The Interesting History of Culver’s

Culver’s® is a family-favorite and casual restaurant primarily in the Midwestern United States. This restaurant chain has been known for its signature ButterBurgers® and Fresh Frozen Custard since it first opened in 1984.

Following its genuine and robust hometown hospitality, this single-family-owned restaurant in Sauk City, Wisconsin, is now found across the United States, with more than 800 Culver’s restaurants in 25 states. It also has over 25,000 team members serving sumptuous handcrafted meals and desserts. Gluten-free buns are also available upon request. 

“We believe that the smart, dedicated and hard-working people of Culver’s are what drives us to succeed in the restaurant industry,” said the Culver Franchising System, LLC, as the company also offers franchises on its restaurant chains across America.

“We genuinely care, so every guest who chooses Culver’s leaves happy,” read the company’s mission. Culver’s believe that their patrons will leave the place happy, and their mouth-watering experience with the delicious food will surely remain in their hearts. Aside from its signature dishes, Culver’s also offer other menus like cheese curds, chicken, fish, and salads. 

A Culver's counter in Milwaukee

Timeline of the Culver’s birth and popularity 

1961 

The husband and wife, George and Ruth Culver started their business as the owner of A&W Rootbeer stand on Philips Boulevard.  

1968

George and Ruth Culver opened a resort-styled restaurant named The Farm Kitchen at Devil’s Lake.

1976

Craig Culver, the son of George and Ruth bought his parents’ old business which was the A&W Rootbeer stand.

1984

George, Ruth, Craig, and his former wife Lea relaunches the rootbeer stand as the first Culver’s restaurant where they mainly sold Frozen Custard and ButterBurger on July 18 of the said year. 

1987

The first franchised Culver’s opens.

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.

Culver's Double Butterburger with Cheddar.

1993 

Culver’s was still a small, local chain, with only 14 restaurants across southern Wisconsin. 

1995

Culver’s first restaurants outside Wisconsin opened in Buffalo, Minnesota, in September and at Roscoe, Illinois, in December of the said year. 

1997

The first Culver’s outside of the Midwest opens. 

1998

The company opened the first Culver’s outside the Midwest in Texas in February. 

2000

The chain’s 100th location opens. Culver’s Blue Spoon Cafe opened its first store in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin as a soup-sandwich-salad restaurant as Blue Spoon Creamery Café. The name Blue Spoon comes from the color of the spoons used at the Culver’s fast-food restaurants.

2005

The company added another chain in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

2006

Culver’s changed its attention to developing markets beyond the Midwest at the Bowling Green, Kentucky, in July. 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 land needed for construction by around 20 percent.

2008

The Culver’s expanded to the Phoenix metropolitan area.

2010

 A second store opened in Middleton, Wisconsin, for two years but closed in August in the said year. 

2011

At the end of 2011, 445 Culver’s restaurants were open in 19 states. 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. 

Number of Culver's stores per state, as of August 2021

2012

Culver’s also opened in South Carolina.

2013

 According to a survey by Franchise Business Review, Culver Franchising System was rated No. 1 in franchisee satisfaction among restaurant franchises.

2014

The Culver’s opened more chains in Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee.

2015

The Culver’s opened another chain at North Carolina. 

2017

The Culver’s sold a minority share to Roark Capital Group last October 2017.  The Culver family retains majority ownership.  As of July 2017, Arizona had 26 locations. A location set to open in Bullhead City may signal a future expansion into Las Vegas.       

2018

June 28, 2018, Culver’s had announced that a location will be opening in Alabama.

2020

Culver’s won Best Burger, Best Sauce, Best Coffee, and Regional Chain of the Year during “The Fasties” Fast Food Awards in 2020.

2021

 The chain has 830 restaurants in 25 states, mainly in the Midwest, since August 9.

2022

 In January of 2022, Culver’s expanded into the state of Arkansas.

Culver’s recipe became very successful. Even though customers needed to wait for several minutes for their order to be served, they opted to stay and felt contented with what Culver’s could offer. This situation was evidently observed in one of the Culver’s restaurants wherein they had a drive-through service for their customers. 

Moreover, Culver’s spends a little on their advertising, but their restaurants are still visited by their patrons because of their excellent reputations to the public, and the best motivator that would pull people in is the good and high quality of their products. Craig managed the restaurant, bearing in mind one of his dad’s many sayings: “Don’t mess with the quality.” Through this wisdom, guidance, coaching and teaching, the company flourished into what it is today. 

A car at the drive-thru order speaker at a Culver's restaurant in Shakopee, Minnesota.

Amazing facts you did not know about Culver’s

  1. You can ask Amazon Alexa to find the location serving your favorite Flavor of the Day.
  2. Culver’s has more than 80 Flavors of the Day. The tradition started in 1984. The “Flavor of the Day” features unique mixture of frozen custard and other flavors, such as Mint Explosion, Caramel Cashew, Georgia Peach, and Chocolate Oreo Volcano, among other wide arrays of flavors.  
  3. Culver’s serves over 8 million orders of cheese curds annually.
  4. Some 5,400 cows are the milk sources to make Culver’s custard. The fresh frozen custard is produced from over 100 family farms in Wisconsin.
  5. Culver’s root beer orders reach 315,205 gallons every year.
  6. Culver’s ButterBurgers are made with a special blend of three fresh 100 percent Midwest beef cuts. “ButterBurgers don’t touch the grill until after you’ve placed your order,” said food writer Lauren Naru of Taste of Home.
  7. The beautiful family and childhood experiences of Craig and Lea Culver inspired them to build the restaurant. The two learned from the sweet gestures of Craig’s mother when she served homemade hamburgers with fresh frozen custard.
  8. In 2017, more than 9 million orders of onion rings were served in Culver’s restaurants. Diners crave the thick-cut and crispy onion rings featuring some blend of spices, and fried in golden brown. More, they also served gluten-free menu if you ask for it.
  9. The Culver’s Foundation Scholarship Program awarded millions of scholarships to its workers, including technical or college courses. More than 3,000 team members have availed the scholarships since 1993.
  10. Culver’s need some 185,000 pounds of bananas to make banana splits annually