When Kevin Weasler opened his Northbrook Culver’s location in 2020, he faced a perfect storm of challenges caused by the pandemic. Less than four years later, his restaurant is thriving thanks to its consistent quality, positive workplace atmosphere, and deep commitment to the community.
Like many franchisees, Kevin says he had always had a dream of owning his own business. He fulfilled that goal in 2003 at a relatively young age, opening a Culver’s franchise in Buffalo Grove while still in his late 20s. Culver’s had a special appeal for the Wisconsin native. “Culver’s was a brand that I grew up with. I liked the family atmosphere that the company promotes,” says Kevin.
From that first location in Buffalo Grove, Kevin and his partners expanded to Lincolnshire in 2018 before coming to Northbrook. Located at the corner of Dundee and Sanders, the Northbrook restaurant opened in June 2020 – just as the industry was grappling with COVID dining restrictions. Those early months were a journey filled with shifting rules, adaptations, and creative staffing strategies.
“We first opened with only drive-in and pickup service,” recalls Kevin. “Then we were able to open the dining room with social distancing, until COVID would spike up and we’d have to close it down again.” The restaurant designed an efficient pickup system that allowed large numbers of guests to have orders brought out to their cars in the shortest time possible. Online ordering was introduced in 2020.
Staffing was also a challenge in the tight labor market, so team members from the other locations were brought in as needed to support the new Northbrook operation. Attractive wage and benefit packages, along with a supportive workplace atmosphere helped boost hiring and team member retention. Kevin notes the success of the company’s mentorship program that encourages career growth; a former restaurant general manager is now the operating partner in Kevin’s newest location in Chicago.
Community outreach has also been central to Culver’s story in Northbrook. More than 50 nonprofit groups have been the beneficiaries of “Donate While You Dine” promotions, where Culver’s donates 25% of the group’s sales to the designated charity.
“Culver’s of Northbrook has been very supportive of our organization,” states Dan Jariabka, President of Hunger Resource Network. “Culver’s has hosted several Donate While You Dine events for us, which have been a big help in our efforts to provide protein to Chicago-area agencies. Kevin and his team are always ready to lend a helping hand to local nonprofits like ours.”
In addition, the restaurant participates in school lunch programs and donates gift certificates to a wide variety of organizations. A Northbrook Chamber member even before the restaurant opened, Culver’s has been involved as a sponsor and participant in the Annual Golf Outing and Auction & the Taste of the North Shore.
The success of the Northbrook restaurant was recognized by Culver’s national management in 2023, when it ranked as a Bronze Finalist in the annual Culver’s Crew Challenge. That recognition placed Northbrook in the top 50 (out of over 900) Culver’s locations based on performance evaluations throughout the year, focusing on company core values, strategic priorities, and operational initiatives.
For establishing a dynamic, family-oriented restaurant that has developed deep community connections in a short amount of time, Culver’s of Northbrook is very deserving of recognition as Franchise of the Year.