Advertising professional swaps promos for potatoes with Spudbar

By Nick Hall | 12 Jul 2019 View comments

Gene Thomas is still in his 30s but stepped off the corporate ladder when he was 27. He ditched the advertising career and started to work for himself after seeing how a friend enjoyed an enviable Spudbar franchisee lifestyle.

“He was working very hard but for himself. He’s a good operator. I looked up to him, how he was organising his lifestyle and how he had built his store up. It looked very attractive.

“So I resigned and bought a potato business.”

It wasn’t exactly what his parents had in mind as a career move. But they supported him in his decision, once they ensured he’d done his due diligence.

“It’s about finding a franchise that you can trust and put your faith in,” Gene said.

“Being young I wasn’t too cautious but my parents made sure I did the research.”

One thing he knew was that he wanted to buy a food franchise. Spudbar was up and coming, a niche market with its baked potato meals. It was not a fad but offered good basics.

Spudbar support

When it came to the crunch, he looked at what backup the franchisor team would provide to him as a novice business owner.

“Their support was really important for my first business. It’s not a huge franchise so they are very responsive.”

One of the biggest influences on his decision was franchisee involvement in ideas and marketing, which Gene of course enjoyed because of his background.

“A lot of other franchises tell you and show you. At Spudbar your voice is heard.”

So Gene set up shop and spent an intensive few months working on getting everything right instore.

“I watched a lot of customers, finding out what makes them happy and how to create a good vibe.”

He is focused on getting the team to play the right music, keep the store at the right temperature, ensure it is very clean and inviting.

“You notice customers want to be in there. The food is fresh and looks appealing. Staff are happy and look presentable.”

Gene loves dealing with customers and finding what makes them tick. Right now he’s also relishing working closely on marketing and discovering the benefits of the social media tools Spudbar is using.


He believes franchise buyers should not focus on the money but should invest in a business they are passionate about.

“I like healthy living and eating, and there aren’t many places like Spudbar. Your customers are a reflection of what your product is.

At one time operating four food outlets, now he’s focused all his attention on the South Melbourne store and loving the lifestyle his franchise delivers.

He’s enjoying the flexibility of leading just one store and spending time with family and friends.

“I had four stores at one time, with up to 30 staff. Now I’m concentrating on doing one store really well, implementing strategies properly.”

Today Gene has a team of six staff to operate the single outlet.

“I work on the business a lot, I’m instore every lunchtime and I can be there late at night.

It’s good for staff to see the owner there, and I’m enthusiastic so they can see I care.”

He said franchise buyers need to think about what they love before they purchase a business.

“Get into something you enjoy, because a lot of time you’ll be instore for 12 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Gene is in a position now to expand his interests, something that running his own franchise allows him to do.

“I have a few property projects on the go, and I’m studying property management.

A good franchise can give you a lot of flexibility. I love it.”