It was a busy Friday night, and Kevin Scott, ’83, was learning how to work the fryers. It was his first day in the kitchen of a Culver’s fast-food restaurant, and Scott—unaccustomed to the cacophony of buzzers going off—was doing his best to keep up with the orders.
If you think Scott is recalling his first job as a teenager, guess again. Scott, a retired law professor and former COO of a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan subsidiary, recently began a second career as a Culver’s franchisee, and his stint at the fry station was part of his on-the-job training. Scott spent 12 weeks in Wisconsin, where Culver’s is headquartered, learning everything there is to know about running a successful Culver’s restaurant—from pressing a perfectly shaped ButterBurger on the grill and scooping frozen custard to operating the cash registers and learning the payroll system. He spent another four weeks learning the ropes at the grand openings of two Culver’s franchises in North Carolina and Kentucky. The training, Scott jokes, was almost as rigorous as law school.
“We worked 10- to 14-hour days, six days a week, learning all the different positions in the restaurant,” Scott says. “The number of moving parts and things you need to know—it taught me that there’s a lot more to putting a burger in a bag and sending it out the door. It was hard work, and it still is.”
Early on, Scott says he questioned what he was doing. But his desire to run his own business—which he had longed to do since he was a teenager—and the commitment he made to his business partners John Petrovski and Bart Peterson, who are also 1983 Michigan Law graduates, kept him going. The three friends, who for years had discussed the idea of owning a business together, opened their Culver’s restaurant in Lansing, Michigan, on January 15, 2018.
While Petrovski, Peterson, and Scott each have a vested interest in the franchise, Scott is the owner-operator and is responsible for overseeing restaurant operations on a day-to-day basis.
“As the owner-operator, you are in the restaurant, and you are executing whatever needs to be done for the success of the restaurant,” says Scott, who previously taught contracts and commercial law at Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. “You’re working the stations, you’re cleaning tables and greeting guests, you’re doing the back-office tasks like inventory and banking. You’re handling guest complaints. It’s the whole nine yards. And when we opened, I was doing that for about 15 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Scott still works long hours and says one of his biggest challenges is finding good employees—people who have a “great personality, a strong work ethic, and are willing to learn and follow instructions.”
While the adage that good help is hard to find rings true for Scott, he has found that what isn’t true is the other adage that one shouldn’t mix business and pleasure, thanks to a decision Scott and his business partners made to hire outside legal help.
“Our group decided that we wouldn’t be our own lawyers,” Scott says. “We’re smart guys, but we wanted to let the people who know the industry guide us. Having that outside counsel has helped with the comfort level of everybody knowing that everything is done at arm’s length.”