Brands keep the
 focus on the family

Brands keep the
 focus on the family

Words From: Mark 
Brandau, Associate Editor 
Midwest

Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation, but lately I can’t stop the blurring of the lines between my job covering the restaurant industry and my responsibilities as a father to a 10-month-old, with another baby on the way.

In the past year, my finances have been stretched between diapers and formula for my daughter and bills for my wife’s current pregnancy, and yet saving more for my family’s future has never been more important.

In my talks with franchise brands like Culver’s, Checkers and others lately, I’ve seen my own spend-but-invest push-and-pull in their competing imperatives to grow their brands while managing to square their P&L statements.

Craig Culver, founder and chief executive of Culver’s, said a key solution to expanding responsibly is to grow from within and do everything the brand can do to give people in the Culver’s family a leg up. He and brand president Phil Keiser said the chain spent more time in the past two years meeting with financial institutions to “grease the wheels” of loan activity for their potential operators.

Like many other franchised restaurant chains, Culver’s also is working with current franchisees to develop their people into managers able to grow with an expanding business.

The chain’s mentor program lets franchisees partner with their long-term managers to teach the younger managers how to run restaurants as if they owned them, so that they could become general managers of new locations the well-funded franchisee would open.

It’s something I’ve heard again and again as I cover the franchising side of the restaurant business. Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc. offers a similar program to its franchisees and team members at Checkers and Rally’s, in the hopes that it will “marry that will and that way” to allow for growth, chief development officer Jennifer Durham said.

The International Franchise Association and the Professional Athlete Franchise Initiative have made a bigger push in the past few years to match growing restaurant brands — and their able, willing team members — with the financial backing of current or retired athletes, who have the money and desire to enter the restaurant industry but lack the know-how.

Such a trend of nurturing talent within an organization seems tailor-made for a brand like Culver’s, which calls its annual gathering of its franchisees a “reunion” rather than a convention. Craig Culver and his dad, George, started the brand in 1984 together, after George exited his A&W business to get the father-son venture started.

“We’re starting with somebody right away with our culture,” Culver said.

“Everybody needs a chance. Years ago, my dad helped me to get into business. Our franchise partners identify people in their organizations who could start another Culver’s, and it’s worked out wonderfully for us.”

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected] [2].
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_for_NRN [3].