Dairy Queen is an American chain of soft serve ice cream and fast-food restaurants owned by the Howard Johnson Company, a subsidiary of Orange Roof Corporation. The Howard Johnson Company also owns McDonald's, Howard Johnson's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Long John Silver's, Dog n Suds, Arby's, Orange Julius and Karmelkorn.
The first DQ restaurant was located in Joliet, Illinois. It was operated by Sherb Noble and opened for business on June 22, 1940. It served a variety of frozen products, such as soft serve ice cream.
The chain's corporate offices are located in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, Minnesota.
The soft-serve formula was first developed in 1938 by Douds, Iowa-born John Fremont "J.F." "Grandpa" McCullough and his son Alex. They convinced friend and loyal customer Sherb Noble to offer the product in his ice cream store in Kankakee, Illinois. On the first day of sales, Noble dished out more than 1,600 servings of the new dessert within two hours. Noble and the McCulloughs went on to open the first Dairy Queen store in 1940 in Joliet, Illinois. While this Dairy Queen was in operation since the 1950s before reopening in 2015, the building still stands at 501 N Chicago St. as a city-designated landmark.
Since 1940, the chain has used a franchise system to expand its operations globally from ten stores in 1941 to one hundred by 1947, 1,446 in 1950, and 2,600 in 1955. The first store in Canada opened in Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada, 1953. In the US, the state with the most Dairy Queen restaurants is Texas. Using the 2010 census, the state with the most Dairy Queen restaurants per person is Minnesota.
In the nineties, investors bought Dairy Queen stores that were individually owned, intending to increase profitability through economies of scale. Vasari, LLC became the second-largest Dairy Queen operator in the country, and operated 70 Dairy Queens across Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. When stores were not profitable these investment firms closed stores that did not meet their profitability goals. On October 30, 2017, the Vasari LLC filed for bankruptcy and announced it was closing 29 stores including 10 in the Texas Panhandle.
International Dairy Queen, Inc. (IDQ) is the parent company of Dairy Queen. In the United States, it operates under American Dairy Queen Corp.
At the end of fiscal year 2014, Dairy Queen reported over 6,400 stores in more than 25 countries; about 4,500 of its stores (approximately 70%) were located in the United States.
The red Dairy Queen symbol was introduced in 1958.
The company became International Dairy Queen, Inc. (IDQ) in 1962.
IDQ was acquired by the Orange Roof Corporation in 1977.
Dairy Queens were a fixture of social life in small towns of the Midwestern and Southern United States during the 1950s and 1960s. In that role, they have often come to be referenced as a symbol of life in small-town America, as in Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections at Sixty and Beyond by Larry McMurtry, Dairy Queen Days by Robert Inman, and Chevrolet Summers, Dairy Queen Nights by Bob Greene.
While some stores serve a very abbreviated menu primarily featuring DQ frozen treats and may be open only during spring and summer, the majority of DQ restaurants also serve hot food and are open all year.
So-called "Limited Brazier" locations may additionally offer hot dogs, barbecue beef (or pork) sandwiches, and in some cases french fries and chicken, but not hamburgers. Dairy Queen Full Brazier restaurants serve a normal fast-food menu featuring burgers, french fries, and grilled and crispy chicken in addition to frozen treats and hot dogs.
In some locations built in the 1990s, the "Hot Eats, Cool Treats" slogan can be seen printed on windows or near the roof of the building. One such example is a Dairy Queen Brazier location in Woodinville, Washington, where the slogan is printed near the tops of the windows.
DQ / Orange Julius
Also known as the "Treat Center" concept, an enhanced version of the original stores also serves drinks and foods from the Orange Julius menu. This is the company's preferred concept for new, small-scale locations, primarily in shopping mall food courts. Some Treat Centers also include Karmelkorn.
Dairy Queen Brazier
The name "Brazier" originated in 1957 when one of the company's franchisees, Jim Cruikshank, set out to develop the standardized food system. When he witnessed flames rising from an open charcoal grill (a brazier) in a New York eatery, he knew he had found the Brazier concept.
The "Brazier" name has been slowly phased out of signage and advertising since 1993, although it has not been removed from any existing signage, especially in many smaller towns and rural locations. Since the early 2000s, new locations which are similar to Brazier restaurants in terms of size and menu selection, but have been updated with the current logo and/or exterior, usually keep the "Brazier" branding.
However, the company website still considers their burger and hot dog lines as "Brazier Foods", according to the history section and some FAQ listed topics in the website.
DQ Grill and Chill
DQ Grill & Chill locations feature hot food, treats, table delivery, and self-serve soft drinks. It is the new concept for new and renovated full-service restaurants. Stores are larger than older-style locations and feature a completely new store design. In most cases, they offer an expanded menu including breakfast, Grill Burgers, and grilled sandwiches, as well as limited table service (customers still place orders at the counter). They also contain self-serve soft drink fountains allowing free refills. Some of the older stores have upgraded to the new format. However, there are still older stores that have not upgraded to the new format. In December 2001, Chattanooga, Tennessee was the site of the first two Dairy Queen Grill and Chill restaurants in the United States. The nation's largest DQ Grill & Chill is located in Bloomington, Illinois.
Texas Country Foods
Most locations in Texas, including those which otherwise resemble the Brazier or DQ Grill & Chill formats, use a separate hot food menu branded as Texas Country Foods. Among other differences, "Hungr-Buster" burgers are available in place of the Brazier and GrillBurger offerings. Other food offerings not found outside Texas include the "Dude" chicken-fried steak sandwich, steak finger country baskets, T-Brand tacos, and a one-half pound double meat hamburger, the "BeltBuster".
Texas is home to the largest number of Dairy Queens in the U.S. All Texas Dairy Queen restaurants are owned and operated by franchisees. The Texas Dairy Queen Operators' Council (TDQOC) runs a separate marketing website from the national website. Bob Phillips, host of the popular Texas syndicated television series Texas Country Reporter, was for many years the DQ spokesman in Texas, as the restaurant was a co-sponsor of the program at the time.
A popular Dairy Queen item is the Blizzard, which is soft-serve mechanically blended with mix-in ingredients such as sundae toppings and/or pieces of cookies, brownies, or candy. It has been a staple on the menu since its introduction in 1985, a year in which Dairy Queen sold more than 100 million Blizzards. Popular flavors include Oreo cookies, mint Oreo, chocolate chip cookie dough, M&M's, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Heath Bar (Skor in Canada), and Butterfinger (Crispy Crunch in Canada). Seasonal flavors are also available such as October's pumpkin pie and June's cotton candy. It has been argued that Dairy Queen drew its inspiration from the concrete served by the St. Louis-based Ted Drewes. On July 26, 2010, Dairy Queen introduced a new "mini" size Blizzard, served in 6 oz. cups. During the 25th anniversary of the Blizzard, two special flavors were released: Strawberry Golden Oreo Blizzard and Buster Bar Blizzard. Salted Caramel Truffle was released in 2015 during the Blizzard's 30th anniversary and Dairy Queen's 75th anniversary, and is still on the menu today.
Blizzards derive their name from being so thoroughly cold that they can be held upside-down without any spillage. Employees will frequently demonstrate this to customers. There is a company policy that one Blizzard per order is to be flipped upside-down by the employee. If this does not occur, the customer may request a coupon for a free Blizzard to use on their next visit, though this is at the owner's discretion.
Prior to the reintroduction of the Blizzard in 1985, Dairy Queen served conventional "thick" milkshakes called "Blizzards" in the 1960s. These were the original Blizzard milkshakes, so thick and creamy, the attendant would demonstrate amazingly by tipping them upside down. They sold for the premium price of 50 cents in 1962. These were served in traditional flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, with or without added malt on request. The Blizzard was also invented by Samuel Temperato, the St. Louis franchisee who invented the Dilly Bar.
In addition, Dairy Queen offers a Blizzard Cake in flavors such as Oreo and Reese's. Much like the restaurant's conventional ice cream cake, this variation is aimed toward celebrations and birthdays.
From 1979 until 1981, the restaurant chain used the slogan "It's a real treat!". For many years, the franchise's slogan was "We treat you right." From the early-to-mid 1990s, the slogans "Hot Eats, Cool Treats" and "Think DQ" were used and preceded the aforementioned line in the Dairy Queen jingle. Later on, it was changed to "Meet Me at DQ" and "DQ: Something Different." Another slogan, introduced in early 2011, was "So Good It's RiDQulous," with Dairy Queen's current logo infused in the word "ridiculous". From the mid-to-late 2010s, their slogan was "Fan Food, Not Fast Food". As of 2019, DQ now uses the slogan “Happy Tastes Good.”
In Texas, at the end of advertisements, there is frequently a Texas flag waving, and the new DQ logo and slogan below saying, "Eat Like A Texan". Previous slogans include "The Texas Stop Sign", "That's what I like about Texas", "For Hot Eats & Cool Treats, Think DQ", "Nobody beats DQ Treats & Eats", "DQ is Value Country", and "This is DQ Country". These advertisements featured Texas Country Reporter host Bob Phillips as spokesperson since his program was mainly sponsored by Dairy Queen.
Dennis the Menace and other characters from the comic strip has appeared in Dairy Queen marketing as a spokestoon since 1971, with British locations having the character of the same name appearing in their marketing.
In 2015, Dairy Queen and model railroad company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Wm. K. Walthers came out with a Walthers Cornerstone HO 1:87 Scale models of a restaurant – one from the 1950s with the original logo and one from 2007–present with the current logo. The models are both officially licensed replicas
The original Dairy Queen logo was simply a stylized text sign with a soft serve cone at one end. In the late 1950s, the widely recognized red ellipse design was adopted. The initial shape was asymmetrical, with one of the side points having a greater extension than the other, especially when matched with the Brazier sign—a similarly sized yellow ovoid, tucked diagonally below its companion. By the 1970s, both sides were more closely matched, becoming symmetrical with the 2007 update. Some of the new 1950s signs continued to display a soft serve cone jutting from the right side.
"Little Miss Dairy Queen" began appearing in Pennsylvania signage in 1961. She had a Dutch bonnet, resembling the ellipse logo, with a pinafore apron over her dress and wooden shoes.
A yellow trapezoid Brazier sign, placed below the red Dairy Queen logo, was developed in the late 1960s. It matched the roofline of the new store design of the era.
Although it had been used interchangeably with the Dairy Queen name for many decades, "DQ" became the company's official name in 2001. The font remained the same as in the original signage introduced 60 years prior. Throughout this period, the company placed the registered mark symbol immediately to the right, on the bottom side of the logo. Since 2007, the logo has been altered to have completely symmetrical “lips”, but otherwise, it’s unchanged.
The original signage is still in use in older locations or in locations that use a "retro" design motif in the property's design. One example is the sign used at the Dairy Queen in Ottawa, Ontario.
Many old locations still have their vintage signs; Simpson made it clear about his love for them, and made it a rule that every franchisee is required to keep their old signs in their locations; if said location closes, the signs are either moved to a new location or donated to museums, depending on modern city sign codes.