Kwik Trip and Culver’s are Wisconsin icons; landmarks of the Wisconsin experience. BOTH spark joy in all their many customers across the state, so why are they non-existent in Milwaukee?
These two Wisconsin born-and-raised brands are near and dear to Wisconsinites’ hearts. Fans of the franchises often self-identify as “Kwik Trip Enthusiasts” or “Culver’s Enthusiasts;” many even participate in Facebook groups. Active users post location reviews, opinions, and memes.
See a Sea of Custard?
The metropolitan area of Milwaukee, however, is missing out on the fun. It’s a desert island surrounded by Seas of Custard and Karuba Gold. Wisconsin is the home to 414 Kwik Trips and 139 Culver’s. The graph below depicts the number of locations in Wisconsin’s three, major metro areas.
Why is Milwaukee uninhabitable in the eyes of Kwik Trip and Culver’s?
For Kwik Trip, it may be the large number of existing knock-off brands in Milwaukee: Kwik Pantry, Kwik-E Grille, and Kwik Stop – to name a few. Kwik Trip typically sees themselves as the top competitor, but the Milwaukee market is saturated with other “Kwik” brands. By adding itself to the area, Kwik Trip could damage their brand authenticity and positive public perception because confusion could occur between similar brands.
In 2014, Kwik Trip attempted to move into the metropolitan Milwaukee area, but the brand received backlash at Planning Commission hearings. Kwik Trip’s leading opponents in this area are typically competitors, according to Hans Zietlow, Kwik Trip’s Real Estate Director. Zietlow also added there were residential concerns of increased traffic and market saturation.
Alright, no Kwik Trip runs in MKE, but what about Culver’s?
We have No Bananas for You
According to its website, Wisconsin and parts of Illinois and Michigan are unavailable to new Culver’s franchisees. This means that even if a potential franchisee wanted to open a new location in Milwaukee, Culver’s restricts it.
Existing franchise owners can open additional locations as long as they are not within three miles of a current location. As on the map below, Milwaukee has space available. Even if it didn’t, Milwaukee could be an exception to that Culver’s rule, as it allows for more locations in densely populated areas.
So, it is totally up to a niche population of existing franchisees to open a location in Milwaukee. This might not be possible as Culver’s website lists possible hindrances: $600,000 in liquid assets, and Culver’s requirement for franchise owners to work full-time at their locations.
Unfortunately, unless something changes, Milwaukee will forever be missing out on a big part of the Wisconsin experience: Kwik Trip and Culver’s.
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