But potential franchisees backed out
By Scott Bellile
Rumors have been swirling around town like a salted caramel Concrete Mixer: A Culver’s franchisee has considered opening a fast food restaurant in New London.
It turns out the talk was true – Culver’s was looking. But for enthusiasts of ButterBurgers and frozen custard, the devastating news is the likelihood of a New London Culver’s is less than when the rumors began.
The Press Star reached out to Paul Pitas, director of public relations and communications for Culver Franchising System, on Thursday, Aug. 10, in hopes of putting the rumors to rest.
“I can tell you one is being planned for New London,” Pitas said after reviewing a development report he had on file.
But not so fast. Pitas then contacted the prospective franchisees on behalf of the Press Star to gather more information on their plans.
A few hours later, he called back and cooked up a large order of upset: The development report he consulted was not up to date.
“That particular site for whatever reason didn’t work out, and so they’re pursuing other options,” Pitas said of the franchisees.
It appears New London is no longer a surefire location. However, Pitas said it is premature to say if the city is out of consideration altogether.
“I don’t think anything is ruled out, but they’re just keeping their options open looking at other areas,” Pitas said.
Talking to people around New London, one would gather the demand is there.
Courtney Carpenter, a 2017 New London High School graduate, said she would welcome the food franchise to New London.
“Oh my God, their cheese curds are so good,” Carpenter said, adding she has driven up to the Culver’s in Clintonville just to get her fix.
Even at the Aug. 8 New London City Council meeting, when Mayor Gary Henke called on City Attorney Earl Luaders to give his monthly attorney’s report, Luaders said: “Thank you, your honor. I have no comment other than to say that I would like to see a Culver’s in New London.”
It looks like for now, hungry New Londoners looking for their Flavor of the Day fix must drive 15 to 25 to the nearest locations: Clintonville, Waupaca, Appleton and Neenah.
Or someone here with ambition could step up and fill the void.
Pitas said Culver’s corporate does not scout out prospective locations – it leaves that up to individuals who want to open their own establishment.
The individual contacts corporate and works with the development department to make sure their prospective location won’t set them up for failure.
“Clearly we want to make sure that whatever site they have is going to bring them the most success,” Pitas said. “We think about a lot of things, but one big thing is supply chain: Can we get groceries to the restaurant?
If the franchisee remains on board after those discussions, then Culver’s invites them to corporate in Prairie du Sac for a fitness evaluation process called “Discovery Week.”
They spend six days working in a restaurant in uniform while carrying out further discussions with senior leadership. Leaders evaluate whether a prospective franchisee truly has their heart in it because every franchisee must work at and be engaged in their restaurant.
“We don’t want people thinking that they can buy a restaurant as an investment and then go live 200 miles away from it,” Pitas said.
After a prospective franchisee checks Discovery Week off the list, it’s off to a 16-week restaurant training class. Upon graduation, they become responsible for getting the restaurant constructed. The structure has to be newly built to align with Culver’s franchising design standards.
Pitas said the pipeline is always full with applicants aspiring to build the next franchise and slip on the blue apron. Plus, Wisconsin contains the most restaurants, for the Culver family hails from the Badger State.
So who knows – if the person who recently considered opening one in New London doesn’t come around, then perhaps someone is already waiting in their place.
John Faucher contributed to this story.