The Midwest-based Culver's restaurant chain added 28 new restaurants in 2012, including its first venture into South Carolina.

This compares to 20 openings in 2011 and 12 in 2010. Culver's will finish the year with 473 restaurants operating in 20 states.

"Our existing franchise partners had a good year in 2011 and that, coupled with lower interest rates, encouraged them to expand this year," says Phil Keiser, president and chief operating officer. "We've also seen more new people interested in being part of the Culver's brand and owning their own business."

Culver's will enter Florida in 2013, with at least three restaurants planned in the Fort Myers, Naples, and Sarasota areas. 

"We're looking forward to bringing the Culver's experience to guests in Florida," Keiser says. "We know there are manyh people from the Midwest in those areas who know the Culver's brand. They'll be great ambassadors for our food and hospitality."

Culver's reaffirmed its Midwest roots, opening five new restaurants in Michigan, as well as four in Iowa and Wisconsin. The chain also added three new restaurants in Arizona and two in Utah.

Five of the new restaurants were attributed to the Culver's Mentor program, whereby members of a franchisee's management team partner with their current franchisee to open their own Culver's.

Total restaurant openings in 2013 should exceed 2012.

Additionally in 2012, 27 current restaurants were updated with either a refresh of their interior or a complete reimaging of both their interior and exterior.

"It's important to keep the interior and exterior of our restaurants fresh and up-to-date because our guests have told us that in addition to quality food and hospitality, the look of our facilities is important to them," Keiser adds. Twenty-five more reimage and refresh projects are planned for next year.

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