We've conducted a Dairy Queen survey by visiting, tasting, and researching the franchise. DQ still has the old favorites but has added new treats, delicious shakes, and fast meals—with plenty of options for kids. Patrons who filled out our Dairy Queen survey included kids, moms, and teens across the country. The feedback below explains why Dairy Queen has been in business for so many years, and why you are likely to see Dairy Queen restaurants dotting the landscape in big cities and churning out treats in little towns across America. We've blended the results of the survey with a little DQ history.
What Is Dairy Queen?
Dairy Queen is a restaurant and ice cream parlor, but some stores only sell dessert and others are "brazier" types that have burgers, fries, and several other fast food meals. When most people think of Dairy Queen, they conjure up visions of soft-serve ice cream. Our Dairy Queen survey showed that when asked what product the chain was most known for, ice cream came in number one and soft-serve was number two. We also used the Dairy Queen survey to ask how often people eat inside these restaurants versus how often they drive through.
Dairy Queen is an example of a franchise, which means anyone can purchase a store for a set fee. Other restaurants like McDonald's work on this same system, and in the survey we found that the main reason for buying a franchise is the security of a known brand and an established business process. The survey included customers and business owners, and both parties are happy with how Dairy Queen is performing these days. DQ has had its trials in 74 years of operation, but they are going strong in the 21st century.
Franchise owners, or "franchisees," can make their DQ (the standard abbreviation for Dairy Queen) into a specialized restaurant. Some will add chili to the burger menu while others will focus only on shakes, sundaes, and other ice cream favorites. The range of options, we found in the survey, depends on where the restaurant operates. Regional favorites, like BBQ, are a good plan if you are in Texas, while some franchises in the deep south might add sweet tea to their menus. The survey showed that ice cream is still the focus, but smart owners embrace regional differences.
Family Fast Food Model
The Dairy Queen survey asked customers what they liked best about the menu, and the responses differed depending on age. Parents liked taking the family for a meal, or doing a quick drive-through to pick up take-out burgers. Teens preferred visits just for ice cream. Kids and families liked eating a whole meal at DQ. This is one reason that the brazier restaurant concept has worked well. Families like DQ and that has not changed over the years. The restaurant franchises and the central office continue to market themselves to families. Kids can't resist ice cream, especially when it comes in a lot of colorful options.
Quick And Easy
Most DQ fans we spoke to in our Dairy Queen survey said their number one reason for choosing DQ is its speed. The stores are small, they usually have a drive through, and customer service is face-to-face and speedy. One reason for their speed is that many customers order only a vanilla or chocolate soft-serve cone rather than a meal. They build most stores with a walk-up window, so orders can be placed without even opening the door. DQ has a lot of competition these days because burger joints often offer ice cream. But for fast service, a quick meal, and a lot of ice cream choices, DQ has no competition.
One piece of information that came up in our Dairy Queen survey was how DQ has infiltrated the culture with the dipped cone. After they developed soft-serve (or as the old folks called it, "custard"), DQ innovated with a soft-serve cone dipped in chocolate, butterscotch, or cherry. This experience, eating a dipped cone, rated high on our Dairy Queen survey as a highlight of childhood for the baby boomer generation. For generations coming later, the Blizzard is well-known and well-loved. The Dairy Queen survey ranked the Blizzard as the number one unique DQ ice cream creation.
The Pros Of The Franchise Based On Our Dairy Queen Survey
Below, we include the results of our Dairy Queen survey, in order of popularity.
Fast food was founded on the idea of a quick meal, as opposed to a "sit-down" restaurant, but some fast-food places are better than others. A drive-thru is the ultimate time saver, and the majority of DQ franchises have them. With DQ, however, the unique feature is that even counter service is very fast. Part of this may be that while you can find a DQ around every corner, the shops aren't huge so they can only handle so many customers at a time. You will be in and out in a flash whether it's a meal and dessert or just a cold snack of Orange Julius.
The ice cream options at DQ are many and rival a shop such as Baskin Robbins for choices. Sundaes, a banana split, shakes and malts, and the signature treats such as various flavors of the Blizzard. The number of fast food dinners or lunches is impressive: hot dogs, chili, fries, burgers, and even chicken tenders, shrimp, and quesadillas! For a small restaurant, DQ packs a big punch and our survey participants loved the variety.
DQ provides a lot of food for a little money. A big share of Dairy Queen survey respondents echoed this sentiment. DQ offers a lot of choices and is some of the least expensive food available. It is great for a family on a budget or for teens with just a few bucks to spend. The quality is there, and most people know they'll get a solid value for the money spent when choosing DQ for lunch, dinner, or a snack.
Meal Or Snack
The big surprise in our Dairy Queen survey was that many customers love the option of stopping for a snack or getting a full meal. When asked, "what makes DQ different from other fast-food restaurants," many people said they appreciated being able to stop in for ice cream, then decide to get a burger or hot dog. Most people who choose DQ think of ice-cream first, but most customers like being able to opt for a hot dog when they realize they are hungrier than they'd imagined.
DQ is a lot like McDonald's, where there is a kid-centric philosophy. Although DQ does not have a playground inside, for kids it's always special to be able to order a custom-made ice cream treat. Parents feel like kids again, so it's a relaxing place to take the family. It's hard to go wrong with ice cream, and DQ knows the secret to their success is selling a product nearly everyone loves.
DQ individualizes itself in a way few other restaurants do. Hearkening back to the days of Bob's Big Boy, each restaurant is somewhat unique. Since DQ mushroomed from a small-town beginning in Joliet, Illinois, back in 1940, it continues to have a local, small-town feel. Franchises get repeat customers and they serve them food that's popular where they live. Of course, burgers and fries are a staple of the American diet, but adding the option of sweet tea or BBQ works well, as our Dairy Queen survey revealed.
The Dairy Queen survey asked what people like best about ice cream, and many said it's a summer favorite and a way to beat the heat. DQ does flourish even in northern states, but summer is the peak season.
Tradition And Nostalgia
Folks who took our Dairy Queen survey talked about having sentimental feelings for DQ because it was the first, or only, place they got a cone during childhood. Before fancy boutique ice cream like Ben and Jerry's, DQ hit the spot for most Americans. A cone on a summer night was a simple treat, and one that most people don't forget. Dairy Queen has been successful because they've adapted to new business, but have preserved their special brand and style enough so that they remain relatively unchanged.
What Are The Cons Of Eating At Dairy Queen?
Not The Healthiest
Families wouldn't choose DQ every night, and those taking the Dairy Queen survey mentioned that the food isn't meant to be healthy. It's a treat and not a daily thing. Some families mention they go a couple of times a month, for special occasions, or when hurried and looking for a quick meal. Even though DQ menus don't include salads or juices, by using portion control most people find they can add DQ to their regular dining options and feel fine about it.
Small Seating Area
If you are with a large group, DQ isn't the best choice. This was the number one complaint in the Dairy Queen survey—not enough space! But kids don't notice it, and most patrons finish up meals and snacks fairly quickly. A lot of DQs have outdoor seating on a patio to stretch the small space.
DQ has changed very little even though there have been some lean years for the business. It's on its way back, with memories of soft-serve, hand-dipped cones, and Blizzards still swirling in our dreams. Visit a franchise and check out the menu to see if your hometown has added a favorite dish.