George M. Culver, co-founder of the 435-unit Culver’s Butterburgers and Frozen Custard chain, died Thursday. He was 88.
Prior to starting the Culver’s brand in 1984 with their son Craig and daughter-in-law Lea Culver, George Culver and his wife Ruth began a long foodservice career as A&W franchisees in Sauk City, Wis. George and Ruth Culver also owned and operated several other dining destinations in Wisconsin like The Farm Kitchen Resort, the Lake Ripley Country Club and Culver’s Ritz Supper Club.
The family’s eponymous quick-service chain, which started when the Culvers converted their original A&W unit in Sauk City into the first Culver’s, now operates in 19 states.
“George never compromised on quality,” said Phil Keiser, president and chief operating officer of Prairie du Sac, Wis.-based Culver Franchising System. “He made sure each product was made with quality ingredients and cooked exactly to order, while his wife Ruth was a role model for service and hospitality. It was a perfect blend that set the standard for the way Culver’s does things today.”
For several years, the chain has given the GM Culver Award, named after the co-founder, to franchise partners that display excellent leadership and long-term strategic thinking.
Culver’s three children — Craig Culver, chief executive of the restaurant chain, Curt Culver, and Georgia Littlepage — honored their father and mother, who passed away in 2008, in an obituary in the Wisconsin State Journal  as having “set a great example for their co-workers by their tenacity of doing whatever it took to succeed.”
“One of the business lessons Dad taught us,” they wrote, “was you give the guests in our restaurants the best-quality product available and never cheapen that quality. That principle has been a cornerstone in the growth and success of Culver’s Frozen Custard Restaurants.”
The Culver family has requested that memorials be made out to Culver’s VIP Scholarship Foundation, The Ruth Culver Community Library or Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital in lieu of flowers.