Dairy Queen is planning to add up to 100 Dairy Queen Grill & Chill locations in New York, including about 20 on Long Island, over the next 10 years.
The soft-serve ice cream chain currently has 40 locations in the state, including both DQ Grill & Chill restaurants, which serve ice cream and fast food, and the chain’s older ice cream stores.
There are three DQ Grill & Chill restaurants on Long Island, and another is scheduled to open, in Medford, by December.
Each Grill & Chill store will employ 50 to 100 people.
“New York is such a wide open market for us, which is why we are aggressively trying to build there,” said Dairy Queen’s vice president for franchise development, Jim Kerr. “Right now, we average about four to five [new locations] a year in the state. We would like to kick it up to 10 per year in the state.”
Aside from two corporate-owned stores, Dairy Queen restaurants are independently owned and operated franchises. There are currently more than 6,700 Dairy Queens in 28 countries. In the United States there are more than 1,560 DQ Grill & Chill restaurants. The first Dairy Queen location opened in Joliet, Illinois, in 1940.
Dairy Queen restaurants are franchised by American Dairy Queen Corp., based in Minneapolis. The company is a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., whose CEO is billionaire Warren Buffett, the legendary investor.
To expand, Dairy Queen is looking for real estate properties and potential independent franchise operators interested in opening a DQ Grill & Chill restaurant. Applicants should have equity of $400,000 for a single store, and equity of about $2 million to open multiple stores. The investment ranges from $1.07 million to $1.83 million, without the cost of leasing or purchasing land.
The DQ Grill & Chill concept, started in 2002, is a variation on the classic Dairy Queen brand restaurant. DQ Grill & Chill offers burgers and chicken sandwiches, alongside classic ice cream treats that include Blizzards, sundaes and cones.
The table-service restaurants feature booths, large wooden tables, and in some cases, outdoor patios. The average location is a one-story, 2,612-square-foot building with capacity for 72 seats.
Long Island franchisee Laura Maier opened Long Island’s first Dairy Queen Grill & Chill in Massapequa in June 2013 after the only Dairy Queen on the Island, in Hauppauge, closed in 1988. Maier owns two other locations: in Levittown, opened in December 2014, and Huntington, opened in November 2015. She plans to open another in East Northport next spring.
“It was important for me to deal with people who were in the industry and know what to do,” said Maier, a former health care administrator turned restaurant owner. “For me, to make it successful, you have to be involved.”