Since the first Dairy Queen location opened in Joliet, Illinois in 1940, the chain’s signature treats have been rooted in tradition and nostalgia for kids and adults alike. Many decades later, that same sentiment remains. The chain celebrated its 75h anniversary in 2015 on solid footing, thanks to a sharpened focus and steady growth of the DQ Grill & Chill concept, the brand’s innovative quick service restaurants model that launched in 2002.
But even with 1,560 DQ Grill & Chill restaurants in 46 states throughout the country, the Dairy Queen corporate team still identified even more opportunity to expand its new model. But there was only one problem—consumer news highlighting the brand’s sweet treats dominated the airwaves and headlines, and development news often got lost.
This was back in 2016, and the brand was eyeing 85-plus new store openings, shifting a focus to the QSR model with nearly 95 percent of projected new locations being DQ Grill & Chill restaurants. It was an aggressive expansion plan for the legacy brand, and it was crucial that the corporate team find a dedicated outlet to help these efforts be known to an audience that cares.
“We like that we’re a historic brand but over the decades, we realized that we have to stay relevant to keep up with changing consumer behavior. As the QSR landscape evolves, we realized the need to do the same. We’re excited to continue introducing our DQ Grill & Chill concept to more towns across the country—it’s our answer for people who want to treat their families to a nice meal at a reasonable price in a warm and inviting atmosphere,” said Jim Kerr, the Executive Vice President of Development at Dairy Queen.
That’s when Dairy Queen approached 1851 Franchise for content marketing. The digital publication’s team of content producers, editors and development strategists worked alongside Dairy Queen’s corporate team to identify key growth markets. But these stories would do much more than just highlight new openings and ongoing development initiatives—they’d serve to highlight the unique legacy of the brand, too.
“Almost everyone will tell you a story of how they rode their bike to the local Dairy Queen location when they were kids. People are driven by the emotional connection—it’s very strong and powerful, and that nostalgia extends beyond just the product and into the brand itself,” said Kerr.
Keeping that nostalgia in mind, 1851 Franchise was able to add a relatable touch to the brand’s ongoing development news, spinning compelling narratives around a business opportunity that just about every entrepreneur has a personal connection to.
In January 2017, 1851 Franchise interviewed one of Dairy Queen’s multi-unit franchisees, Raman Kalra, who is helping to spearhead the brand’s growth within the booming Phoenix area. When Kalra immigrated to the United States in 2001, he had $1,000 in his pocket and the hope for a better future. After working a handful of odd jobs, he had finally saved up enough money to consider business ownership. That’s when he struck up a conversation with a local. Mentioning his entrepreneurial goals, Kalra said he was interested in franchising. That’s when he brought up the Dairy Queen brand.
“I was still unfamiliar with a lot of American brands—but I knew that the Dairy Queen system was one with a great legacy. So, one day, I asked a bar patron what he thought about the brand. His eyes lit up with a smile and a story. That was when I knew this was the opportunity for me and the right plan—I could create a fulfilling career for myself while also helping to serve hundreds of happy customers a day,” Kalra told 1851 Franchise. “By the time we opened the doors, there were hundreds of people lined up down the block. I’ve even had customers come up to me to shake my hand and thank me—they had been waiting to have a Dairy Queen restaurant open in their neighborhood for years. I’m so thankful to have found this opportunity with the Dairy Queen system. Not only has it helped to change the lives of customers, but it’s helped to change mine, too.”
By leveraging Kalra’s uplifting story, 1851 Franchise was able to showcase the success that a franchisee could have in Phoenix—an area that Dairy Queen is actively targeting for continued growth. Then, to make sure stories like Kalra’s reached the right people, Dairy Queen invested in 1851 Franchise’s proprietary AMPD program, which allowed the brand to put these key messages in front of a defined audience—one that fit the profile of its perfect franchisee in its exact target markets. This technology allowed Dairy Queen to get the exact franchise development messaging it wanted in front of the exact audience it wanted, helping to ultimately drive more meaningful leads.
1851 Franchise’s relationship with Dairy Queen extends far beyond these success stories in defined markets. Over the past year, 1851 has continued to craft original narratives highlighting Dairy Queen, its accomplishments and—most importantly—the people who are propelling the brand forward. Matt Frauenshuh, who owns 180 Dairy Queen restaurants in 10 states, is one of Dairy Queen’s largest multi-unit franchisees. Over the years, he’s come to exemplify what success with the brand looks like, and how he’s helping to spread the spirit of Dairy Queen to communities throughout the country. And it’s through stories like Frauenshuh’s that Dairy Queen hopes to inspire a new generation of franchisees.
“For me, it’s all about having a lasting and meaningful impact on a community. We can do that with the Dairy Queen brand. We become the center of activity—a hub where people can come together, catch up and share in life’s everyday moments,” Frauenshuh said. “I’m looking forward to bringing that experience to even more people in the years to come.”