Culver’s hopes remodel serves up a fresh look

Restaurant to close at end of month for four-day project, plans July 4 re-opening

BY AMANDA WHITE

Steve Rasmuson, who owns the Stillwater Culver's franchise stand outsdie the restaurant's current dinning area recently. Culver's closes June 30 for a four-day remodeling project that includes the dining room and reopens July 4. (photo by Amanda White)

Steve Rasmuson, who owns the Stillwater Culver’s franchise stand outsdie the restaurant’s current dinning area recently. Culver’s closes June 30 for a four-day remodeling project that includes the dining room and reopens July 4. (photo by Amanda White)

The Stillwater Culver’s hopes a remodeling project at the end of the month serves a fresh look to customers of the popular Market Drive restaurant.

Culver’s will remodel its dining room and lobby June 30 through July 3 with hopes of bringing a fresh look and convenient dining to the Stillwater area.

Culver’s will close from June 30 to July 3 so crews can remodel its dining room and lobby. Local Culver’s franchise holder Steve Rasmuson called the remodel a “re-image” by the Culver’s company. He said the restaurant will reopen for business July 4.

Rasmuson, who operates the Stillwater and Cottage Grove Culver’s, anticipates the re-image will bring a “nice, attractive, classy” atmosphere to the restaurant.
“In the long run, it’s a good investment. Good investment for the community, good investment for us,” Rasmuson said.

Culver’s has been open in Stillwater since 1997, and Rasmuson’s franchise agreement calls for him to complete a checklist of items before the agreement is up, which was in 2012. Rasmuson had already completed a number of items on the list, such as renovating areas in the kitchen that included installing hands-free sinks to minimize cross contamination. Culver’s Franchising told Rasmuson in 2010 that he still needed to re-image his dining room, so he “got the ball rolling.”

“At first we were a little upset. We had to do this according to our franchise agreement, so it was kind of forced upon us. So then, you kind of get that bad taste in your month,” he said.

However, other Minnesota Culver’s were completing remodels and experiencing higher sales than expected. Once Rasmuson heard the success stories, he became excited about the possibilities of a re-imaged restaurant. The slow economy at that time made securing funds for the project a difficult obstacle. Eventually, Hiawatha Bank in Hudson, Wis., provided Rasmuson a “pretty sizable loan” to complete the re-imaging.

In 2011, Rasmuson and his wife Rita visited Culver’s Headquarters in Sauk City, Wis., to design the remodeled dining room and lobby with an architect. There were about five different designs to choose from when designing a re-imaged Culver’s, with differences including wood or metal chairs, different colors of carpeting and wallpaper and different ceiling designs.

When Culver’s first opened in 1997, about 80 percent of its customers dined in the restaurant and 20 percent went through the drive-through. Now, in-house and drive-through orders are evenly split, so many seats are not being used regularly. The local Culver’s has 120 dining room seats, including several tables that seat six.

Rasmuson said that frequently, one customer sits alone at a table for six, meaning the business is losing seating for five potential customers. To efficiently use the available space, the new design has 94 seats, with most tables designed for two to four people. Although there is a loss of 26 seats, those seats weren’t being used, and the smaller tables are designed for today’s customers, not customers from 1997.

Rasmuson also redesigned the lobby to better handle influxes of customers. The condiment and beverage center is currently located in the lobby, but it increases congestion during busy times, so it will be moved to the side and closer to the dining room. The lobby itself will be smaller and a tile walkway will snake through the dining room to guide customers through the restaurant in one direction.

Rasmuson chose a few local contractors to help out the main contractor from southern Wisconsin who is familiar with re-imaging Culver’s restaurants. The Wisconsin contractor said the remodeling can be done in four days, while the other contractors could only promise two weeks. The crews will work 24 hours a day starting when Culver’s closes June 29.

Rasmuson also plans to have the parking lot resurfaced and re-striped before the July 4 reopening. Also, the cement around the building, including under the picnic tables, will be replaced along with the entry doors. The restaurant roof will be redone, but due to inclement weather, many contractors are behind schedule, so the roof work will not be done for the July 4 opening.

Rasmuson said while he notices imperfections in the dining room, a lot of customers comment on the restaurant’s cleanliness. Even so, everything is 15 years old and needs replacing. Rasmuson hopes the remodel results in fewer future repair projects.
Culver’s business model is “quick casual” dining, a middle ground between fast food and casual dining restaurants. Rasmuson believes a carpeted dining room, soft music and limited table service combined with “good, fresh food” will provide the Stillwater area with a unique quick casual dining experience.

For more information call 651-351-2989. Culver’s is located at 1725 Market Drive.
Contact Amanda White at amanda.white@ecm-inc.com

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