,000 on the bar, $70,000 of which is from his parents, to rebrand and reopen.

His lack of experience and poor management has contributed to the poor performance of the restaurant.

The restaurant is losing $10,000 a month, Juan is $250,000 in debt and has cashed in his 401k.

The staff believe that he is a bad manager and they have not received paychecks in a while.

Jon recons the bar with bar expert Tommy and chef Anthony.

They don’t understand the meaning of the name and the writing on the sign is illegible from where they are parked.

He gives them the lowdown on Juan, his finances and his run of bad luck.

In the footage, Juan is shown to be rude and nasty to staff as well as making them work for no pay.

They see the interior of the restaurant is huge but it lacks the intimacy that helps establishments succeed.

There are almost 50 customers in the Cantina and just one cook, Jose, who cooks the food to order quickly.

They see dedication when Carlos the manager comes in to support them in the kitchen.

They see good sanitary practices as the kitchen and front area are clean and he can’t figure out what's wrong with the bar at all.

Jon sends in his companions on the recon to try out their service.

They sit at a table and order a Cadillac Margarita and a Tamarindo.

Jon sneaks in with a hat and chats up a customer at the bar who says the food can be better and Jon would be waiting a while before he gets served.

JR serves Tommy and Anthony their drinks and the Cadillac is strong and doesn't look like it’s supposed to.

At the bar Jon waits for almost 15 mins before Jessica, the bartender, gets to him and he orders a Cadillac Strawberry.

They are out of Tequila, so she uses anything she has in stock to make the drink.

It is not served in a Margarita glass and is too sweet and Jon notices the bar and tables are not being cleared of old drinks.

Jon finally meets Juan and points out the mess around the bar to him, including a wad of cash still sitting on the bar unattended.

He has Juan taste his drink, which he admits is awful and he says he has no busboys so servers should be cleaning up.

Jon asks him why the bar is failing and he blames his staff calling them ‘turkeys’.

Jon repeats this loudly this for the bar to hear and the staff, including Jessica get upset and angry.

Jessica informs the bar they have not been paid for a month and Juan claims it is only a week.

Jon tells him to pay his staff or he is not coming in to help, to the applause of the whole bar.

After Jon leaves Juan makes an announcement showing the bar his staffs’ checks.

Jessica challenges him to read out the dates but he doesn't and claims her check is at his home.

In private Juan says he is a bit late on payroll but he had the checks ready and he was planning on paying them that day anyway.

Jon meets staff the next day and tells them all that he noticed that is wrong with the bar.

He has noticed Juan’s rudeness to staff, bad food, slow clearing of used plates and glasses, bad drinks and staff to owner tension.

The staff says that Juan has gotten nastier with the stress.

Jon reveals that he had Partender analyse their drinks and they lost $4890 in three days.

Juan says he has too much on his plate and he steps in for staff including cooks as he doesn’t have the staff.

Alyson speaks up and says Juan fired the old cooks because he refused to pay them to keep costs down.

Jon tells Juan he needs to treat his staff better so they can be committed to the success of the bar and help pull him out of the hole he is in.

Juan apologies to the staff for his behaviour.

Tommy Palmer, a bar expert, comes in to train them on a Cadillac Margarita giving Jessica one on one attention.

Anthony trains Jose and Juan in the kitchen on cooking and serving a pork dish.

They have a goal of no more than 2 mins wait time for a drink and 10 mins for food.

Jon has arranged a Stress Test to test their serve times but it doesn't start well.

They are soon overwhelmed with food and drink orders.

Many drinks are dumped for bad mixing and the bartenders are slow, especially Jessica.

In the kitchen, they have 20 orders, but the food isn't going out fast enough with a 24-minute wait time.

Juan is sent to the kitchen to help but when customers are served food it is served without cutlery and they spend time looking for it.

After 30 mins it is obvious they can’t meet up with the orders and the bar is shut down, with the test declared a major failure.

It is clear from the failure of the stress test that more training is needed.

Juan defends his staff for the first time and speaks to them honestly about his financial situation and how much he has on the line.

The next day they begin training again with Anthony and Tommy.

New classic meals and drinks are added to the menu that are quick and easy to make.

They decide to keep the Mexican theme of the restaurant but made it more intimate.

The night of the reveal Jon explains that the previous sign and brand was confusing.

The name has been changed to Sierra Madre Cantina, inspired by the Sierra Madre mountains that connect the US and Mexico.

Inside, the bar has been made more intimate with layered decor bringing in vibrant colours, patterns and nature into the space.

There's a pyramid behind the bar and Juan loves it.

There are new POS systems from Harbour touch, Sky Tabs for payments, One Stone for PR they can regulate from their phones.

They have new trees and vegetation from International Treescapes and stonework from Replications Unlimited.

Left Coast Refrigeration fixed their walk-in and they got a new ice box and Alter Design company did the vinyl mural.

They have also have been supplied with subscriptions to Partender and TVT.

Juan introduces his mother and father to Jon.

On relaunch night, there is a queue of eager customers. They are let in and the launch is underway.

The orders come in and they are able to serve customers on time with Juan making drinks confidently.

Customers love the food and drinks; staff are supporting each other and customers are enjoying their time in the bar.

It is hard to find customers without drinks and all the customers are happy.



What Happened Next at Kalaveraz Cocina-Cantina?


Six weeks later business was increasing, Juan respects his staff and is working on new promotions to being in new customers.

They have kept the name Sierra Madre Cantina.

Reviews are mostly popular after the episode with the food, drinks and service being praised by customers.

Yelp Reviews are also very positive with a few minor complaints on service.


Click for more Bar Rescues

Previous episode - Rob Ben's

Next episode - Pepe's Mexican Restaurant & Cantina / Par Bar

This post was last updated in February 2021.

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