Two Bucks, a casual dining pub and eatery, has sold its first franchise.

The restaurant, which is expected to open on April 16, in Milwaukee, will be the chain’s third. The first, a corporate restaurant, opened Avon, Ohio, and the chain opened a second corporate operation two months ago in Middleburg Heights, Ohio.

The Two Bucks concept revolves around pricing and quality, offering beverages at $2 happy hour prices all day, and food that includes $2 sliders, $5 flatbreads, gourmet mac and cheese, salads, and wraps.

Eric Nugent, owner of Two Bucks is, understandably, pleased about his first franchised operation.

“Our first franchise was a lot of hard work,” he says. “It will give our concept more credibility as we move forward and start to sell more. We’re talking to potential franchisees who are much more interested now.”

He’s had plenty of people keen on the concept, but, he says, “it’s hard to get [people] to jump when you only have one location.”

Nugent plans to expand Two Bucks through franchising, but expect to open more corporate stores. He would like to have a third corporate store opened by the end of the year, probably in Northeast Ohio, but has yet to raise the capital.

And he’ll keep going, he says. “I’m going to continue to open corporate stores until I run out of funds to do it.”Additional expansion will be through Columbus and other central Ohio areas.

Two Bucks is a good concept for franchisees to become involved in, he says, because it makes money quickly. “At our Middleburg store we were in the black in the first 30 days. Some franchises don’t expect to turn a profit in the first two years. Why would I spend half a million dollars on a franchise to expect that?”

What’s helping matters for Two Bucks is that the restaurants are often opened in former eatery locations.

“With all the restaurants that didn’t make it through the economic slump, there’s a great opportunity for people like me to scoop up restaurants and change them very inexpensively,” Nugent explains.

“People build these out for $400,000 to $500,000 and we spend $100,000 to $150,000 to fit them to our specs.”

Nugent also pays extremely close attention to profit margins, he says, which is the only way he can manage to offer the prices, he does.

But the real key to Two Bucks’ success is volume. “We bridge the gap between the mega chains and the mom and pops,” Nugent says.

In fact, it was the mom and pop restaurants that gave Nugent the idea for Two Bucks. He noticed several were running $2 Tuesdays and were really busy.

“They’d just do it for a day,” he says, “so we took that idea and took it from 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.”

Nugent first beta tested the concept in 2006 and it was hugely successful with no menu, no signage.

Three years after the test he opened his first store in Avon.

“We were break even or better for the first six months then it took off. We got a feel for who our clientele was. We wondered with the $2 concept, would we just get riff raff. So we tried to set the mood and we let everyone know that we have very low tolerance for abusing our staff or being disrespectful to others. And any customers who have too much to drink and cause problems, they’re banned for life.”

And in fact, both corporate stores are located in middle to upper class areas, and “a clean, well-dressed crowd comes in,” Nugent says. “Even those people are looking for value and don’t want to be gouged.”

Nugent doesn’t just treat his customers well, but also his employees.

“Promising and keeping the promise of a great work experience is what Two Bucks management philosophy is all about,” he says.

To that end, Nugent encourages and insists on staff communication, which can be through a private Facebook group where staff can share any ideas, concerns, and suggestions.

“We also hire people without much restaurant staff experience,” Nugent explains. “We hire them because of their friendly personalities, great attitude, because they genuinely love interacting with people, they want to make our guests feel welcomed, and they appreciate teamwork.

“Once we have found the applicant that exudes that passion, we train them in every technical aspect of the job. Where some restaurants hire experienced applicants only because it takes them less time to train, we don’t mind spending more time on training if the personality and attitude is right.”

Because employees are treated so well, they then treat the customer well.

“They spend extra time on building relationships with our guests. Lots of our regulars attend our employee events (such as employees’ birthday and going away parties, even when we celebrate them outside Two Bucks). Bigger restaurants do not typically spend so much time on getting to know their customers.”

All of this attention to detail is deliberate since Nugent hopes to one day see Two Bucks across the country.

“I wouldn’t have got into it if I didn’t think it speaks to 90 percent of America. I’d like to see it go across the nation and I don’t see why it wouldn’t.”

By Amanda Baltazar

Finance, Industry News, NextGen Casual, Two Bucks