March 19, 2012
Craig and Lea Culver Named 2012 Restaurateurs of the Year
MADISON, WI – March 15, 2012- Craig and Lea Culver, of Culver’s Restaurants have been named Restaurateurs of the Year by the Wisconsin Restaurant Association. The Restaurateur of the Year is the industry’s top honor and is given to only one restaurant operator (or couple) each year. Craig and Lea Culver were announced as the winners at the Association’s annual Awards Dinner, held at the Pfister in Milwaukee on March 13th in conjunction with the Wisconsin Restaurant Expo.
The Restaurateur of the Year award is given to an operator (or couple) who demonstrates participation and service to the restaurant association, success within their own restaurant and participation in community activities. The winner is selected at a private meeting of past Restaurateur of the Year recipients and kept a secret until the official announcement at the Awards Dinner.
Craig and Lea Culver are co-founders of the restaurant chain with Craig’s late parents, Ruth and George Culver. They opened the first Culver’s restaurant in 1984 in a converted A & W stand in Sauk City. Today, Craig and Lea own nine Culver’s and oversee more than 440 Culver’s restaurants in 19 states as part of the business’s franchising arm, Culver Franchising System, Inc. The Culvers built their careers through a commitment to doing what’s right for guests, team members, franchisees and family.
Craig and Lea met during their college years while working at the Farm Kitchen Resort in Devil’s Lake which was owned by Ruth and George Culver. Theirs is a true partnership – both at work and in life. Raising three daughters while building their business together, they have stayed true to their small-town Wisconsin start even as the scope of their business has grown tremendously. Still humble and accessible even with attention from major national media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and Nation’s Restaurant News, numerous awards for their community involvement and entrepreneurship and accolades like being named #1 Burger Chain in the country by Restaurants & Institutions annual Consumers’ Choice in Chains Awards, they remain grounded by their roots.
The Culver’s franchise is dedicated to supporting their local communities. Culver’s is a strong supporter and sponsor of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and its Education Foundation, donating significant time and resources to the ProStart® college-prep program for high school students seeking culinary and restaurant management training. Culver’s promotes its own annual Day of Giving program and donates a percentage of sales to charitable organizations within each Culver’s community. The Culver’s VIP (Very Important Partner) Foundation, Inc., houses a scholarship program for Culver’s team members and has awarded more than $1.8 million in scholarships since its inception. The operation also donated its former office building to the Village of Prairie du Sac for use as the new Ruth Culver Community Library which is planned to open in June, 2012.
The Culvers have been strong supporters of education and philanthropy and are quite active in a number of organizations. Craig serves as a board member for the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Foundation, the Bank of Prairie du Sac and Kwik Trip. He is also Chair for the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Forward Campaign. He plays active roles in the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the Wisconsin Professional Golfers’ Association, taking a leadership role in furthering the game of golf for juniors. Lea is Executive Director of Culver’s VIP Foundation, Inc. and serves on the boards for the Wisconsin Restaurant Association Education Foundation, the Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital Foundation and the American Family Children’s Hospital Advisory Board.
Craig, Lea and the Culver’s family of franchisees have been recognized for cultivating positive relationships and making a difference in communities with their entrepreneurial strength at the local, regional, national and international level. The extensive list of accolades attests to the dedication of Culver’s to Midwestern values, genuine friendliness and an unwavering commitment to community, the same spirit that drives award-winning customer service in Culver’s restaurants each and every day.
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Since 1933, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association has been dedicated to the promotion, protection and improvement of the foodservice industry.