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Profile: Craig Culver

A Leader with Guts

Food Channel Pro

Craig Culver has put a lot more than his name into the fast casual chain that started in a small, rural Wisconsin town.

Since 1984 Culver has been putting his stamp on Culver’s, a 422-unit chain in 18 states that prides itself on its ButterBurgers, frozen custard and warm hospitality.

But before that Culver did his homework. During college he worked at the family restaurants and after graduation took his degree and headed to McDonald’s, where he spent four years before founding Culver’s.Craig Culver

Along with his wife, Lea and his parents George and Ruth, Culver took a vision and created a niche-market restaurant that has turned industry heads for years.

Culver has deep roots in the Sauk Prairie community where he grew up and graduated from high school. It was there that a root beer stand provided the foundation from which the Culver’s concept grew.

The first successful Culver’s franchise was opened in Baraboo, Wisconsin in 1990. 

Now as chief executive Culver works closely with his franchisees and frequently can be seen working behind the counter at store openings.

Recently Culver’s opened its new headquarters in Sauk Prairie, a state-of-the-art 40,000 square foot facility on 8.5 acres that overlooks the Wisconsin River.

In addition to driving his company forward Culver also takes an active role in a variety of organizations. He is a member of the National Restaurant Association and the Wisconsin Restaurant Association. He also is a board member of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Foundation, the Bank of Prairie du Sac, American Family Insurance, Kwik Trip, and the Wisconsin Historical Society.  He also currently chairs two fundraising efforts - one for the Wisconsin Historical Society’s “Forward Campaign” and the other for the Wisconsin Professional Golfers’ Association to further the game of golf for juniors.

Title: Co-Founder and Co-Worker
Age: 60
Concept, headquarters location: QSR/Fast Casual, Prairie du Sac, WI
Check Averages: $8.15
Number of Units: 422
States: 18
Newest Ventures: Arizona and Tennessee are the newest states we’re doing business in and we’ll be in Utah by the end of 2010.
Hometown: Prairie du Sac, WI
Education: Bachelor of Science, UW-Oshkosh
First Restaurant Job: Culver’s A&W Drive-in, Sauk City, WI
Restaurant Light Bulb moment: Although I grew up in the restaurant biz, I never dreamt I would make it a career. However, that “light bulb” moment occurred after my college graduation working as a manager for McDonald’s.
Heroes: My parents.
What do you cook at home: Love to cook. Never use recipes. Rarely get to exotic.
Most exotic dish eaten: Octopus and fish with heads on
Pick your final meal: Potato chips with dip
First dish prepared as a child: Probably ButterBurgers
Favorite TV, movie, music: Boston Legal, Caddy Shack, Classic Hits (Hey Jude…etc)
Favorite part of the job: Working with all of our people in the restaurants and Support Center to meeting our loyal guests.
Guilty pleasure: Potato chips and dip
Best stress management: Either getting in the restaurants and working behind the counter or grill, or working in our yard and gardens at home.
Career Highlights: Hope those haven’t been achieved yet.
Best Advice Ever Received: My Dad told me, “Never cheapen your products.”
Best Advice Ever Given: If you don’t have a passion for what you are doing in life, do something else.
Favorite Book: Currently reading “Thirteen Bankers”
Hobbies: Enjoy golfing, boating, gardening and traveling with family and friends
Personal: Married to my wife Lea for 35 years. Three daughters: Brittany, 28, in Chicago; Mandy, 24, in Milwaukee; and Chelsea, 19, in college.