Craig Culver, chief executive officer and founder of the national fast-food chain that bears his family’s name, has a simple philosophy that has made the Wisconsin-based company grow over the years.
“You got to start with a good team,” he said. “And we are in the people business. Welcome people. Be good to people. I lost both my parents the last two years, but they always surrounded themselves with good people. Yes, there were talented people, too, but also nice people.”
Culver’s, which is known for its hamburgers and fresh frozen custard, celebrated the opening Tuesday of its new Bettendorf store. Culver was on hand to share some of his wisdom and the company’s philosophy for success.
The Bettendorf fast-food restaurant opened its doors Nov. 19 at 2312 Spruce Hills Drive in Cumberland Square. Local owners are Michael Jones, Mitchell Pencil and Scott Davis. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily with the exception of a few holidays. The new Culver’s employs 56 people.
The restaurant is in a building that housed Fazoli’s restaurant until it closed in 2004. The Bettendorf location is the seventh Culver’s franchise in the Quad-Cities. There also are two in Davenport and one in Moline as well as restaurants in Clinton, Muscatine and Geneseo, Ill.
The first Culver’s opened in Wisconsin in 1984. There currently are 477 nationwide.
Culver said the family entered the food business in 1961 when his parents, George and Ruth Culver, operated an A&W root beer stand. Over the years, they operated other restaurants. Craig spent some of that time working for McDonald’s.
In 1984, Craig combined a love of his mom’s homemade hamburgers with his favorite childhood vacation treat, fresh frozen custard. He and his wife, Lea Culver, along with Craig’s parents, opened the very first Culver’s in their hometown of Sauk City, Wis.
“We just about didn’t make it that first year,” Craig Culver said Tuesday while sipping coffee and sitting in the dining room of the Bettendorf store.
It wasn’t until 1990 that the first franchise Culver’s was successful. By the end of 2013, Culver said he hopes to have opened their 500th store.
He also tries to attend every opening.
“It is an opportunity for me to come and visit, to stop and say hello. I am going to go visit the other three (Quad-City Culver’s) restaurants today, and have a ButterBurger as well. I do love doing it. I like to thank the people in person. There is nothing like face to face.”
He said his father preached to him the importance of never serving an inferior product. He said prices may have to be increased at times, but that is better than cheapening the overall product.
And Culver said with all the competition of other fast-food restaurants these days, a company needs to keep evolving.
“If you are going to stand still, you might get run over,” he said.