Phil Keiser, who rose through the ranks of the Culver’s chain and become CEO last year, unexpectedly passed away on Saturday.
The company announced Keiser’s death in a tweet early Monday afternoon.
For every restaurant you helped reach its best, every team member treated like family, every guest you ensured left happy. Thank you, Phil. pic.twitter.com/P8klKSO0Yg— Culver's Restaurants (@culvers) October 17, 2016
Craig Culver, the company’s founder, who retired last year, will serve as interim CEO until a successor is found, Culver’s said in a release Monday.
“The entire Culver’s community is devastated,” the company said in the release.
“Culver’s would not be what it is today without Phil’s influence,” Culver said in a statement. “Yet as great a loss as this is for us professionally, it doesn’t begin to touch how much Phil will be missed on a personal level.”
Keiser was a 35-year industry veteran. He joined Culver’s in 1996 as director of operations, and held various positions before being named president and chief operating officer in 2003. The chain ultimately tapped Keiser to be Culver’s successor as CEO of the quick-service burger-and-custard concept.
In June 2015, Keiser became only the second CEO in the 600-unit chain’s history.
“Phil’s legacy is rooted in integrity,” Joe Koss, Culver’s chief financial officer, said in a statement. “He worked tirelessly to better himself and our company. We’ll strive to emulate his focus, his drive and his dedication to doing the right thing.”
Keiser helped guide Culver’s from a regional chain with 44 locations to its current size of nearly 600 units. He was a native of Nappanee, Ind., who earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Manchester College in Indiana.
Keiser was a member of the Manchester University board of directors, the Sauk Prairie Health Care board of directors and the Wisconsin Restaurant Association board of directors.
“We hurt most deeply for his wife Betsy and his children: son Nate, wife Bethany and their children Caprina, Linea and Landon; son Nick, wife Maria and their child Harper; and daughter Kelsey,” Culver said.