Franchising is on the horizon for an Ohio gastropub.

Bar 145 opened in Toledo in May 2011 and will open its second corporate store this fall. The first franchise location will likely open around 18 months after that.

Bar 145 is bringing a new level of dining to Toledo.

“Toledo is a great market but in terms of being trendy and culinary, not so much. I’m bringing a bit of what Cleveland has to offer,” explains executive chef Robby Lucas.

The gastropub offers modern American cuisine such as stack your own burgers, tempura battered green beans, and baked clams.

It’s “old world techniques with a modern flair,” Lucas explains. There are also a lot of throwbacks to the classics, he adds, such as a roasted bone marrow dish that’s served with blue cheese, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, and toast points. “Everyone thought I was crazy for putting [that dish] on,” Lucas says, “but it’s one of our hottest appetizers.”

The beauty in the gastropub is that it’s drawing in a diverse clientele, from business people coming in after work, to families (kids eat free on Tuesdays), to college kids.

There’s live music five nights a week and the kitchen stays open until midnight on busy nights.

“People come in for the food and stick around for the entertainment,” says Jeremy Fitzgerald, who co-owns the gastropub with his partner George Simon. “And a lot of people just come to drink.”

Because the owners feel Bar 145 fills a void of fine dining in a bar atmosphere, they expect it to be a perfect fit for franchising. It can currently franchise in Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan but they will seek approval for other states as opportunities arise.

“I think traditional fine dining is going away and this can fill the void, especially in cities like Toledo,” Fitzgerald explains.

And that’s the plan—to expand across the U.S., but beginning with the Midwest, “as soon as we can show that we can duplicate ourselves with our second corporate store,” Fitzgerald explains.

And once franchising is underway, the owners would like to open a franchise store every six months, though will be careful not to go too fast to get in over their heads, he adds.

The Bar 145 team has already created a franchise management team and training manuals. Its training facilities are also ready to go.

Next up will be finding qualified franchisees. Fitzgerald and Simon are only seeking franchisees with restaurant and franchising experience. “We’d also like to find people who can teach us things because we’re new,” Simon adds.

Bar 145 franchisees will be given some freedom in their restaurants. Each location will be consistent in look and feel, and there will be several signature items on each menu. But each restaurant will be able to create menu items to fit its specific demographics.

Fitzgerald and Simon aren’t really worried about success since the first Bar 145 has been so popular.

“Our projections for the first week were blown out in the first few days,” says Fitzgerald. “I think people weren’t just ready for this—they were waiting.”

By Amanda Baltazar

Beverage, Industry News, Leader Insights, NextGen Casual