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Culver Franchising System, Inc.
Industry Fast food restaurants
Founded 1984; 33 years ago (1984)
Sauk City, Wisconsin, U.S.
Founders Craig and Lea Culver
Headquarters Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, U.S.
Number of locations
638 (2017)
Area served
United States
Key people
Joe Koss (CEO),
Products Frozen custard, Butterburgers
Revenue Increase US$1.38 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 first Culver’s opened in 1984 in Sauk City, Wisconsin.[1] As of 17 October 2017, the chain had 638 restaurants across the United States, and 13 coming soon in 8 states.


Sauk City restaurateur George Culver started his fast food career as the owner of an A&W on Phillips Boulevard (U.S. Highway 12) in 1961.[2][3] 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 October 2017, Culver's corporation sold a minority share to Roark Capital Group, a private equity firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. The Culver family retains majority ownership.[4][5]


Culver’s of Onalaska, Wisconsin featuring the traditional blue metal roof

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.


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 1996. In February 1997, the company opened the first Culver’s outside the Midwest in Texas.

Number of Culver’s per state, as of September 2017.[6]

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.

In 2008, Culver’s expanded to the Phoenix metropolitan area. As of July 2017, Arizona had 26 locations.[7] At the end of 2011, 445 Culver's restaurants were open in 19 states. Culver's also opened in South Carolina in 2012, North Carolina in 2015, and Georgia in 2014.

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.[8]

Future expansion[edit]

The Metro-98 prototype, developed in 2006 and first constructed in Fort Dodge, Iowa, 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%.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11]


Culver’s menu features Culver’s trademark ButterBurgers, made fresh to order,[12]and frozen custard, which is also sold in bulk. A specialty is their deep-fried cheese curds made with "real Wisconsin cheese".[13] The menu also includes pork, fish, veggie burgers, salads, and sundaes. The menu is divided into seven sections: sandwiches, sides, drinks, kids meals, dinners, salads, and desserts. Items are made to order and are brought to customers' tables by staff members. Culver's also sells its own brand of root beer, sweet and unsweet tea, and cookie dough (primarily for custard).[3]


Culver's sponsors sports teams including the St. Cloud Rox, Wisconsin Badgers, Milwaukee Admirals, Janesville Jets, Iowa Hawkeyes, Minnesota Wild, 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.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Culver's Fact Sheet" (PDF). Culver's Public Relations and Communications Department. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  2. ^ "Craig Culver recalls Culver's origins". Hometown News LLC. Retrieved 7 February 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Morrison, Sherman (January 20, 2015). "A Bit of Nostalgia: The Culver's Menu". Franchise Chatter. Retrieved July 27, 2016. 
  4. ^ Judy Newman. "Atlanta investment firm scoops up Culver's stock". Wisconsin State Journal, October 14, 2017.
  5. ^ Melanie Lawder. "Family-owned Culver's sells minority stake to Atlanta private equity firm". Milwaukee Business Journal, October 16, 2017.
  6. ^ "Restaurant Locator". Culver's. Retrieved 13 August 2017. 
  7. ^ Ducey, Lynn (Feb 24, 2012). "Smash hit: Gourmet burger places find meaty market in the Valley". Phoenix Business Journal. 
  8. ^ Rattle, Barbara (July 2010). "400-unit restaurant chain to make Utah debut in Midvale". Enterprise/Salt Lake City. 40 (3): 1. 
  9. ^ "New design to save Culver's up to $150,000 per store". QSR Web. April 13, 2006. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  10. ^ Stevens, Shannon (April 11, 1999). "Culver's to go upscale with Blue Spoon Creamery Cafe". Milwaukee Business Journal. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  11. ^ Stocker, Michelle (August 26, 2010). "Middleton's Blue Spoon Cafe Closes". Capital Times. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  12. ^ Koslow, Bob (November 5, 2014). "Culver's plans Port Orange restaurant". Daytona Beach News-Journal. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  13. ^ "Snackworthy Sides". Culver's. 
  14. ^ Kramer, McKenzie (July 1, 2013). "LifeSource and Culver's Mascot, Scoopie, Promote Summer Blood Drive". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 27, 2016. 

External links[edit]