Business Profile – Custard to College
Story by Lauren Sable Freiman | Aug 28, 2017
Photography by Anthony Jinson
Culver’s provides delicious food and big opportunities.
As their daughter was studying business management at MU, Kendall Walz-Newton’s parents, Gretchen and Allen Walz, were seeking a new entrepreneurial endeavor in which they could pour their energy and time. After many family discussions and careful research, and with Kendall’s college graduation looming on the horizon, they decided the time was right to venture into business together. Culver’s, a family-oriented fast food franchise, appealed to the Walz family because of the chain’s strong values, and eight years ago, Gretchen, Allen, and Kendall opened Culver’s of Jefferson City. Seven months ago, they opened a second location in O’Fallon.
Walz-Newton and her parents still work in the restaurant, giving the restaurant a mom-and-pop feel atypical of most chain locations. It’s those family values and the resulting warm, friendly atmosphere that has likely contributed to attracting and retaining a group of young employees.
Between the two Culver’s locations, there are 10 high school employees, including three sets of siblings. A handful of those employees have been employed with the Walz family for close to five years. Several have worked their way up from team member to manager and have become integral members of the Culver’s team.
“We have a couple kids who started in high school and are now in college, and they were instrumental in helping train new staff and getting ready to open the new O’Fallon restaurant,” Walz-Newton says. “Some of them are in key roles in our restaurant. We’ve found that we get to know their families because they come in with their families more often, and when one of your team members comes in to eat on their days off and you get to meet their families and get to know more about them, it’s the ultimate compliment.”
As a boss, Walz-Newton says she loves seeing her employees develop confidence over the course of their employment. In addition to valuable social skills, Walz-Newton says all her young employees working for the first time learn other lifelong skills.
“They learn a lot about responsibility and dependability, and they learn how to interact with the public,” Walz-Newton says. “Interacting with guests is something you learn over time. And when they start getting into management roles, they have to learn how to be a manager to kids their age or younger, how to be a leader, and how to gain respect.”
Through word of mouth advertising, Culver’s has been able to slowly grow the number of students they employ. According to Walz-Newton, the word has spread to their parents that Culver’s loves to employ young people and is a comfortable, enjoyable work environment. The fast food industry also allows for a flexible schedule, making it the ideal job for both high school and college students.
“One thing that makes fast food a good job when you’re in school is that we can be very flexible,” Walz-Newton says. “Whatever time their school, sports, and activities demand, this industry allows us to be flexible to accommodate the busiest student so they can buy their first car, pay for their cell phone, or save for college.”
College students who work while attending college enjoy another benefit. For each semester they work at least 15 hours a week while maintaining a 2.5 GPA, they earn a $250 bonus. Walz-Newton says some of her college employees are currently studying to become an auto mechanic, a police officer, and an actor.
“You can come into the restaurant and find kids studying before or after they work,” Walz-Newton says. “It is always better when you study with a buddy, and we accommodate that. We as owners very much instill how important education is. No matter what you want to be when you grow up, education is everything.”
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