Culver's in Onalaska, Wisconsin, featuring the traditional blue metal roof
|Industry||Fast food restaurants|
|Founded||1984Sauk City, Wisconsinin|
|Headquarters||Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, United States|
Number of locations
|727 (December 5, 2019)|
|25 U.S. states, mainly in the Midwest|
|Products||hamburgers, frozen custard, milkshakes, cheese curds, chicken sandwiches, fish, french fries, salads|
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, fish, and salads. Culver's opened its first restaurant in 1984 in Sauk City, Wisconsin, and is currently headquartered in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. As of June 24, 2019[ref], the chain had 710 restaurants in 25 states, mostly in the Midwest, with an additional 18 under construction.
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. 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. 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.
In 1988, the Culver family were approached about franchising a restaurant in nearby Richland Center. The family 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 Culver family 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.
Beyond the Midwest
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%.
In 2008, Culver's expanded to the Phoenix metropolitan area. As of July 2017, Arizona had 26 locations. 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 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.
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 sponsors sports teams including the St. Cloud Rox, Wisconsin Badgers, Milwaukee Admirals, Iowa Hawkeyes, Minnesota Wild, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and Chicago Cubs. Culver's also sponsors the WIAC baseball championship.
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- Judy Newman. "Atlanta investment firm scoops up Culver's stock". Wisconsin State Journal, October 14, 2017.
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- Ducey, Lynn (February 24, 2012). "Smash hit: Gourmet burger places find meaty market in the Valley". Phoenix Business Journal.
- Rittenberg, Adam (July 30, 2018). "From cannabis to Chick-fil-A, former CFB coaches find new careers". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
- Rattle, Barbara (July 2010). "400-unit restaurant chain to make Utah debut in Midvale". Enterprise/Salt Lake City. 40 (3): 1.
- Stevens, Shannon (April 11, 1999). "Culver's to go upscale with Blue Spoon Creamery Cafe". Milwaukee Business Journal. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
- Stocker, Michelle (August 26, 2010). "Middleton's Blue Spoon Cafe Closes". Capital Times. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
- "Burger Chain Puts In Order For More Sponsorships". IEG Sponsorship Report. March 9, 2009. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
- "2019 WIAC Baseball Championship (Presented by Culver's)". wiacsports.com. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
- 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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