Dairy Queen is planning a major expansion and Massachusetts is set squarely in the company’s creamy, delicious stare.
The Boston Globe reports Dairy Queen is planning to add 60 franchises in the Bay State over the next five years. Currently, the company has 33 locations in the state.
Jim Kerr, a vice president at International Dairy Queen, told the Globe the company is looking to expand into Stoughton, Peabody, Burlington, Billerica, Plymouth, Worcester and Amherst, among other communities. Exact locations have not yet been revealed.
In 2014, Dairy Queen, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., had about 6,400 stores in more than 25 countries with about 4,500 in the U.S. Ironically, New England, long the self-proclaimed bastion of creamy frozen treats, is not it’s epicenter. The company, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has only one store in Western Massachusetts — a DQ Grill and Chill restaurant in Chicopee. The rest are scattered across Central and Eastern Massachusetts.
The planned expansion would triple the number of Dairy Queens in Massachusetts.
Dairy Queen looking for franchise partners to expand throughout Western Massachusetts
Dairy Queen, having missed out on a recent opportunity to expand in Amherst, is actively looking for franchise partners there and in other high-traffic locations in and around Western Massachusetts.
It’s part of a big expansion push from the chain — a rival to homegrown Friendly Ice Cream — which seeks to expand from 33 locations in Massachusetts to 93 locations within the next five years with its DQ Grill & Chill concept.
Mike Mettler, International Dairy Queen Inc. director of national franchise sales
answered a series of questions on Dairy Queen’s expansion this week via email.
Locally, Dairy Queen has locations on Memorial Drive in Chicopee and in Enfield and South Windsor, Connecticut. Mall locations at the Holyoke Mall and at Eastfield Mall are closed, as is a former location in Northampton.
Q: Amherst came up specifically in your expansion plans. What can you tell me about Dairy Queen’s plans for Amherst?
A: Dairy Queen had a franchisee who applied to open a location in Amherst, and they even had a specific site picked out; however, the real estate transaction fell through so the store did not open as planned. Since this happened, Dairy Queen has been very interested in working with a franchisee to develop a new location in Amherst.
Q: Are there other Western Massachusetts locations in the offing? Springfield? West Springfield? Westfield?
A: Yes, we would love to develop in these areas. Western Massachusetts has plenty of room for growth of the brand, and we’re hoping to find the right franchise partners to develop in the area.
Some detail about what it takes to be a Dairy Queen franchisee can be found on the company’s website. Flagship DQ Grill & Chill locations require a building of 1,886 to 2,612 square feet and in investment of $779,000 to $1.7 million. The franchise fee is $35,000, owners pay a royalty fee of 4 percent and a 5 to 6 percent marketing fee.
The locations seat 48 inside and have an outdoor patio.
Smaller Dairy Queen/ Orange Julius locations for malls or in airports or college food courts have different requirements.
Q: What’s the logic behind the expansion?
A: Dairy Queen is targeting the area with the most customers and strongest demographics for our fans. By doing this, we can open new locations to provide these fans with Dairy Queen products in their local communities that may currently be underserved.
Q: Friendly’s is headquartered here in Wilbraham and was founded in Springfield. Are they a competitor? How do you differentiate yourself not just from Friendly but from others in the fast food or ice–cream space?
A: Dairy Queen competes with Friendly’s and many other ice cream and fast food concepts. One of the things that makes a DQ Grill & Chill different from a Friendly’s is the drive thru. One of the main points of differentiation with DQ and our competitors is the strong connection that DQ has with our fans. A second point of differentiation is the strength of our ownership as part of Berkshire Hathaway.
Friendly’s is beginning to offer drive-thru windows again after years of not having any. it opened a prototype window in Westfield last year. Friendly’s has plans for a drive-thru window in Chicopee as well.
Q: Will the new locations be corporate or franchise –owned?
A: The new locations will be all franchised owned and operated.
Q: What will they look like? What makes a good Dairy Queen location?
A:Dairy Queen looks at a lot of things in terms of evaluating a good location, including population, employment, traffic and specific trade generators like schools, churches and retail.