February 26, 2014 | 09:05 AM
The Culver's of Corydon crew received a check last week for making the Final Four of the inaugural Crew Challenge.
And while it wasn't the top prize of $50,000, the team was excited to be sharing $10,000. Restaurants in Darien, Ill., and Mitchell, S.D., also received $10,000 while one of the Culver's in Darboy, Wis., claimed the top spot.
The culmination of the Crew Challenge was announced Feb. 13 in Milwaukee during Culver's annual gathering.
"It was an amazing ride, but Darboy, Wis., took the title," said Frank Spanopoulos, who owns the Corydon location with his wife, Sarah.
Culver's, which has given a Grill Master award for many years, started the Crew Challenge this year as a way to recognize the entire team. There are nearly 500 independently owned and operated Culver's in 21 states.
The top Crew Challenge locations were based on secret shoppers, evaluations, sales and the Culver's guest feedback program.
As part of the gala festivities in Milwaukee, a video made at each of the Final Four locations was shown. The Corydon video can be found at http://video.culvers.com/medias/6kxea5oufy.
Culver's founder Craig Culver also made a video that has him speaking about each of the finalists and his visit to the four locations.
"Every visit was exhilarating," he said. "Every restaurant has a different personality."
He said it was obvious that the Spanopouloses have given to their community "in a big way" and residents took the opportunity to give back to them.
Salim Paunwar, director of operations for Culver's in nine states, was in Corydon on Friday to present the check.
"I've been privileged to spend time with Frank and Sarah" during the past 10 years, he said. "They've surrounded themselves with people who reflect them."
Paunwar said he was not surprised that Culver's of Corydon made the Final Four.
"People make the difference," he said, likening the contest to the Olympics, where often just the tiniest margin separates the best from the rest. "I knew if they continued to do that they do, they would be a finalist."
Dick Maurer, a franchise business partner with 23 Culver's (21 in Indiana, one in Kentucky and one in Illinois), agreed.
Daniel Hoban, who has been with the Corydon Culver's the past six years and now will open the Spanopouloses' second restaurant, in Jeffersonville, on March 10, likened the company's annual gathering to a reunion, but one with a trade show and break-out sessions. The event is aimed to revitalize Culver's crews, from the owners down to each employee, and to implement new products and other protocol.
"I love it," he said. "It's great."
That other award Culver's of Corydon received, the Ruth Award (named for Craig Culver's mother), is based on hospitality. The Corydon location has won it nine of the last 10 years.
Hoban said no one was disappointed that Corydon didn't win the $50,000 prize.
"It's about being there, being one of the top stores," he said. "We had the whole community behind us."
Frank Spanopoulos also was humbled by the community's response leading up to the Feb. 13 announcement.
"Thanks to everyone who played a role in us making the Final Four," he said.