Wisconsin resident Don Lichte, his wife, Lori, and their daughter, Sophie, intend to buy land in Middleburg and open the area’s first confirmed Culver’s in May.

The Mathis Report: Area’s first Culver’s planned for Middleburg

Wisconsin family will open restaurant that features ButterBurgers, pot roast, cod and frozen custard.
By: 
Aug. 27, 2018

Wisconsin-based Culver’s, whose signature menu items are ButterBurgers and frozen custard, will open in Northeast Florida.

Wisconsin resident Don Lichte, his wife, Lori, and their daughter, Sophie, intend to buy land in Middleburg and open the area’s first confirmed Culver’s in May.

“It’s a great trade area,” Don Lichte (pronounced “light”) said of the Blanding Boulevard and First Coast Expressway location.

Lichte is with the family-founded Lichte Insurance Agency, and his family and the Culvers are friends.

Founded in 1984, Culver’s now counts 673 restaurants around the country, including 50 in Florida that opened in recent years.

“Florida is going to be a great growth state for them and you will see a lot more,” Lichte said.

The Lichtes will own the Middleburg restaurant franchise. He said their goal is three area locations in five years.

Sophie Lichte

Sophie Lichte, who is in corporate training, will move to the area and serve as the owner-operator. Culver’s requires that owners undergo a 16-week training course in all facets of store management and that they work in the restaurants they own.

Lori Lichte, a Realtor, will move with her daughter for the first few months to set up and open the restaurant.

Don Lichte said the 4,400-square-foot restaurant will seat about 105 inside and about 30 on the patio. He expects to hire 65 to 70 full- and part-time employees. Hours will be 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

The menu includes the burgers – named for their butter-toasted buns – along with chicken, beef pot roast, cod and pork tenderloin sandwiches; salads; dinners that include cod, shrimp, pot roast and chopped steak; kids’ meals; sides that include Wisconsin cheese curds; and made-daily custards, shakes, malts, sundaes and cones.

“It’s a pretty broad menu,” Lichte said. 

He said the custard is made fresh daily and the menu items are cooked to order. 

“Nothing hits the grill until you order,” he said.

Lichte expects to buy the 1.25-acre parcel by the end of November and start construction in December. The Lichtes will own the land, building and equipment. 

Lichte expects an investment of more than $3 million.

Culver’s says it takes at least $350,000 to qualify for ownership of a franchise, with additional assets needed if the owner wants to own the real estate, building and equipment.

Culver’s is based in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, near Madison.

Craig and Lea Culver and Craig’s parents opened the first Culver’s in 1984 in Sauk City, Wisconsin.

Murphy Land and Retail Services Inc. represents Culver’s in its area site search, said President Clint Murphy. 

He said multiple Culver’s operators are coming to serve an area from St. Augustine to Fernandina Beach to Tallahassee. 

Jacksonville-based Murphy said Culver’s probably will open 10 stores in greater Jacksonville.

The closest operating Culver’s to Jacksonville is in Gainesville. 

Paul Pitas, director of public relations and communications for Culver Franchising System LLC, said previously that three franchisees, including Lichte, are interested in locating Culver’s restaurants in the Jacksonville area.

Culver’s works with multiple franchisees to develop within areas.

At Culver’s, customers order at the counter and are given a number. The food is delivered to the table. It’s the same with the drive-thru – the customer orders at the speaker, pulls up to pay and is given a number, moving up until the cooked-to-order food is prepared and delivered to the car. 

Lichte says the company’s mission statement is “Every guest who chooses Culver’s leaves happy.”