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How the Dairy Queen® System’s Growth Continues to Lead the QSR Industry
International Dairy Queen, Inc. combines its legacy and innovation to foster growth; Opens more than 300 restaurants in 2016

To many, the word “blizzard” means much more than a snowstorm, and the perfect curl at the top of a soft-serve cone doesn’t come from just anywhere. Both iconic symbols of the Dairy Queen brand, this type of international recognition doesn’t happen overnight.

Since its inception in 1940, the Dairy Queen brand has worked to build a following of fans that recognize experiences with the DQ® system to be much more than a quick roll past the drive-thru window.

And these fans don’t just make habitual visits to their local DQ restaurant for a meal or sweet treat to make memories with family and friends. They’re actually buying into the concept, quite literally, by joining the growing successful franchise system that has been thriving for more than 75 years.  

“Many of our operators are natives or longtime residents of the communities that they serve,” said Executive Vice President, Franchise Development, U.S. & Canada Jim Kerr. “They want to open Dairy Queen restaurants, because they truly believe it will become a meeting place for the community. We find great success in building the brand with franchisees who know and love the DQ brand and can continue the legacy of serving fellow fans in their local neighborhoods.”

As the Dairy Queen brand nears 7,000 locations in more than 25 countries, it remains one of the most successful QSR concepts, trending positively in a competitive segment of the industry year after year. For example, the addition of 318 new Dairy Queen locations across the globe in 2016 alone shows impressive staying power.

In total, 82 locations opened in the U.S. in 2016, and nearly 100 percent (81) of those were DQ Grill & Chill® model restaurants. The DQ Grill & Chill restaurant model is the brand’s booming QSR concept. The restaurant interior brings an innovative dimension to the quick-serve restaurant environment. Highlighted by separate “grill” and “chill” preparation areas, the restaurant features comfortable booths and other types of seating, warm lighting, music and an overall inviting restaurant atmosphere.

“Last year, we sold the most DQ Grill & Chill locations in any single year,” Kerr said. “The concept has allowed us to increase our loyal customer fan base with delicious meal offerings in addition to the classic treats. It has also piqued interest of a growing base of sophisticated multi-unit operators who may not have bought into an assumed seasonal business that the DQ treat stores represented.”

In 2016, 29 states in the U.S. saw new locations and markets such as Little Rock, Arkansas; Staten Island, New York; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Charleston, South Carolina experienced DQ locations open for the first time. Throughout 2017, new market development commitments have been signed in multiple markets in North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; Boise, Idaho; Chicago; New Hampshire; Rhode Island; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Los Angeles, California.

Individuals looking to open a DQ Grill & Chill restaurant should have equity of $400,000 for a single store, and equity of approximately $2 million to open multiple stores. The investment range, as stated in the DQ Grill & Chill Franchise Disclosure Document, ranges from $1.07 million to $1.83 million, without the cost of leasing or purchasing land.

“As we see more operators committing to develop multiple DQ Grill & Chill concept restaurants, we expect to stay consistent with our 2016 opening rate in 2017, if not exceeding previous years,” said Kerr. “Our efforts are focused on actively recruiting operators in New England, the Carolinas, Louisiana, Texas, California and Chicago.”

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