Dairy Queen eyes massive Mass. expansion
In the world of frozen desserts, the choice never gets any easier: ice cream or soft-serve?
And soft-serve lovers in Massachusetts may rejoice, because Dairy Queen, the brand with the homespun image, is expanding in the Boston market — and beyond.
The company, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said it will add 60 franchises to its repertoire of 33 in Massachusetts over the next five years, part of a US expansion effort that will build dozens of new “quick-service restaurants” in a state that loves its dairy.
“We go where the consumers want our products,” said Jim Kerr, a vice president at International Dairy Queen, based in Minneapolis. “I think it’s safe to say, there’s going to be a blizzard of Dairy Queens there.”
The “Blizzard,” of course, is Dairy Queen’s trademarked combination of crushed candy whipped with soft-serve, so beloved in Massachusetts that Dairy Queen celebrated the concoction’s 20th anniversary in Springfield by making one that weighed 8,225-pounds.
New England is a region of ice cream lovers, the birthplace of brands such as Friendly’s, Brigham’s, and Ben and Jerry’s. New Englanders are reputed to eat more ice cream than people in other regions, although dairy industry trade groups don’t have statistics to back that up.
The International Dairy Foods Association, a trade group in Washington, said the average American consumes almost 22 pounds of ice cream per year. The top selling flavor: vanilla.
Soft-serve is not technically ice cream because it is made with less than 10 percent milk fat, according to the dairy association.
Dairy Queen has not finalized its new sites in Massachusetts, but the chain is targeting properties in Stoughton, Peabody, Burlington, Billerica, Plymouth, Worcester, and Amherst, Kerr said.
New locations are also being sought in Vermont, the only state without a Dairy Queen.
The first Dairy Queen opened in LaJoliet, Ill., in 1940. Today, there are more than 6,700 Dairy Queens in 27 countries. Berkshire Hathaway bought the chain in 1998.
The company said franchise owners usually invest about $1 million to $2 million into their stores. Nicky Pirperis, who owns two Dairy Queen locations in Milford and West Boylston, said she paid about $30,000 to buy a franchise and spent more than $1 million just to build her store in West Boylston. She said she plans to help her two children in their 30s to buy another location but would not disclose where they were looking.
This new store, like her other locations, would sell burgers, chicken sandwiches, and other fast-food eats as well as soft-serve, a concept that Dairy Queen calls “grill and chill.”
Pirperis said the most difficult thing as a franchise owner is teaching new employees the correct technique for manipulating a cone so the soft-serve ends up with the famously curled flourish at the top.
“Drop, stop, curl. Drop, stop, curl, this is what I tell the new employees,” said Pirperis. “The hardest part is making the [soft-serve] cones.”