|Industry||Fast casual restaurants|
|Founded||Sauk City, Wisconsin, U.S. (1984)|
|Headquarters||Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin|
|Key people||Craig Culver, CEO
Lea Culver, Co-Founder
Phil Keiser, President and COO
Joe Koss, CFO
|Products||Frozen custard, Butterburgers|
Culver Franchising System, Inc. is a privately owned and operated fast casual restaurant chain that operates primarily in the Midwestern United States. The first Culver’s opened in 1984 in Sauk City, Wisconsin. The chain now has 501 restaurants across the United States.
In 1984, Sauk City restaurateur George Culver purchased the A&W on Phillips Boulevard (U.S. Highway 12) and began renovating it. On July 18, 1984, along with wife Ruth, son Craig, and daughter-in-law Lea, he opened the first Culver’s Frozen Custard and ButterBurgers.
In 1987, the Culvers were approached about franchising a restaurant in nearby Richland Center. The Culvers agreed, granting the franchisee a loose licensing agreement, charging no fees or royalties. Because the franchisee had invested very little of his own money, it was a simple matter for him to walk away a year later when he decided he no longer wanted to be in the restaurant business.
As a result of this experience, the Culvers established a set of standard franchising procedures that form the basis for those currently used by Culver Franchising System, Inc. Three years later, they tried again in Baraboo and business quickly doubled. Soon after, the increased recognition that the second store earned this small-town chain prompted expansion into the Madison and Milwaukee areas. At the end of 2011, 445 Culver's restaurants were open in 19 states.
As of 1993, Culver's was still a small, local chain, with only 14 restaurants across southern Wisconsin. Culver’s first restaurants outside Wisconsin opened in Buffalo, Minnesota in September 1995, Roscoe Illinois in December 1995, and Dubuque, Iowa, in November 1996. In February 1997 the company opened the first Culver’s in Texas.
Beyond the Midwest
The current franchising strategy is one of contiguous growth at a pace of about 40 new stores per year. The chain expanded into Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Cheyenne, Wyoming in 2005, followed by an opening in Bowling Green, Kentucky in July 2006. Culver's shifted its attention to developing markets beyond the Midwest.
In 2011, Culver's expanded into Utah, when Kristin and Tom Davis of Wisconsin relocated to Utah and opened a 100-seat Culver's franchise in Midvale. The couple signed a development agreement for four locations in the southern half of Salt Lake County.
The Metro-98 prototype, developed in 2006 and first constructed in Fort Dodge, is much more compact than the traditional 120-seater commonly built through much of Culver's expansion. While the Metro-98 has less seating to offer guests, it also reduces the amount of land needed for construction by around 20%.
Venture into casual dining
Culver's Blue Spoon Cafe, opened its first store in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin in 2000 as a soup-sandwich-salad restaurant as Blue Spoon Creamery Cafe. The name Blue Spoon comes from the color of the spoons used at the Culver's fast food restaurants. A second store in Middleton, Wisconsin was open for two years, but closed in August 2010.
Culver’s menu features Culver’s trademark ButterBurgers and frozen custard, (which is also sold in bulk). The rest of the menu runs the gamut from pork and fish, fried chicken to salads and specialty sundaes. The menu is divided into seven sections: sandwiches, sides, drinks, kids meals, dinners, salads, and desserts. Items are made to order and are served at table-side. All Culver's restaurants resemble one another. Culver's also features its own brand of root beer.
- http://www.wiscnews.com/saukprairieeagle/news/local/article_7dd14dc1-3779-5d22-b3be-5cc1145cc83b.html Culver's opens store No. 501
- Culver's chain to open eateries in Valley this fall
- 400-unit restaurant chain to make Utah debut in Midvale
- http://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/stories/1999/04/12/story1.html Culver's to go upscale with Blue Spoon Creamery Cafe
- http://www.bluespooncafe.com/press/CapitalTimesJune27_05.pdf Dining out: Blue Spoon Cafe is special
- http://host.madison.com/entertainment/dining/restaurants/article_24c92b30-659d-5f76-8b35-f7fb0e11fd5a.html Middleton’s Blue Spoon Café closes
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