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🔑 Key Takeaways

  1. While offering fewer choices can lead to success, Craig Culver's fast food chain, Culver's, defied this concept by creating a menu with over 50 items and still became one of the most profitable fast food chains in America.
  2. Despite feeling resentful at times, Culver acknowledges the positive impact of his parents' hard work and support, which shaped his entrepreneurial spirit and love for the family business.
  3. Surround yourself with the right people and be open to different paths in order to recognize and seize incredible opportunities that may not align with our initial perceptions.
  4. Seizing unexpected opportunities and utilizing acquired skills can lead to personal and professional success in the field of entrepreneurship.
  5. Craig Culver and his family demonstrated their entrepreneurial mindset by buying low, selling high, and investing the profits in new business ventures, showcasing their ability to adapt and succeed.
  6. Stepping away from the familiar and trying something different can bring unexpected success.
  7. Culver's success can be attributed to their early adoption of innovative techniques, investment in quality equipment, and commitment to delivering high-quality food and a unique experience.
  8. Culver's success in attracting a wide range of customers is driven by their diverse menu options and commitment to exceptional customer service.
  9. Providing exceptional customer service, hiring the right people, and embracing new ideas can lead to significant growth and success in the restaurant business.
  10. By making tough decisions and embracing change, businesses can experience significant growth and success. Additionally, effective division of responsibilities among family members can contribute to smooth operations and business thriving.
  11. By learning from past mistakes and implementing a comprehensive training program, Craig Culver was able to transform his small franchise into a successful and cohesive business.
  12. Building a strong foundation and maintaining standards is crucial for successful expansion, even if it means temporarily closing down operations. Stay true to your brand's core values.
  13. Valuing and appreciating employees fosters a culture of exceptional service, leading to growth and success in business.
  14. Balancing personal and professional life is crucial for overall success and happiness. Prioritizing relationships, hobbies, and spirituality is essential to maintain a balanced lifestyle and excel in all areas of life.
  15. Prioritizing employee well-being, maintaining customer service quality, and innovating in the face of uncertainty are keys to thriving in the quick-service restaurant industry.
  16. Culver's success is a result of their dedication, care, and love for what they do, as well as their commitment to excellence and going above and beyond for their customers.

📝 Podcast Summary

The Success of Offering Abundance of Choices

Offering fewer choices in a menu can lead to a more successful and profitable business, especially in the food industry. The concept of the paradox of choice suggests that having too many options can actually make consumers less happy. However, Craig Culver, the founder of Culver's fast food chain, defied this concept by creating a menu with over 50 different items. Culver believed that everyone should be able to find what they want, and this approach has made Culver's one of the most profitable fast food chains in America on a per restaurant basis. Despite the conventional wisdom, Culver's success shows that abundance of choice can still be a winning strategy.

Culver's childhood at the family restaurant and the influence of his parents on his work ethic and values.

Craig Culver's parents' ownership of the restaurant allowed him and his siblings to work there legally. However, because it was a seasonal business, his parents had to find additional jobs during the winter months. Despite their high expectations and occasional tough demeanor, Culver's parents were ultimately good and supportive parents. Growing up, Culver often felt resentful about working at the restaurant while his friends enjoyed vacations, but he acknowledges that his parents were great and that he still had love for them. When his parents sold the restaurant, his dad's entrepreneurial spirit led them to a farm kitchen resort in Baraboo, where Culver continued to work during his college breaks, taking on various tasks and developing a love for the place.

Overcoming perceptions and embracing unexpected opportunities in the pursuit of true passion and success.

Sometimes our initial perceptions and desires may prevent us from recognizing incredible opportunities right in front of us. Craig Culver, despite initially rejecting his father's offer to take over the family business, later realized that his true passion was in the food service industry. His parents, despite lacking formal education, had a profound understanding of the importance of genuine human connection and surrounded themselves with people who embodied kindness and gratitude. This taught Craig the value of surrounding oneself with the right people. Additionally, when faced with joblessness after college, Craig's sister introduced him to a potential job opportunity at McDonald's, showing the importance of being open to different paths and considering options that may not align with our preconceived notions of success.

From McDonald's Trainee to Successful Entrepreneur

Craig Culver's journey in the restaurant business started with a job offer from McDonald's, despite his initial reluctance. Working there as a trainee and then a general manager, Culver gained valuable experience and knowledge. However, he eventually decided to pursue his own business and return to his hometown. With the support of his parents, he bought back the A&W franchise they had previously sold. This venture, operated alongside his wife and parents, proved to be successful. Culver's story showcases the importance of taking opportunities that may not seem ideal at first and utilizing learned skills and experiences to forge one's own path in entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurial Mindset and Profitable Ventures

Craig Culver and his family were entrepreneurs who had a mindset of buying low and selling high. They cash flowed immediately when they purchased the A&W restaurant and even took a vacation in the first year. However, they decided to sell it to some investors because they saw the opportunity to make a profit and find something else to invest in. They sold it on a land contract, where they acted as the banker in the deal. This decision proved to be profitable as they sold it for a tidy profit. They used this profit to buy another business, the Ritz Supper Club. This shows their ability to adapt and make successful business ventures.

Taking a Chance for Unexpected Success

Craig Culver and his team took a risk by starting their own restaurant, Culvers, instead of sticking with the established national brand, A&W. They had no grand vision or expectation of failure; their main goal was to move back to their hometown and have a successful business. They combined two unique menu items, frozen custard and the butter burger, which set them apart from other restaurants. This combination proved to be a winning formula, as Culvers quickly gained popularity. This story teaches us that sometimes stepping away from the familiar and taking a chance on something different can lead to unexpected success.

Culver's: Innovators in Burger and Custard

Culver's, a popular burger and custard chain, was ahead of its time in terms of innovation. They were using techniques, like buttering and toasting the bun and making thin, crispy patties, that have become trendy only in recent years. They also had the vision to invest in expensive equipment, like a custard machine, despite their limited budget. Even though they faced tough competition from established chains like Hardee's and Dairy Queen, Culver's focused on delivering high-quality food and a unique experience to their customers. They relied on word of mouth and the exceptional taste of their burgers and custards to convey their difference. This commitment to quality and refusal to compromise on their standards has contributed to Culver's success in the long run.

Culver's menu diversity and excellent customer service contribute to their success in a small town setting.

Culver's extensive menu was a strategic choice to attract a wide range of customers in their small town setting. Unlike national brands with limited menus, Culver's had to cater to everyone, from young people to seniors, in order to thrive. Culver's recognized the importance of appealing to locals as well as travelers passing through their town. While they realized that a simpler menu like In-N-Out would be easier to operate, they understood the necessity of offering a variety of options to meet the diverse tastes of their customer base. Additionally, Culver's success was fueled by word-of-mouth marketing, with satisfied guests spreading the word about their unique offerings like butter burgers and frozen custard. Finally, Culver's prioritized exceptional customer service, drawing inspiration from the founder's mother and understanding the significant impact it can have on the overall dining experience.

The Power of Exceptional Customer Service in the Restaurant Business

Exceptional customer service can be a powerful differentiator in a competitive industry like the restaurant business. Craig Culver's mother taught him the importance of making customers feel like family and setting an example for the entire team. When customers see the owners actively involved and going above and beyond, it creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere that keeps them coming back. The simple hack of providing exceptional service doesn't have to be expensive, but it can make a significant impact on customer loyalty. Hiring the right people who have a heart for hospitality and implementing a thorough training program are essential steps in delivering outstanding customer experiences. Additionally, even though it may be initially intimidating, embracing new ideas like the drive-through can lead to significant growth and success for a business.

Making Tough Decisions for Business Growth and Success

Making tough decisions can lead to significant growth and success in business. Craig Culver faced a difficult choice to transition from the canopy and car hop service to a drive-through model for his restaurant. Despite initial challenges, the decision resulted in over a million dollars in sales and energized their business. The switch to a drive-through not only increased efficiency but also boosted overall business, with the drive-through accounting for over 60% of sales today. Additionally, Culver's family played pivotal roles in the business, with his wife Lee balancing being a full-time mom and working long hours in the restaurant. Effective division of responsibilities among family members ensured smooth operations and allowed the business to thrive.

Craig Culver's Journey to Franchise Success

Craig Culver's initial experience with franchising didn't go as planned, leading him to vow never to franchise again. However, after learning from his mistakes, he decided to give it another try in 1990. This time around, Culver realized the importance of creating a formal training program to ensure the success of his franchisees. He knew that a two-week training period was insufficient and implemented a 17-week program at Culver's. This extended training period not only allowed franchisees to learn the business thoroughly but also fostered stronger relationships and a more cohesive company culture. Despite starting small, Culver's willingness to adapt and improve ultimately led to the growth and success of the Culver's franchise.

Balancing growth with quality and infrastructure

Growth is important, but not at the expense of quality and infrastructure. Craig Culver's dad urged him to focus on having good restaurants rather than simply having numerous ones. This advice was crucial when Culver's attempted rapid expansion in the early nineties but struggled to handle the growth due to a lack of infrastructure and trained personnel. They had to close down franchising temporarily to establish a solid foundation. Interestingly, this decision actually increased the demand for Culver's franchises when they reopened. Culver's also discovered that franchising is not as easy as finding someone similar to yourself. Franchise owners had their own opinions and thoughts on how things should be done, leading to disagreements. However, Culver remained steadfast in certain aspects, such as refusing to change the name of their signature Butter Burger.

Prioritizing employees for business success.

Craig Culver's success in building and expanding his Culvers restaurant chain was rooted in prioritizing his employees. While many businesses focus primarily on the customer, Culver recognized that his team members were the key to providing exceptional service. By valuing and appreciating his employees, Culver fostered a culture where they felt highly regarded and motivated to go above and beyond for customers. This approach ultimately paid off as his employees took care of guests with the same level of care and attention as if Culver's own mother was attending to them. Culver's realization that his employees needed to come first was a valuable lesson learned from early setbacks and greatly contributed to the overall growth and success of his business.

The Importance of Balance in Life

Balance is crucial in both personal and professional life. Craig Culver admits that he made sacrifices in his personal life while building Culver's franchise. He was consumed by work and didn't prioritize his family or himself enough. However, he now realizes the importance of finding balance and making time for relationships, hobbies, and spirituality. Culver acknowledges that he should have been a better spouse and father, but he also believes in learning from the past and becoming a better person moving forward. This lesson highlights the significance of maintaining a balanced lifestyle to excel in all aspects of life.

Craig Culver's Smart Business Move Leads to Pandemic Success

Craig Culver's decision to sell a percentage of his family-owned business in 2017 turned out to be a smart move, especially during the pandemic. Despite the uncertain times, Culver decided to prioritize the well-being of his employees and the quality of customer service. By keeping his drive-throughs open and maintaining a strong focus on hospitality, Culver's restaurants thrived during the pandemic, even opening 101 new locations and experiencing a 26% increase in comp sales. This success showcases the importance of adaptability and innovation in the quick-service restaurant industry. While introducing new products can be beneficial, it's essential to be a leader in the market and attract the right people to ensure long-term success.

Culver's: A Recipe for Success through Hard Work and Passion

The success of Culver's, a national chain of quick service restaurants, can be attributed to a combination of hard work, luck, and a deep personal investment in the business. Co-founder Craig Culver acknowledges that while luck played a role, it was their dedication, care, and love for what they do that propelled the business to such great heights. Culver's commitment to excellence and their willingness to go above and beyond, as seen in their April Fools Day joke turned reality, demonstrates their passion and connection to their customers. Despite their remarkable success, Culver still has sleepless nights and a fear of things going wrong, showing that even with prosperity, diligence and concern remain integral to their identity.