Dairy Queen is looking to beef up its presence in Western New York.
The Minnesota-based chain wants to add 100 restaurants to the state over the next 10 years and has targeted the Buffalo Niagara region for a good chunk of them. But rather than fill the market with ice cream stands, the company wants to amp up its newer DQ Grill & Chill concept.
It said Buffalo is an attractive market for growth.
“Buffalo is an area with great opportunity because it is a solid market with strong family connections and roots,” said Jim Kerr, vice president of franchise development for International Dairy Queen.
The company is looking for franchisees to help it meet those aggressive expansion goals, ones that would be willing to open multiple locations in the first couple of years. Each location costs from $1.07 million to $1.83 million to develop, plus the cost of land. Each restaurant brings with it 50 to 100 jobs, the company said. The franchise fee is $35,000.
The company launched what is now its flagship format in 2001 and brought the first DQ Grill & Chill restaurant to Lancaster in 2007. It’s a full fast-food restaurant with a complete menu of burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and chicken strip baskets along with its traditional ice cream desserts. The stores tend to seat about 60 people indoors and have a drive-thru.
Stores have separate “grill” sections for hot foods and “chill” sections for desserts. They have warm lighting and music, booths, large wooden tables and outdoor patios that seat 12. Typical stores are freestanding, but the company is also willing to develop them in strip center end caps, dual-use buildings, travel centers, street-front locations and other venues.
Not only will the expansion greatly increase Dairy Queen’s visibility in the market, it will diversify its competition. Until now, Dairy Queen had competed primarily with Anderson’s and a mix of independent ice cream stands, most of which close for the winter. The more food-focused, year-round Grill & Chill restaurants will compete with everything from Burger King and McDonald’s to Mighty Taco and Sonic Drive-In.
“When we go into a market and open a new store, we have to take share from other quick service restaurant competitors, and fortunately Dairy Queen has a very broad menu that makes it an attractive option for new consumers,” Kerr said.
That more diverse menu and longer calendar year were a big part of the appeal that led Dairy Queen to transition away from the traditional model and focus on the DQ Grill & Chill, Kerr said.
In addition to the DQ Grill & Chill on Transit Road in Lancaster, there’s another one on Niagara Street in Niagara Falls. There are a total of 16 Dairy Queens in Western New York and 40 in all of New York State. There are 4,800 across the country and 1,000 DQ Grill & Chills.
International Dairy Queen is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, which also owns The Buffalo News