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Culver Franchising System, Inc.
IndustryFast food restaurants
Founded1984; 35 years ago (1984) in Sauk City, Wisconsin
FoundersCraig and Lea Culver
George and Ruth Culver
HeadquartersPrairie du Sac, Wisconsin, United States
Number of locations
696 (2019)
Area served
24 U.S. states, focusing on the Midwest
Key people
Joe Koss (CEO)
Craig Culver (Chairman)
Products"Butterburgers", frozen custard, milkshakes, cheese curds, chicken sandwiches, fish, french fries, salads
RevenueIncrease $3.2 Billion

Culver Franchising System, Inc., doing business as Culver's, is a privately owned and operated casual fast food restaurant chain that operates primarily in the Midwestern United States. The chain is mostly known for its butterburgers and frozen custard, but also offers cheese curds, chicken sandwiches, chicken tenders, fish, and salads. Culver's opened its first restaurant in 1984 in Sauk City, Wisconsin, and is currently headquartered in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin.[1] As of 24 February 2019, the chain had 695 restaurants in 24 states, mostly in the Midwest.


Sauk City restaurateurs and spouses George and Ruth Culver started their fast food careers as the owners of an A&W on Phillips Boulevard (U.S. Highway 12) in 1961.[2][3] In 1968, they purchased a resort-styled restaurant at Devil's Lake called The Farm Kitchen. Their son, Craig Culver, worked for a local McDonald's right out of college in 1973.[4] After selling their restaurants and quitting their jobs, George, Ruth, Craig and his wife Lea opened the first Culver's Frozen Custard and ButterBurgers on July 18, 1984. Craig led the company from its inception until 2015.[4][5]

In October 2017, Culver's corporation sold a minority share to Roark Capital Group, a private equity firm based in Atlanta. The Culver family retains majority ownership.[6][7]


In 1998, 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 Middleton, Madison and Milwaukee areas.


In 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 1997. In February 1998, the company opened the first Culver’s outside the Midwest in Texas.

Number of Culver’s per state, as of March 2019.[8]

Beyond the Midwest[edit]

The current franchising strategy is one of contiguous expansion 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.

The Metro-98 prototype, developed in 2006 and first constructed in Fort Dodge, Iowa, was 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 reduced the amount of land needed for construction by around 20%.[9]

In 2008, Culver's expanded to the Phoenix metropolitan area. As of July 2017, Arizona had 26 locations.[10] A location set to open in Bullhead City may signal a future expansion into Las Vegas. At the end of 2011, 445 Culver's restaurants were open in 19 states. Culver's also opened in South Carolina in 2012; Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee[11] in 2014; and North Carolina in 2015. On June 28, 2018, Culver's had announced that a location will be opening up in Alabama.

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.[12]

Venture into casual dining[edit]

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.[13] 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.[14]


Culver's sponsors sports teams including the St. Cloud Rox, Wisconsin Badgers, Milwaukee Admirals, Iowa Hawkeyes, Minnesota Wild, Green Bay Packers, and Chicago Cubs.[citation needed]

Official mascot[edit]

The official Culver's mascot is an anthropomorphic custard cone named Scoopie, who is featured in various advertisements and community events.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Culver's Fact Sheet" (PDF). Culver's Public Relations and Communications Department. Retrieved March 22, 2015.
  2. ^ "Craig Culver recalls Culver's origins". Hometown News LLC. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  3. ^ Morrison, Sherman (January 20, 2015). "A Bit of Nostalgia: The Culver's Menu". Franchise Chatter. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "The Culver's Story" (PDF). Culver's Public Relations and Communications Department. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  5. ^ Rick Romell. "Craig Culver to retire as CEO of restaurant chain". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 10, 2015.
  6. ^ Judy Newman. "Atlanta investment firm scoops up Culver's stock". Wisconsin State Journal, October 14, 2017.
  7. ^ Melanie Lawder. "Family-owned Culver's sells minority stake to Atlanta private equity firm". Milwaukee Business Journal, October 16, 2017.
  8. ^ "Restaurant Locator". Culver's. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  9. ^ "New design to save Culver's up to $150,000 per store". QSR Web. April 13, 2006. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  10. ^ Ducey, Lynn (February 24, 2012). "Smash hit: Gourmet burger places find meaty market in the Valley". Phoenix Business Journal.
  11. ^ Rittenberg, Adam (July 30, 2018). "From cannabis to Chick-fil-A, former CFB coaches find new careers". Retrieved July 31, 2018.
  12. ^ Rattle, Barbara (July 2010). "400-unit restaurant chain to make Utah debut in Midvale". Enterprise/Salt Lake City. 40 (3): 1.
  13. ^ Stevens, Shannon (April 11, 1999). "Culver's to go upscale with Blue Spoon Creamery Cafe". Milwaukee Business Journal. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  14. ^ Stocker, Michelle (August 26, 2010). "Middleton's Blue Spoon Cafe Closes". Capital Times. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  15. ^ Kramer, McKenzie (July 1, 2013). "LifeSource and Culver's Mascot, Scoopie, Promote Summer Blood Drive". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 27, 2016.

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