LITTLE CHUTE - Culver's opening Monday in Little Chute, the 518th branch of the Wisconsin-based Culver's chain, is pretty much what you'd expect.
It has fresh-faced employees dressed in signature blue aprons and hats. Its menu has the 30-year-old chain's signatures: butter burgers, fried cheese curds and frozen custard.
But this branch at 2121 Freedom Road (County N) is newsworthy because of its partners. It's co-owned by Glenda Woosley, a 15-year Culver's veteran, and Maggie Kauer, a first-time owner who has grown up in the ranks of Culver's employees.
They're part of a wave of women owners in the fast/casual restaurant franchise in recent years.
"Close to 100 Culver's restaurants are owned by women," said Mary Schluter, company spokeswoman based in Prairie du Sac.
"We're in the minority, but I've seen more women owners in the last five to seven years," said Woosley. She's owned the Darboy Culver's for 15 years.
Kauer has been in the company that same amount of time as an employee, and was most recently manager at the Darboy branch. At the same time, she studied culinary arts at Fox Valley Technical College.
Going into franchises didn't appeal to her classmates, but it suited Kauer well.
"This is where I wanted my career to go," she said. "We learned a lot of things like business management and operations, cost control and hospitality. Even my math classes came in handy, and I never expected that to happen."
The Darboy Culver's, incidentally, was singled out this year as the best Culver's in the nation. It won the first company-wide "Culver's Crew Challenge" that graded branches in cleanliness, food safety, hospitality and service.
As owner, Woosley got a $50,000 prize to use as she pleased. She split it up and gave every employee a bonus. "They are the people in the restaurant day in, and day out. They deserve the money," she said.
The partners don't reveal the cost of the new business. But according to culvers.com, partners must have "a minimum of $350,000 to $600,000 in liquid assets to qualify for ownership of a Culver's franchise." That doesn't include the real estate and building, which can put the average overall cost between $2 million and $3 million, said Schluter.
The Little Chute Culver's hired 60 people including 12 full-timers. The branch is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Phone: 920-423-3393