Dairy Queen: Meet me at DQ

Last Updated on June 11, 2019

On June 22, 1940, the people of Joliet, Illinois, were treated to the first-ever Dairy Queen store. It served the famous soft-serve ice cream, along with other frozen treats. Today, Dairy Queen has 4,416 U.S. locations.

Dairy Queen’s 4,416 U.S. Store Locations, including the Orange Julius locations

The soft-serve ice cream formula was actually developed in 1938 by John Fremont “J.F.,” “Grandpa” McCullough and his son, Alex. However, it was their friend, Sherb Noble, who first offered their soft-serve ice cream in his ice cream store in Kankakee, Illinois. Was it a hit? Oh, yes! On the first day of sales, Noble served up more than 1,600 servings of soft-serve ice cream within two hours.

In 1940, Noble and the McCulloughs opened the first Dairy Queen store in Joliet, Illinois. Although this particular Dairy Queen location has not been in operation since the 1950’s, the building has become a city-designated landmark and remains standing at 501 N Chicago Street.

By 1947, DQ had expanded to 100 store locations. It seemed that franchising was the key to expansion and, by 1950, they had 1,446 store locations; by 1955, DQ stores number 2,600. The first store in Canada opened in Estevan, Saskatchewan in 1953.

At the end of fiscal year 2014, Dairy Queen reported over 6,400 stores in more than 25 countries; about 4,500 of its stores (approximately 70%) were located in the United States.

The red Dairy Queen symbol was introduced in 1958.
The company became
International Dairy Queen, Inc. (IDQ) in 1962.

Me and Dairy Queen

I remember, so well, my dad taking me to the
Dairy Queen, after dinner on a hot summer’s night. It was the ultimate treat. I can remember laughing as my soft-serve cone melted and ran down my hand and onto my arm. Dad thought it was hilarious. Mom, on the other hand, was right there with a big bunch of tissues to clean me up. Nothing tasted better than a melting Dairy Queen cone.

In 1987, IDQ bought the Orange Julius chain and, in 1998, IDQ was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway.]

The majority of DQ restaurants serve hot food and frozen treats and are open all year, while a few serve only frozen treats and may be open only during spring and summer.

In the 1990’s, DQ’s slogan was “Hot Eats, Cool Treats,” in recent years, two slogans have become popular: “Meet Me at DQ” and “DQ: Something Different.”

As of the end of 2014, Dairy Queen had more than 6,400 stores in 27 countries, including more than 1,400 locations outside the United States and Canada.

DQ / Orange Julius

Also known as the “Treat Center” concept, the company’s preferred concept for small-scale locations located primarily in shopping mall food courts. Since 2012, all franchised DQ locations feature Orange Julius drinks.

Dairy Queen Brazier

In 1957, one of DQ’s franchisees, Jim Cruikshank, came up with the “Brazier” concept when he saw flames rising from an open charcoal grill in a New York restaurant.

DQ Grill & Chill locations offer breakfast, Grill Burgers, and grilled sandwiches.

Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, DQ’s menu expanded to include malts, milkshakes, banana splits, Dilly Bars and Misty Slush. The Peanut Buster Parfait, consisting of peanuts, hot fudge, and vanilla soft serve, was introduced 1971. In 1995, the Chicken Strip Basket made its appearance, followed by a blended coffee drink, the MooLatte.


Blizzards get their name from the fact that they are so cold they can be filipped upside-down without any spillage.

Dairy Queen also offers a Blizzard Cake in flavors such as Oreo and Reese’s. As with the DQ ice cream cake, the Blizzard Cake is geared toward birthdays and other celebrations.

Gloria Sauvé
Communications and Marketing

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