Culver's Best Menu Item Started As A Joke

The Curderburger is back after becoming a one-day smash hit.

As limited-time-only offers go, last year's Curderburger from Culver's was wholly unexpected. It all started with an April Fool's Day tweet displaying a photo of one absolutely massive fried puck of cheese in a sandwich, captioned, "One big Wisconsin Cheese Curd under a lightly buttered, toasted bun. Isn't it beautiful?" Social media went wild, with some people missing the fact that it was a joke.

But in a twist, the chain released an actual cheese curd-topped burger, aptly named the Curderburger, for National Cheese Curd Day on October 15 of last year. It sold out immediately in most locations. We were able to try the sandwich, and it was a lot of fun, albeit as rich as you'd have expected. And now, the Curderburger is back again from today, October 12, through the rest of the month (or until supplies run out).

How Culver’s Curderburger became a reality

Quinn Adkins, Culver's executive chef and leader of the menu innovation team, tells me that he didn't even know the social media joke was a hit until way after the fact. "I didn't even get the debrief on the April Fool's Day prank until mid-May," he says.

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Then the turnaround time from idea-to-execution was tight.

"I started kind of working on my own, because I wanted to make sure I could pull it off before I got other people in the organization kind of excited about it," Adkins says. "I didn't want to overpromise and underdeliver."

As for logistics, the Culver's culinary team had to move fast, but he didn't want to make what was meant to be a novelty into an event that the company couldn't fully and properly execute.

"In less than five months we had to come up with a formulation and commercialize that, and generate enough inventory that we could even support a one-day promotion," he says. "So that timeline really drove the decision of it only being a one-day promotion."

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Adkins tells me that the initial enthusiasm the chain received for the promotion motivated Culver's to give it another shot this year. "The response was unlike anything that I had ever experienced in my 30 years of being in this industry—we were completely caught off guard," he says. "We knew pretty early on that it was something that we wanted to revisit in a bigger and more meaningful way."

The future of Culver’s Curderburger

Unfortunately, not all customers had a chance to try the Curderburger last year because many locations sold out of it before noon during its one-day run. This year Culver's is using that knowledge to prepare enough supplies for a longer run, which the company says will be about two weeks or until its ingredients are exhausted. The final sales after this promotion help decide whether or not we'll see the Curderburger return in the future.

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"The big flex goal would be if it can earn a place on the permanent menu," Adkins says, noting that Culver's doesn't add things to its permanent menu very often. For context, the most recent permanent menu item was the Harvest Veggie Burger, which was added in 2020.

"It has to earn that right and privilege," Adkins says. "But we need more information than just one day."

Still, last year's success of the one-day Curderburger promotion left a memorable impression.

"I will admit to being humbled and terrified simultaneously," Adkins says. "It was really unlike anything that I had ever experienced before. There's definitely a thrill in seeing that level of enthusiasm and excitement for a product."

     

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