By sticking to its roots, the brand has been able to steadily grow over the past three decades.
It can be difficult for brands to find a unique niche in the quick service burger industry. Between the fast food giants who’ve mastered the art of a value meal and the higher end burger chains who’ve solidified their reputation and a loyal customer base, there’s not a lot of room to differentiate and stand out. But over the past 30 years, that’s exactly what Culver’s has consistently managed to do.
The better burger brand has managed to evolve beyond the point of being a regionally recognized name to become one of the industry’s major national players. But that success didn’t happen overnight—Culver’s has steadily climbed its way through the ranks to get where it is today. And it did that by staying true to and focused on the same core principles that made it a hit when its first location opened its doors for business in 1984.
“A lot of people through the years said, ‘When you get to 100 restaurants, things will be so much different,’ but we’ve just kept doing what we do and, lo and behold, we’ve become a $1 billion company,” said Culver’s CEO Phil Keiser in an interview with QSR Magazine.
The brand’s consistency starts with its food—Culver’s is known for serving fresh, made-to-order Midwest-sourced burgers on buttered and toasted buns and frozen custard made from real Wisconsin dairy. Despite adding new menu items to its lineup and switching the flavors of its featured custard every day, those classic items have set the standard for quality at Culver’s.
In an interview with QSR Magazine back in 2014, George Kelsey, Culver’s vice president of training, said, “With some early success, I think many restaurants make the mistake of pushing into too many different directions, and the core elements that prompted their initial success deteriorate. That’s not a mistake we are going to make.”
By offering the same delicious food across its entire franchise system—which now includes more than 550 stores—Culver’s has been able to establish a positive reputation among consumers. The bottom line is that people know what they’re going to get when they order one of their signature butter burgers, and they know that their food will be served to them with a smile.
Culver’s dedication to customer service is another factor that continues to make the brand stand out in the increasingly crowded better burger industry. The brand has always recognized people as being a driving force in its success, so it ensures that all of its business owners and employees are trained to put the customers first. Even minor adjustments—like focusing on “guest experiences” instead of transactions—make a difference.
It’s clear that Culver’s plans to continue its long standing traditions—consistency has been the brand’s key to lasting success. And that isn’t limited to the quality of its food and customer satisfaction. Culver’s exercises consistency in all aspects of its business development efforts.
“Once you make a commitment to a market, you have to grow it,” Keiser told QSR Magazine. “We’re not interested in opening the most restaurants. We’re interested in opening successful restaurants.”