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How Profitable is a Culver’s Franchise? 2022 FDD Costs

Another popular fast food chain in the Midwest, Culver’s franchisees can rely on a strong brand awareness and the 893 restaurants the chain operates across the country. Yet, opening a Culver’s franchise isn’t for everyone.

Indeed, it comes at a hefty price tag: you would have to spend over $4 million on average to start a Culver’s franchise..! Is this worth the profits? How profitable is a Culver’s franchise?

In this article we’ll looking at Culver’s franchises: how much profits they make, how much they cost and whether it’s a good investment as a franchisee. Let’s dive in!

Culver’s: fees, revenues and profits

Franchise fee$55,000
Royalty fee4.0%
Marketing fee6.5%
Investment (mid-point)$4,044,500
Average annual sales$3,051,762
Investment to sales ratio0.8x
Investment payback*8.8 years (mediocre)
Minimum net worth$2,000,000
Minimum liquid capital$350,000
* using 15% net profit margin

🔎 How does Culver’s compare vs. other franchises? Check the ranking

What is Culver’s?

Culver’s is a leading American casual fast-food chain, primarily located in the Midwestern United States with 893 restaurants across 26 states in the US.

It was founded in 1984 by George, Ruth, Craig, and Lea Culver, and its first restaurant was in Sauk City, Wisconsin.

Culver’s serves mainly butter burgers and frozen custard and also offers cheese curds, chicken, fish, and salads.

Its franchising journey started in 1990, and its first franchise was located in Baraboo, WI. The Culver’s franchise is run by the privately held Culver’s Franchising System, LLC, which is based in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin.

Culver’s franchise pros and cons

Before starting a Culver’s franchise, it is important to know its advantages and disadvantages.


  • Strategic marketing and advertising: To differentiate itself from its competitors, Culver’s has put in place effective marketing strategies. New franchisees can promote their products to a wide market and loyal customers through well-crafted television commercials and excellent brand awareness.
  • Training and support: The Culver’s franchise offers excellent support and training to its franchisees. As a new franchisee, you benefit from site selection, construction, operations, food handling, finances, and management training to get started in successful franchising. In addition, Culver’s also provides on-the-job training and consultation on how franchisees can best operate their businesses and increase profitability.
  • Quality food supplies: Quality foods are one of Culver’s brands’ strengths. And to achieve the required standards, they employ strict obligations and restrictions on suppliers. This way, franchisees can guarantee to offer quality food to their loyal customers.
  • Fast Growth: The chain store has experienced rapid expansion in recent years. Having excellent sales and revenue as well as restaurants in most of the states shows how popular the brand is becoming. Therefore, new franchisees can be assured of a brand with a lot of potential for growth and profitability.
  • Customer loyalty: Culver’s enjoys a huge customer following for its tasty and quality burgers. As new franchisees open, customers will flock to any Culver’s restaurant. This makes it easy and cheap for newly launched franchisees to market and advertise their products.
  • Franchisee community: Culver’s began as a family-oriented restaurant to financially support their growing family. As it grows, it continues to bring together a big family of like-minded franchisees. New franchisees benefit from joining a network that offers much-needed consultations on how to run their businesses properly and shares success ideas.
  • Popular brand: Culver’s brand is well known, especially in the Midwestern US. As a result, the brand has a ready market for its casual fast food. With a large following, especially in these territories, franchisees have great potential for the growth of their restaurants.


  • Not a passive investment: If you’re looking for a passive investment, then Culver’s franchise is not a good option. This is because it requires franchisees to be fully in charge of the operations and management of their restaurants.
  • Competition: With changing customer tastes and trends, many people are considering healthy eating habits. In addition, customers have more options as other major brands enter the market. This makes fast food less attractive and Culver’s franchises less profitable.
  • No financing: The franchisor does not offer financial assistance to interested franchisees, directly or indirectly. It also does not guarantee any lease, note, or obligation by its franchisees. In addition, it does not receive any payment or consideration for the financing of franchisees.
  • No global presence: The brand does not have locations outside the US, where it first started operations. New franchisees can find it difficult to market and make reasonable sales, especially in other areas.

How much does a Culver’s franchise cost?

To own a Culver’s franchise, you must invest $4,044,500 on average. This amount includes the initial franchise fee of $55,000.

As the investment amount is an estimated average, it can change depending on your location and other factors. According to the latest FDD, this amount can be as low as $2,301,000 and as high as $5,788,000.

The investment amount should cover all types of expenditures that may incur at the beginning of a fast-food restaurant.

For instance, you will pay for both the build-out costs (like land, site work, building, travel & living expenses during training, furniture, fixtures, sign package, pos system, equipment, etc.) as well as operating expenses (like initial inventory, and additional funds as working capital to cover the first three months’ losses, etc.).

Type of costLowAverageHigh
Initial franchise fee$20,000$37,500$55,000
Build-out costs$2,186,000$3,879,500$5,573,000
Operating expenses$95,000$127,500$160,000
Source: FDD 2022

What is the turnover of a Culver’s franchise?

On average, a Culver’s franchise makes $3,051,762  in sales annually.

This number is the annual median sales of 758 Culver’s franchises operating in 2021 in the USA.

As this number is an average, it can vary depending on the location of a restaurant. For example, a restaurant located in a metropolitan area makes slightly greater sales compared to a restaurant in a non-metropolitan area:

LocationNumber of restaurantsMedian sales
Metropolitan area630$3,078,618
Non-metropolitan area128$2,807,958
2022 FDD

How profitable is a Culver’s franchise?

Culver’s franchises make $545,543 profits per year on average. This corresponds to a 18% adjusted EBITDA margin.

We calculated this number using the information available in the Franchise Disclosure Document. Some of the information is taken from company-owned restaurants instead as the Culver’s doesn’t disclose some information for its franchise restaurants (for example, COGS and labor costs).

The 18% margin is below similar franchises as per our intelligence (~25-27%). This is due to number of reasons: high COGS (33% sales), high labor costs (34%) and royalty and marketing fees (10.5%) despite relatively low rent costs.

Profit-and-lossAmount ($)As % of sales
Royalty + marketing fees$(320,435)10.5%
Adjusted EBITDA$545,543~18%
* industry average

Is a Culver’s franchise a good investment?

Culver’s has a very high investment cost of $4,044,500. So naturally, as a franchisee you might wonder whether Culver’s is a good investment.

When we compare investment cost to profits (using a 15% net profit margin), we find that the payback period is 8.8 years: this is a rather long and mediocre payback period for a fast food franchise.

Indeed, this means you would need to wait almost 9 years before you can reimburse your initial investment of $4 million using the profits generated by your franchise restaurant.

Of course, this is an average. So it’s possible that your franchise is more profitable than the average and fares better vs. others. In order to find out what is the payback period for your franchise and visualize your financial projections and many more metrics, download our business plan below.

Download the Culver’s business plan and get your franchise funded

Including a 5-year financial plan built with the latest Franchise Disclosure Document numbers

How does it compare vs. other franchises?

FranchiseInvestment ($)Sales ($)S/I RatioPayback (years)Min. net worth ($)Min. liquid capital ($)
Dunkin' Donuts,0001,056,5211.44.9500,000250,000
Krispy Kreme,0003,400,0004.11.62,000,000300,000
Little Caesars,022,850798,1130.88.5350,000150,000
Steak 'n Shake, Milshakes815,6261,346,3321.74.01,500,000500,000
Crumbl Cookies,2241,582,0903.12.1300,000150,000
Taco Bell,4131,650,0003.61.91,500,000750,000
Smoothie King,108573,2690.88.0300,000100,000
Jersey Mike's,3231,220,5862.14.7300,000100,000
Nothing Bundt Cakes,6501,307,2802.42.7600,000150,000
Jimmy John's,650874,8451.73.9300,00080,000
Texas Roadhouse,209,5002,955,5340.79.5n.a.200,000
Kung Fu Tea tea250,125353,2371.44.7n.a.25,000
Burger King,242,9501,215,9701.06.81,500,000500,000
Sonic Drive-In,467,0831,617,0001.16.01,000,000500,000
Panera Bread,290,5002,599,4321.15.97,500,0003,000,000
Pizza Hut,575906,9111.06.9700,000350,000
Dairy Queen Cream1,404,2201,143,1800.88.2750,000400,000
Jack in the Box,195,8001,755,5030.812.51,000,000250,000
Papa John’s,6951,101,1273.12.1750,000250,000
Five Guys,2251,203,3662.42.8500,000250,000
Carl’s Jr.,860,3351,419,5160.88.71,000,000500,000
Baskin-Robbins Cream465,100316,8150.79.8250,000125,000
Applebee’s American5,137,9662,356,9650.514.51,000,000500,000
Denny's American3,785,4591,639,5490.415.41,000,000500,000
Papa Murphy's,174580,4411.35.0275,000125,000
Auntie Anne's,692343,1351.55.6300,000100,000
Firehouse Subs,186888,3561.44.6350,000100,000
Tropical Smoothie Cafe,500961,9692.23.0350,000125,000
Marco’s Pizza,625895,5232.03.3400,000100,000
Cold Stone Creamery Cream310,956417,5881.35.0250,000100,000
Church’s Chicken,195,1471,395,0881.25.71,000,000300,000
Moe’s Southwest Grill,3701,013,3611.35.21,000,000100,000
Tim Hortons,242,7501,188,2401.07.0500,000100,000
Checkers & Rally's,8471,039,7731.25.4750,000250,000
Charleys Philly Steaks,806786,2331.54.3500,000100,000
Buffalo Wild Wings,546,9002,534,1480.79.31,500,000750,000
Rita's Ice Cream215,839248,3401.25.8300,000100,000
A&W Restaurants,750851,2121.16.2350,000150,000
Hungry Howie’s Pizza,682806,8991.93.5750,000200,000
McAlister’s Deli,424,9631,865,8611.35.11,000,000500,000
Round Table Pizza,2501,037,8161.35.0500,000200,000
Qdoba Mexican Eats,250972,9621.54.5
Taco John’s,119,0001,124,9801.06.61,000,000400,000
Scooter’s Coffee,143,250797,1010.79.6500,000200,000
Einstein Bros. Bagels,075885,0111.25.71,000,000536,500
Great American Cookies,275452,7711.25.7250,000100,000
Wienerschnitzel dogs873,300880,9801.06.6600,000250,000
Blaze Pizza,4501,096,4321.37.9500,000300,000
Wetzel's Pretzels,571748,8572.03.4300,00050,000
Pizza Ranch,268,3001,174,0880.418.61,000,000297,000
Del Taco,406,8501,345,3411.07.02,000,000500,000
Schlotzsky’s, Salads1,102,9331,053,3330.322.21,000,000300,000
Captain D’s,7781,067,8160.419.01,000,000350,000
Biggby Coffee,575648,3520.320.0300,000100,000
Which Wich,375281,8860.322.2500,000150,000
Marble Slab Creamery Cream407,360251,0520.416.7250,000100,000
Mountain Mike's Pizza,900865,7130.320.0300,000100,000
Huddle House,743712,4280.513.3600,000300,000
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue,350612,9210.333.3500,000150,000
Chicken Salad Chick, Salads651,0001,202,0200.320.0750,000250,000
Golden Chick,975917,6092.52.62,000,000425,000
Waba Grill,000466,5361.06.51,000,000250,000
Bruster’s Ice Cream Cream663,925466,6960.79.5375,000150,000