When it comes to employment issues, bad news, it seems, is everywhere these days. Immigration, health care reform, improper terminations, unemployment, rising disability roles, and more – we read about these challenges daily. That is why it was so refreshing to stumble across a “feel good” employment story, and I felt compelled to share it with you today.
No trip to visit my Wisconsin relatives is complete without a few games of laser tag and a trip to Culver's for a delicious Butter Burger. Culver's is a restaurant chain that is very popular in that part of the country, although they are growing beyond their Midwest roots (we just got one here in Sarasota). Bruce Kroll has been the owner of the Culver's Restaurant in Platteville, Wisconsin, for the past 19 years. The only problem was it burned to the ground last November, just as the holidays were approaching. With a minimum of 6 months to rebuild the restaurant, Kroll's 40 employees were potentially out in the cold, looking at an uncertain future.
That is when Kroll did something unexpected, and certainly not the norm in today's business climate. He kept them all on the payroll. He continued to pay them. For 6 months. All told, Kroll spent $144,000 keeping these employees, many of them long term, off the unemployment line.
All he asked in return is that they spend their paid time volunteering in the community. No word if any of them filed a workers' comp claim while doing so.
Kroll essentially calls it a good business decision, telling a Madison television station that “not only was it the right thing to do, it made business sense to do it.” Saying that his Culver's was “the people, not the building”, it made sense to hold on to them while the building was replaced.
I would certainly agree that it was a good business decision. It probably helped him keep those employees that know his business and are the backbone of its success. Plus, the goodwill it likely produced in a small Wisconsin town assures that they will be producing a butt load of Butter Burgers for now through the foreseeable future.
And the national publicity they are getting certainly doesn't hurt. Unless they run out of Butter Burger buns. That would be a bummer.
Interestingly, the restaurant reopened on June 16th, and the whole crew got a scare when a tornado passed within twenty yards of the building that night. Someone is trying to tell these guys something, or someone is watching out for them. I am not sure which.
At any rate, it is a positive tale with a happy ending, and it feels like it's been a while since we've seen one of those. An employer stepped up and made the tough call, his employees benefited from the decision, and it appears all will win as a result. Platteville has its Culver's back, and with it are presumably happy, experienced employees, churning out shakes and Butter Burgers like there is no tomorrow.
And if recent events are indicative, there may not be, but at least they know there will be a paycheck.