How Culver’s Works with Franchisees to Improve Operations
How Culver’s Works with Franchisees to Improve Operations

Jeff Bonner, Chief Operating Officer of Culver’s, demonstrates the value of streamlining operations while instilling the brand’s founding principles.

Jeff Bonner, the Chief Operating Officer for Culver’s Restaurants, has worked in the restaurant industry for 38 years. He launched his career in the pizza business, transitioned to a role with a Mexican QSR and finally ended up at the family-friendly restaurant known for its delicious ButterBurgers and Fresh Frozen Custard, Culver’s.

Since 1999, Bonner has been striving to streamline operations for the brand and looking for owner-operators who embrace hospitality, quality, freshness and service to the community.

“Over the years, practicing a commitment to these shared values has led to thriving relationships between Culver’s and our owner-operators,” commented Bonner. “In fact, according to a survey by Franchise Business Review, Culver’s is rated number one in franchise satisfaction by more than 4,300 franchises in the United States and Canada.”

It all started when founders Craig and Lee Culver, along with Craig’s parents George and Ruth, opened their first restaurant in 1984 in their hometown of Sauk City, Wisconsin.

“Craig and Lee take pride in creating a family-owned experience with a hometown hospitality approach at each location, and I think that’s why each of our locations performs well operationally. Each franchise is designed to operate the same and we strive to make each customer’s experience friendly each and every time they visit,” said Bonner.

Bonner’s passion for operations is nothing less of enthusiastic. He speaks about the value in getting each franchisee to understand the importance of operations and how it makes for a successful brand. Culver’s hosts a six-day discovery week program to determine if the franchisee is committed to the Culver’s system. The brand strives to make each franchisee an owner and operator of their location, meaning that they’re heavily involved. After discovery week, each franchisee is also required to go through a detailed training program at a restaurant location for 16 weeks.

“We have a rigorous training program, and I personally think the best training is first and foremost inside the restaurant. In order to run a successful location, you need to understand the operations behind the brand. Not to mention, ButterBurger University provides the best training. The piece that I really love though is that each new franchisee must participate and support a team member in opening two franchise locations outside of their own,” stated Bonner.

Bonner noted that the brand has also been successful operationally due to their franchise business consultants. Currently, the brand has 32 franchise business consultants in the field and five directors of operations who work hard to visit the different restaurant sites.

The Wisconsin-based brand certainly doesn’t have plans to slow down anytime soon. Bonner notes that there are new menu items in the pipeline and that Culver’s is launching four new flavors of the day during the summer months. But the one thing that stays consistent in the operations department is how the brand works off of three letters, “TLC”. This doesn’t mean “tender, loving, care,” but trust, love and passion for the service business and most importantly commitment to the Culver’s brand and community.

As for the rest of 2018 and 2019, Bonner notes that the brand has even more exciting things in the pipeline. The franchise hopes to open 43 to 45 new restaurants in the next three years.