Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:21 pm
The Franchise: The Culver family opened the first Culver’s restaurant in 1984 in Sauk City. Thirty-five years later, Prairie du Sac-based Culver Franchising System LLC has grown to more than 700 franchise locations in 25 states, including more than 50 throughout southeastern Wisconsin. Portage-based S&L Cos. is the largest franchise group for Culver’s, operating 33 locations, with five more being developed, in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Florida. It owns two, soon-to-be three, locations in Kenosha.
1994: Art and Deb Stevenson found S&L Cos. and open their first Culver’s restaurant in Portage. Their sons, Jeff Liegel and Chad Stevenson, work at a Culver’s in their hometown of Reedsburg during high school. After graduating, each attends one year of college before joining the family business.
2010: Liegel and Stevenson purchase S & L Cos. from their parents. The company had built its first out-of-state restaurant in Kokomo, Indiana in 2006.
“We were looking at more restaurants out of state because Wisconsin was pretty built out, and (Art and Deb) were getting close to their retirement years and just didn’t feel comfortable taking on debt and new partners and things like that,” Stevenson said.
2015: S & L expands into Florida, adding five restaurants during the next two years. The first is in Fort Myers, which is where Art and Deb spent their winters.
“We had a lot of Midwest people familiar with Culver’s, and where do they go in the wintertime? They go to Arizona and Florida,” Liegel said.
2018: S & L has a record year, adding nine new restaurants to its portfolio. Some of those locations are acquired, but most are developed. The company currently has 1,900 employees and has operating partners at all but two of its 33 restaurants.
“If we go and look for a site for the next Culver’s, it’s because we have somebody who wants to go there or they own a restaurant – it’s not Chad and I going out and thinking about another one we need to own. It’s definitely for them,” Liegel said.
The franchise fee: Culver’s franchisees invest $55,000 to acquire an individual franchise for a 15-year term.