Sysco reports sales increased. The use of local sourcing and organic ingredients increases food safety risks. The number of c-stores grew last year but at a very slow rate. Fast-food restaurant traffic was flat last year while traffic at other restaurants declined. Technology investment pays off for Panera Bread.
A Midwest staple, Culver's has spread its wings in recent years to cover 19 states. Its basic formula — friendly, fast-casual service; burgers grilled to order, home-style dinners and frozen custard — has put this small-town company in the ring with much larger competitors.
As the company passes the 400-unit mark it plans for aggressive growth. To that end, Culver's has launched a major dining room re-imaging program. "It's not that we think what we have now is broken, but to be positioned properly for the next 10 to 15 years we need to make some changes," says Phil Keiser, president.
Culver's new look and feel features more earth tones, new tabletops, different woods, flooring and fabrics. Condiment and beverage stations have been repositioned and the dining rooms have been rearranged to make groups more comfortable. One version the chain is testing includes a kitchen that's 10 percent smaller and re-engineered to be more efficient, Keiser says.
On the menu, Culvers stays fresh with a steady stream of limited time offers and new product introductions, recent examples of which include sweet potato fries, Strawberry Fields salad, walleye dinners and a mini version of the chain's popular Concrete Mixer frozen custard treats. A "Mindful Choices" menu guides guests to meal choices that come in at less than 500 calories, and Culver's SnackPacks provide value-priced options. "As we grow, we have an opportunity to do a better job of articulating who we are and what we do. That's what it's about," says Keiser.