Culver’s, a cherished name in the American fast-food landscape, is synonymous with its ButterBurgers and fresh frozen custard. This family-owned franchise has woven itself into the fabric of Midwestern cuisine and beyond, expanding its reach while maintaining a commitment to quality and hospitality. This blog post explores the origins, growth, and enduring appeal of Culver’s, highlighting how it became a beloved institution.
1984: The First Culver’s in Sauk City, Wisconsin
Culver’s journey began in 1984 when Craig and Lea Culver, along with Craig’s parents, George and Ruth Culver, opened the first Culver’s Frozen Custard and ButterBurgers in Sauk City, Wisconsin. The Culver family brought their passion for delicious food and warm hospitality to the venture, drawing on their extensive experience in the fast-food and restaurant industry. The original Culver’s was a renovated A&W restaurant, where the family introduced their now-famous ButterBurgers and fresh frozen custard to the public.
Signature Offerings: ButterBurgers and Frozen Custard
From the outset, Culver’s set itself apart with its signature ButterBurgers, made from fresh, never frozen, Midwest-raised beef and lightly buttered, toasted buns. However, it was their fresh frozen custard, a richer and creamier alternative to ice cream, that truly distinguished Culver’s. Made fresh in each restaurant throughout the day, Culver’s frozen custard quickly became a customer favorite, available in classic vanilla and chocolate, as well as a unique “Flavor of the Day.”
Growth Through Franchising
After the success of the first restaurant, the Culver family decided to franchise the concept, ensuring that each new location adhered to the high standards of quality and hospitality set by the original. The 1990s marked a period of significant growth for Culver’s, as it expanded beyond Wisconsin into other Midwestern states and, eventually, across the United States.
A Focus on Local Communities
Culver’s has always placed a strong emphasis on being an integral part of the communities it serves. This commitment is evident in Culver’s support for local schools, charities, and non-profit organizations, as well as its dedication to sourcing ingredients locally whenever possible. The Culver’s family ethos extends to its treatment of employees and guests alike, creating a welcoming atmosphere that feels more like a family dining room than a fast-food restaurant.
Adapting and Expanding the Menu
While Culver’s core menu has remained focused on ButterBurgers and frozen custard, the brand has continuously innovated, introducing new menu items such as Wisconsin Cheese Curds, premium chicken sandwiches, and hearty salads. Culver’s also stays true to its Midwestern roots by featuring regional favorites like the North Atlantic Cod Filet sandwich and the Pork Tenderloin sandwich.
Quality and Freshness
Culver’s commitment to quality is evident in its careful selection of ingredients, from the fresh, never frozen beef used in its ButterBurgers to the dairy sourced from over 100 family farms for its frozen custard. This dedication to quality and freshness has helped Culver’s build a loyal following and distinguish itself in a crowded fast-food market.
Sustainability and Innovation
As Culver’s looks to the future, the company is focused on sustainability, seeking ways to reduce its environmental footprint while continuing to offer high-quality, delicious food. Culver’s dedication to innovation, community engagement, and hospitality ensures that it will remain a beloved brand for years to come.
Culver’s represents more than just a fast-food chain; it embodies a commitment to quality, community, and hospitality. From its modest beginnings in Sauk City, Wisconsin, to over 700 locations across the United States, Culver’s has maintained its dedication to serving delicious meals with a side of warmth and welcome. As Culver’s continues to grow, it carries forward the family values and traditions that have made it a cornerstone of American dining.