By Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor Published Jul 20, 2011 at 9:03 AM

Mike Busalacchi grins when he says he is searching for reversible shirts. It would be handy to turn his clothes inside out around noon every day because with his son Vinnie he owns and operates franchises from two distinctly different national restaurant chains

The Busalacchis introduced First Watch, a breakfast and lunch cafe, to Wisconsin in April with the Florida-based company's first state outlet in Brookfield. One or both of the men are in the restaurant when the doors open at 7 every morning, often greeting customers as they enter.

Later in the day, father and son shift their attention to the three Culver's restaurants they own in Southeastern Wisconsin. They also are the franchisee of a Culver's in Hamilton, Ohio.

It's a trip from pancakes to frozen custard, taken every day.

Headquartered in Bradenton, First Watch is the largest privately-held daytime-only restaurant company in the country. It has 88 locations in 13 states. The Brookfield cafe is one of only a handful not corporately owned, but the 28-year-old firm is accelerating its franchising operation.

The initial Wisconsin unit is in a space formerly occupied by Chin's Asia Fresh in the Brownstones Shopping Center at Bluemound  and Calhoun Roads. The Busalacchis are committed to opening five First Watches in southeastern Wisconsin in five years, and they expect to sign this week a lease for a spot in the Mequon Pavilions. That cafe is likely to be open by Thanksgiving.

First Watch is here because Mike Busalacchi has enjoyed dining in the restaurants while staying at his second home in Naples, Fla. "The first time we ate at a First Watch, an employe opened the door for us, and I thought the person was leaving," he said during a chat in his new eatery this week. He later learned company policy encourages a warm greeting being extended to customers.

"The restaurants are always clean and offer great service. The food is high quality. The menu emphasizes healthy eating. There are no fryers in a First Watch," Busalacchi said.

Free wi-fi and newspapers are available, and anyone who orders coffee gets a full pot on the table.

Every menu item is available during cafe hours, which are 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. "That means if you want a salad at 7 in the morning, you will get one," the new owner said.

Eleven omelets, ranging in price from $6.59 to $7.89, are served with potatoes and an English muffin. The varieties include the Gravy Train (bacon, sausage, onions, potatoes and cheese topped with turkey sausage gravy), the Bacado (bacon, avocado and Monterey Jack cheese topped with sour cream and served with a side of salsa) and the Killer Cajun (Cajun spiced chicken breast, mushrooms, Monterey Jack and onions, served with a Santa Fe dressing.)

The Chickichanga ($7.59) is a flour tortilla filled with whipped eggs, spicy chicken, chorizo, green chiles, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, onions and avocado. It is topped with sour cream and Vera Cruz sauce -- Hollandaise with a kick -- and served with fresh fruit. Multi-grain pancakes, specialty pancakes, french toast and waffles are also on the menu.

Healthier breakfast items include a low-fat organic yogurt parfait ($6.59) with nuts, granola and fresh fruit. It is served with a muffin. Fresh fruit crepes are $6.89, and cranberry nut oatmeal ($4.99) comes with pecans, sliced bananas and an English muffin.

Egg whites and cholesterol-free eggs can be substituted on any egg order at no extra charge.

"The portions are large," Busalacchi said. "We discourage people from ordering three pancakes. We haven't seen many people who can eat three."

Lunch fare includes a half dozen salads ($7.39 to $7.89), a chicken quesadilla ($6.99) featuring a sun-dried tomato basil tortilla, and a classic BLT sandwich with a twist -- an added fried egg ($6.89).

Each First Watch cafe bakes its own muffins, makes its own salsa and chorizo, slices its own fruit and chops its own salad ingredients. Busalacchi points out that nothing on the menu tops $8.

The Brookfield restaurant seats 120 at indoor tables and booths and another 20 outside.

Busalacchi's restaurant career began 33 years ago when he got a job as a bus boy at the old Marc's Big Boy in the Plankinton Arcade Downtown. Within five years he was managing a Big Boy, and he eventually moved on to Hardee's, where he was a district manager and regional training manager.

Culver's hired Busalacchi to be a franchise business consultant, helping new franchisees establish and open their restaurants. It was not a large leap for him and his son to own their own Culver's in the Shops of Grand Avenue, on Miller Park Way and in Jackson.

To avoid any conflict between his First Watch and Culver's franchises, the former does not have a hamburger on its menu here, but it does sell a turkey burger.

Busalacchi said First Watch and Culver's are very similar in their approach to the dining business. "They emphasize cleanliness and high quality ingredients. They don't source out cheaper products.

"They emphasize people, taking care of customers and employes. We want people to enjoy working for us."

Culver's is noted for setting the bar high in screening potential franchisees, and Busalacchi said First Watch is the same. "They want restaurant people. They want partners."

Despite his more than 30 years in the dining industry, Busalacchi and his son spent 10 weeks in First Watch training in Florida before opening the doors to the Brookfield cafe. "We were there in January and February. My wife felt real sorry for us," he said.

Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor

Damien has been around so long, he was at Summerfest the night George Carlin was arrested for speaking the seven dirty words you can't say on TV. He was also at the Uptown Theatre the night Bruce Springsteen's first Milwaukee concert was interrupted for three hours by a bomb scare. Damien was reviewing the concert for the Milwaukee Journal. He wrote for the Journal and Journal Sentinel for 37 years, the last 29 as theater critic.

During those years, Damien served two terms on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, a term on the board of the association's foundation, and he studied the Latinization of American culture in a University of Southern California fellowship program. Damien also hosted his own arts radio program, "Milwaukee Presents with Damien Jaques," on WHAD for eight years.

Travel, books and, not surprisingly, theater top the list of Damien's interests. A news junkie, he is particularly plugged into politics and international affairs, but he also closely follows the Brewers, Packers and Marquette baskeball. Damien lives downtown, within easy walking distance of most of the theaters he attends.