FRI AM News: Culver’s sees record sales, record drive-thru service and room for improvement; “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Kurt Bauer, WMC

— Culver’s hit record sales through the pandemic as almost 100 percent of its business went through the drive-thru, said Co-founder Craig Culver. 

“We had, prior to this, an understanding of our capacity in drive-thru, and I think we’ve blown those expectations out of the water with the number of cars that we are putting through our drive-thrus today,” Culver’s President and CEO Joseph Koss told a Regional Leadership Council webinar.

Koss said the last four months have accelerated the on-the-go eating trend that Culver’s has been seeing, causing the company to expand its drive-thrus over the past couple of years. 

“Over the last four months, when we went to drive-thru only, then that trend just accelerated,” he said. “I don’t see that changing going forward.”

The home of the ButterBurger successfully tackled the challenges of the pandemic, but now it is faced with a new one: speed. Culver’s “cook-to-order” model takes longer to prepare food than other fast-food restaurants.

“We have to figure out how to get cars through the drive-thru faster,” said Culver. “That is a priority for us — whether it’s double drive throughs, mobile orders, or what it may be, we have to get them through faster.”

Read the full story at 

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Kurt Bauer, president and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. 

As the state’s Department of Health Services works through records requests regarding information on businesses with COVID-19 outbreaks, WMC is actively opposing the department to make that information public. 

While DHS has repeatedly said it has no intention of posting the information on its website, Bauer noted that WMC is concerned about the damage the information could cause to businesses’ reputation.  

“This is something our members care deeply about — we have 3,800 members,” Bauer said. “They think it’s very unfair to list them in relationship to employees who may or may not have contracted COVID-19 at the workplace.”

While WMC supports mask wearing and other guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it does not support the mask mandates proposed by Dane County and being discussed by the city of Milwaukee.

“Businesses can require patrons to wear masks right now. It’s certainly a best practice; it’s the smart thing to do,” he said. “We don’t support a mandate.”

Before “Safer at Home ” was taken off of the table by the state Supreme Court, WMC released its own regional reopening plan, “Back to Business.” Bauer says it is still relevant and could be useful come influenza season. 

“A one-size-fits-all approach does not work… Yet we shut the entire state down and there’s an  economic consequence for doing that,” he said. “I do think that there’s a possibility that there could be some utility for it again as we get back into cold and flu season.”

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— Work will “never look the same again” due to the rapid shift to remote offices and workplaces, according to RedFox AI Founder Nick Myers.

In a webinar hosted by the Wisconsin Technology Council, Myers said businesses had expected a shift to more remote jobs, but that they expected it to take 15 years or longer — not two months. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the shift to online workplaces has become a necessity. Myers said that shift has put more of a spotlight on artificial intelligence systems than ever before.

“AI has the potential to automate and streamline jobs that are tedious for businesses,” he said. “Jobs will be transformed.”

He said AI has the capability to do our jobs better than we already do (for example accounting) so businesses can focus attention on other things.

Myers said just because AI is moving to automate many jobs, that didn’t mean there would be a net loss in jobs country-wide. He said instead jobs would  provide many of those misplaced by AI with better, likely higher paying occupations.

He feels education is key to helping people understand why AI isn’t the scary computer we see on television, but instead a tool to help move the world forward. Myers said “honest” conversations between experts, educators and businesses would be the next step.

“It’s not a matter of if, but when automation takes over every industry,” he said. “But we shouldn’t be afraid of it. Automation isn’t here to take our jobs, it’s here to transform our jobs into higher-thinking, higher-paid work.”

— If there is a fall sports season for UW-Madison, the Wisconsin Badgers and the Big Ten Conference will only have competition against conference members.

This includes the game against Notre Dame at Lambeau Field, said Wisconsin’s athletic director Barry Alvarez. 

“We all share in the disappointment about that and are exploring options to reschedule those games,” he said. “We look forward to playing Notre Dame in 2021 at Soldier Field in Chicago and both programs are committed to rescheduling the game at Lambeau.”

Alvarez admitted there is still uncertainty regarding schedules or how many home games there will be, but it is certain that Camp Randall Stadium will not be at full capacity. 

Right now, UW is working with health officials to develop a plan for a safe game day environment, and more clarity is to come regarding sports schedules and stadium capacity.

— The mask mandate for Dane County begins Monday morning. If businesses have questions about the mask requirement, they should first look on the health department’s FAQ page.

Assistant City Attorney Marci Paulsen said Public Health Madison & Dane County is updating the page daily. 

“Whenever questions come in that aren’t addressed on the FAQ, we are adding them,” she said. 

See the FAQ: 

— Businesses can refuse those not wearing a mask and alter alternatives to buying the goods or service, according to Dane County health officials participating in a Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce briefing.

Some people are exempted if they have a physical, mental or developmental condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. If someone is not wearing a mask, Public Health Madison & Dane County says to assume that person is genuinely not able to do so.

In that case, businesses can offer alternative services such as having a curbside pickup or having a staff member get the customer what they need without coming inside, as long as the business owner did their part to give access to the goods or service.  

If the service cannot be done without the customer coming indoors, such as at a workout facility, the customer can follow other guidelines, such as physical distancing.

The department advises to involve the authorities as necessary if an argument escalates or there is blatant refusal.

“It’s up to businesses to make those decisions,” said Assistant City Attorney Marci Paulsen. The department is looking for voluntary compliance. 

According to the health department’s website, there is a team to field complaints reporting those who aren’t heeding to the directive. The goal is to “provide education first before looking towards enforcement” with enforcement focused on those who repeatedly violate the order.

— Herzing University, headquartered in Menomonee Falls, announced a relaunch of its online Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration degree — formerly known as healthcare management.

“The BSHCA program addresses an ongoing need for healthcare leaders and administrators in many different capacities,” said Herzing Online President Nigel Longworth. “The program is fully online, providing a flexible route for individuals looking to progress or pivot in their healthcare career.”

In a release, Herzing University noted that healthcare jobs continue to be in high demand, and expects employment for medical and health services managers to grow by 18 percent through 2028.

The program is also offered as a workforce solution for healthcare employers looking to provide degree completion options to their employees. 

“Healthcare is a major focus area at Herzing, and we’re excited about this program because it provides an opportunity for healthcare workers to take their career to the next level,” said Herzing University President Renee Herzing. “With its focus on management and leadership, the BSHCA degree provides a clear path for advancement in the workforce or to a graduate program.”

— COVID Connect, a testing registration system, allowed Wisconsin National Guard soldiers staffing the Dane County COVID-19 testing sites to complete as many as 40 percent more tests per hour over two days last week. 

The website saves time in the interview process. Without COVID Connect, patients meet with soldiers to do an interview, fill out a waiver and provide all their contact information. This takes about five minutes to process each car in line. 

With COVID Connect, patients can do that process in advance. Then, at the testing site, patients provide a QR code for the soldiers to scan and confirm the information. This trims the time down “drastically” to 30 seconds, said Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s adjutant general yesterday in a DHS briefing.

At the time of the briefing, he said the wait times at the Alliant Energy Center were under an hour — a big change from last week when the Guard received complaints about wait times reaching over four hours.

Knapp noted that adding additional lanes at the site to meet the maximum amount allowed — six drive through lanes and one walk-up lane — also helped wait times.

The registration software is from Microsoft, which granted Wisconsin free licenses for six months and up to 1,000 consulting hours at no cost to implement the solution, said a DHS spokeswoman.

Stephanie Smiley, interim administrator at the Department of Health Services’ Division of Public Health, said DHS and the Guard hope to have it at other testing sites in the next week. 

She said that the organizations are coordinating with local partners to get COVID Connect in their area. 

With COVID Connect, patients register online for their test from their phones. After registering, the patient receives two emails: the first provides a code used to access registration information, the second contains a link to the system for them to report suspected COVID-19 exposures.

Each specimen collected at a National Guard site using COVID Connect receives a code that is linked to the patient’s record and used to track it through the process. Once the results are complete, the patient receives an email with a link to access their results.

Testing site staff collected 4,200 specimens over the course of the two-day trial. In addition to those, 3,800 results emails were also sent out over that timeframe — not all patients provided an email address. 

The previous process included paper registration and multiple points of data entry. Smiley noted that COVID Connect is a secure website and that the information provided is confidential.

Smiley said the goal is to be more efficient and to ensure proper information is collected. 

“Sometimes we’re missing some information and we really need to have that in order to get in contact with people,” Smiley said.

— The state reported 754 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, a new state record.

The seven-day average for daily cases was 596, also a new record.

The percentage of positive tests per total tests is 5.7 percent, up from 5.6 percent Wednesday, but down from a spike of 10.8 percent on July 4.  

The new cases bring the cumulative case count to 33,908 and active cases to 6,302.

The number of recovered patients number 26,792 or 79 percent, while 2.4 percent of patients have died. Active cases are defined as those still in a 30-day waiting period of symptom onset or diagnosis and account for 19 percent of the confirmed cases.

Yesterday the state received 13,158 total tests — Wisconsin has a capacity for 19,032 tests per day.

— Wisconsin’s COVID-19 death toll rose by two, bringing the count to 809.

Brown and Dane counties accounted for the new deaths. 

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (397), Racine (65), Kenosha (44), Brown (43), Waukesha (39), Dane (33), Rock (24), Walworth (18), Washington (17), Ozaukee (15), Grant (13), Winnebago (13), Waupaca (11), Outagamie (9), Clark (7), Fond du Lac (6), Dodge (5), Jefferson (4), Richland (4) and Sheboygan (4).

Door, Forest, Marinette and Sauk counties report three deaths each. Adams, Buffalo, Calumet and Polk counties report two deaths each.

Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Columbia, Eau Claire, Green, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Kewaunee, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marquette, Monroe, St. Croix, Rusk and Wood counties report one death each.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 


# Milwaukee mask requirement advances for final vote Monday; new cases statewide top 750

# Harley-Davidson’s The Rewire plan includes hundreds of job cuts, simpler operating model  

# Madison Urban League, Dane County to create South Side hub for minority-owned businesses



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– Masks mandatory inside all UW campus buildings this fall 

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