Vintage Dairy Queen sign in Ottawa, Canada
The soft serve formula was first developed in 1938 by John Fremont McCullough and his son Alex. They went on to open the first Dairy Queen store in 1940 in Joliet, Illinois. While the Dairy Queen is no longer in operation, the building is still located at 501 N Chicago St. Since 1940 DQ has used a franchise system to expand its operations globally. Its largest franchise is the Texas Dairy Queen Operating Council which runs the majority of DQ locations in the state of Texas. Dairy Queen International is the parent company of Dairy Queen. In the US it operates under the American Dairy Queen title. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. At the end of its fiscal year 2006, Dairy Queen reported over 5,600 stores in more than a dozen countries; about 4,600 of its stores were located within the United States.
DQ was an early pioneer of food franchising, with the 10 stores of 1941 expanding to 100 by 1947, 1,446 in 1950, and 2,600 in 1955. The first store in Canada opened in Melville, Saskatchewan in 1953. The present Dairy Queen logo was introduced in 1959. The company became "International Dairy Queen, Inc." (IDQ) in 1962. It was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 1998. During the 1950s and 1960s,
Dairy Queens in the small towns of the Midwestern and Southern United States were a center of social life. In that role they have often come to be referenced as a symbol of life in small-town America, as for instance 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. Some of the popular items on the Texas menu include the Hunger-Buster and Belt-Buster hamburgers. Bob Phillips, host of the popular Texas syndicated television series Texas Country Reporter, was for many years the DQ spokesman in Texas. Dairy Queen appears in many small Texas towns, such as Baird, Devine, Jacksboro, and Hamilton, and uses the nickname "The Texas Stop Sign" to illustrate its presence
With 5,700 restaurants in 22 countries as of 2005, Dairy Queen is one of the largest soft serve franchises in the world.
The company's stores are operated under several brands, all bearing the distinctive Dairy Queen logo and carrying the company's
A Dairy Queen store in Austin, Texas, United States
A Dairy Queen store in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
Stores which serve a very abbreviated menu primarily feature DQ frozen treats. These locations may be open only during spring and summer; many year-round locations are located in shopping malls.
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.
The largest Dairy Queen restaurant is in Portland, Texas. This small town didn't always own this claim to fame—the original building was constructed in the late 70's and later redesigned in the mid 90's to make room for weekly meetings and events that local organizations and clubs would host. The newly added sitting area offers a southern ambiance. The remaining area of the restaurant carries on the corporate look and feel of other DQ’s. Drive-thru access is still made available.
Dairy Queen Brazier
Stores serve a normal fast-food menu featuring burgers, french fries, and processed fried chicken products in addition to frozen treats and hot dogs. Due to the protracted rollout of the Grill & Chill concept, Brazier restaurants have been allowed to sell certain products originally restricted to G&C, including GrillBurgers.
The "Brazier" name has been slowly phased out of signage and advertising since 1993, although until recently it had not been removed from existing signage. Since the early 2000s, new or renovated locations which are similar to Brazier restaurants in terms of size and menu selection, but have been updated with the current DQ logo and/or exterior, usually carry the name "DQ Restaurant".
DQ Grill & Chill
This is DQ's preferred concept for new and renovated full-service restaurants. Stores are larger than older-style DQ Brazier locations and feature a completely new store design. In most cases, they offer an expanded menu including breakfast, GrillBurgers, and grilled sandwiches, as well as limited table service (customers still place orders at the counter).
DQ also operates the Karmelkorn and Orange Julius brands, the latter often appearing adjacent to DQ's. DQ's current franchising efforts are primarily to open shopping mall outlets and Grill & Chill stores.
The company's products expanded to include malts and milkshakes in 1949, banana splits in 1951, Dilly Bars in 1955 (they had lime), Mr. Misty slush treats in 1961 (later renamed Misty Slush, then again to Arctic Rush), and a range of hamburgers and other cooked foods under the Brazier banner in 1958. Other popular items include sundaes and the blended coffee drink, the MooLatte, controversial because of its resemblance to the racial descriptor Mulatto.
Dairy Queen's one hundred (as of 1997) Japanese stores offered hamburgers, but competition from McDonald's made the chain switch to pita sandwiches.
The majority of Dairy Queen locations serve Pepsi products, but unlike most other restaurants such contracts are not mandated onto the franchisee, and as a result some locations serve Coca-Cola products instead. Subway (until 2003) and Arby's (until 2006) also allowed such leniency on beverage choice before signing exclusive soft drink deals with Coca-Cola and Pepsi, respectively, making Dairy Queen the last major restaurant chain without an exclusive soft drink contract.
That said, the current preference for Pepsi products at DQ is in conflict with its parent company's large interest in The Coca-Cola Company. Berkshire Hathaway is one of Coca-Cola's largest single shareholders, with 8.6%.
The Blizzard Treat
A very popular Dairy Queen treat today is the Blizzard Treat, which is soft-serve mechanically blended with add-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 175 million Blizzards. The Blizzard was invented by Richard, Ronald, and Ralph Medd of Iowa. It is traditionally served upside down to prove the thickness. The most popular Blizzard flavors include Oreo Cookies, chocolate chip cookie dough, M&M's (Smarties in Canada), Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, Heath bar, Kit Kat, and Butterfinger. Seasonal flavors are also available such as November's Pumpkin Pie and the Cotton Candy Blizzard. It has been argued that Dairy Queen drew its inspiration from the concrete served by the St. Louis based Ted Drewes.