Industry News | September 20, 2010

Culver's Dishes Out $250K to Send Employees to College

In a tradition that dates back to 1993, Culver’s is once again rewarding college scholarships to hundreds of its employees this year.

Some 225 team members will receive $1,000–$2,000 through the chain’s VIP Foundation Scholarship Fund to pursue higher education. Culver’s is giving away a total of $250,000 in scholarships.

Lea Culver, cofounder of Culver’s and executive director of the VIP Foundation Scholarship Fund, says the scholarships are a way for the company to say “thank you” to the employees who take care of its guests.

“We’re big believers in continuing education,” Culver says. “We think we hire some great team members, and it’s a great opportunity for those who continue their education.”

Culver calls the VIP Foundation Scholarship Fund an investment from the company into its employees, one that ultimately pays dividends to the brand.

“Team members are staying with us to graduate from high school, and if they go on to college, they’re coming back and working the summers or working weekends,” she says.

“Our guests value the quality of our team members. When you take care of the team, it shows in the way they take care of our guests. The guests notice that.”

But Culver says taking care of young employees is also a duty for Culver’s and the rest of the quick-service industry, which is notorious for employing teenagers and other first-time workers.

“Depending on how we set the example for them, they’re going to go out in the work force, wherever it is, and either have a positive feeling about going to work every day or a negative feeling about it,” she says.

Last year, Culver’s awarded 205 of its employees with $220,000 worth of scholarships. Culver says the company is trying to build the VIP Foundation Scholarship Fund so that it can continue to grow in the future—a process that includes getting operators in on the act.

“We’re going to go back and educate our franchise partners just a little bit more and try to encourage them to even get more team members involved in the scholarship program,” she says. “It’ll help the team members in understanding why doing a great job at what they do is important.”

By Sam Oches