The History of Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen or also often called DQ for short, is an ice cream and fast food restaurant chain under the International Dairy Queen, Inc. The company is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which also owns Orange Julius and Karmelkorn. Their corporate office is located in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, Minnesota.

The first ever DQ restaurant opened on June 22, 1940 in Joliet, Illinois. It was operated by Sherb Noble. The restaurant served different frozen products such as the famous soft serve ice cream. In the present time, Dairy Queen has more than six thousand stores in 27 countries. Aside from the varieties of ice cream they have, they are now serving other foods such as burgers, chicken strips, breakfast meals, salads, and more.

Dairy Queen has been a known restaurant in many countries in the world and a lot of people love the soft serve ice creams they offer. But have you ever wondered how it began? If you want to know how this fast food restaurant chain started and how it became successful, read on to know more about the history of Dairy Queen.

The Story of Sweet Success

The beginning of Dairy Queen’s success began in 1938, near Moline, Illinois, when John Fremont “Grandpa” McCullough and his son, Alex, developed a delicious dairy product which is now known as the Dairy Queen soft serve.

After the development of the dairy product, they convinced Sherb Noble, who is their friend and loyal customer, to offer their product in his ice cream store located in Kankakee, Illinois. When Noble tried to sell it, he dished out more than 1,600 servings of the new dessert in just two hours on the first day of sales.

After testing their new product, the McCulloughs knew that they had an exciting business opportunity. They just need to find an efficient way to dispense the soft serve ice cream. Soon after that, they’ve located a freezer which was invented by Harry Oltz of Hammond, Indiana. The freezer could produce a continuous flow of the ice cream.

J.F. McCullough had always referred to the cow as “the queen of the dairy business”, and that was where the Dairy Queen name originated. In 1940, Noble and the McCulloughs decided to open the first Dairy Queen store in Joliet, Illinois. This building still stands at 501 N Chicago St., as a city-designated landmark in the present time, but it no longer operates.

Since the first Dairy Queen store opened in 1940, the chain has used a franchise system for it to expand its operations globally. Back in those times, food franchising was all but unheard of, but Dairy Queen’s product’s potential made it a natural for such a system. Dairy Queen was a pioneer of food franchising, and it has expanded its 10 stores in 1941 to 100 by 1947, 1,446 in 1950, and 2,600 in 1955.

Larry McMurtry’s book

During the 1950’s and the 1960’s, Dairy Queens were a fixture of social life in small towns of the Midwestern and Southern United States. In fact, they have often come to be referenced as a symbol of life in a small-town America such as in Larry McMurtry’s book, “Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections on Sixty and Beyond”, and in Bob Greene’s, “Chevrolet Summers, Dairy Queen Nights”.

In 1953, the first DQ store in Canada opened in Climax, Saskatchewan. In 1958, the red Dairy Queen Symbol was introduced, and in 1962, the company name turned into International Dairy Queen, Inc. The McCulloughs’ innovation was the beginning of today’s system of more than six thousand Dairy Queen stores in the United States, Canada, and many other countries in Europe, Central America, Asia, and the Middle East.

Bob Greene’s Book

From 1949, they began creating other varieties of soft serves such as malts, milkshakes, banana splits, dilly bars, and more. In 1995, they started selling other products aside from ice creams such as the DQ Treatzza Pizza and Crispy Chicken Salad. In 2001, the first DQ Grill and Chill restaurant opened in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And in 2005, they introduced the Grill Burgers on national TV. In the present time, they are now offering a lot of food choices the whole family will enjoy.

There are indeed a lot of changes that happened in the Dairy Queen system throughout the years. However, there is one constant that has remained, and it is that Dairy Queen stores are still, and always have been, a place where you can find Little League teams celebrating a victory, business people having their lunch breaks, and families bonding while enjoying great foods and delicious soft serve treats.

It is amazing to know that a simple creation made by a father and his son can turn into a big business opportunity. Dairy Queen shows that a combination of hardworking people and great-tasting food can make a company successful. Dairy Queen’s history is a story of a unique product that created an industry.