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- 2023 Franchise 500 Rank
#41 Ranked #41 last year
- Initial investment
$1.5M - $2.4M
- Units as of 2023
7,268 3.3% over 3 years
Dairy Queen Franchise
Some food restaurants are popular from the get-go, especially those that provide sweet treats to the public.
Dairy Queen is one of the world's most well-known fast food brands, offering a dazzling mix of delicious beverages and soft-serve ice cream, plus other foods ranging from chicken strips to burgers.
DQ holds the crown as the go-to quick-serve restaurant brand, offering aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to build up a business from scratch without worrying about brand recognition or lack of support. DQ Grill & Chill restaurants are seen in Canada and the U.S. Franchise owners can use this fast food franchise to maximize their business opportunities.
But a lot goes into starting a Dairy Queen franchise, and it's important to know what to expect should you reach for this opportunity. Read on to learn more about starting a Dairy Queen franchise and what’s involved.
Why should you start a Dairy Queen franchise?
For many would-be business owners, it’s because of brand recognition.
Dairy Queen’s soft-serve ice cream formula was invented in 1938. Since then, it has played an integral role in the success of the Dairy Queen restaurant chain brand. It’s been so successful, but there are now thousands of restaurants throughout the U.S. and beyond. Most Dairy Queen locations range between 1800 and 2600 ft.².
Simply put, when you become a Dairy Queen franchisee, you’ll immediately benefit from the brand recognition that DQ brings. Whether in Minnesota or Texas or even internationally, people know about DQ.
This brand recognition can help you thrive immediately, rather than opening an independent ice cream or restaurant location and building up a loyal customer base from scratch.
Even people who don’t frequent Dairy Queen restaurants might know the names of some of the most popular DQ treats, such as Blizzards. There are currently over 4000 domestic locations and 6800 locations around the globe. Having a built-in customer base for your business is never a bad thing.
More importantly, that built-in customer base tends to be dedicated. Dairy Queen fans are truly loyal to the brand, so once you open a new location in any area, odds are you'll get access to an immediate customer base.
But Dairy Queen is also an advantageous franchise to start because of the ongoing support you’ll benefit from. Franchise support ranges from developing training to operations help to supply chain support to marketing and much more.
You don’t have to do everything yourself when you become a Dairy Queen franchisee. You’ll have corporate backing to support you every step of the way.
What are Dairy Queen’s international franchise opportunities?
In addition to the above benefits, it’s essential to remember that you can become a Dairy Queen franchisee outside the United States. Recently, the Dairy Queen franchise system has been expanding its restaurant franchise options into more global markets.
You cannot become a franchisee in countries ranging from Costa Rica to Taiwan to Japan to South Korea to Puerto Rico to Guatemala and much more.
If you’ve ever wanted to be an international business owner or are simply tired of the challenges in US-based businesses, working as an international DQ franchisee might be right up your alley. Even internationally, DQ’s menu items are fan favorites, ranging from Orange Juliussmoothies to ice cream.
Whether you choose a U.S. or international Dairy Queen location, you can set up a standard or traditional restaurant or a freestanding, strip center or mall location, depending on your preferences.
Related: Dairy Queen’s New Campaign Focuses on Food
What resources and support does Dairy Queen offer franchisees?
Dairy Queen offers tons of support for new franchisees like you.
These include meeting and convention attendance options, newsletters and online support whenever you have a question or require assistance with some aspect of your store operations. In the earliest stages, Dairy Queen will even help you choose the site for your store based on market research and real estate space.
When you open your store, you can count on Dairy Queen to help you during the grand opening. This extends to ensuring you have enough labor to provide excellent service to the influx of customers you can expect.
Even after that, Dairy Queen will provide security and safety support and procedure training as needed.
What about marketing? Dairy Queen takes its marketing very seriously, so all franchisees can take advantage of social media marketing campaigns and materials, in addition to both regionally tailored and national media materials.
Simply put, you won’t need to assemble marketing campaigns for your Dairy Queen store. Dairy Queen will do it for you.
That’s not all. Dairy Queen also gives franchisees access to templates, making advertising much more accessible to your target audience.
The loyalty program and app will be made available to your store so you can get the most loyal, driven Dairy Queen customers returning to your location repeatedly.
Related: The Curse of Dairy Queen? Internet Speculates After 4th MLB Player Halts Season
What does opening a Dairy Queen franchise cost?
Before signing any dotted lines, understand how much it will cost to start a Dairy Queen franchise. It’ll all be outlined in your franchise agreement, including the liquid capital needed to build your quick-service restaurant.
Firstly, you’ll need to pay the initial franchise fee of $45,000. This is required when you sign the paperwork marking you as a DQ franchisee. You’ll also need to supply between $1.5 million and $2.4 million on average. The initial investment fee will cover things like real estate, equipment purchasing, training fees and ingredient purchasing.
To ensure that you have enough money to make this total investment happen, Dairy Queen requires new franchisees to have a minimum net worth of $750,000 or more, plus another $400,000 in cash. It's a lot to scrape together, but you could be much more successful in the long run, should you qualify.
Once you have your Dairy Queen operation in business, you’ll have to pay a regular 4% royalty fee and another ad royalty fee ranging from 5% to 6%, depending on how much marketing assistance you need.
These ongoing costs can add up across 20 years, the length of the standard agreement term as a Dairy Queen franchisee.
What financing assistance does Dairy Queen offer?
There’s good news, though. Dairy Queen has lots of relationships with third-party financing sources, like lenders. These can help you cover some of the above costs, like the franchise fee, inventory and other startup costs.
Therefore, if you can’t meet the above financial requirements outright, you might still be able to make things work with the proper lending agreement.
Related: Why Dairy Queen is Finally Opening Up in Manhattan
What training does Dairy Queen provide?
Dairy Queen doesn’t let prospective franchisees begin their operations without ensuring that they know what to do. That’s why you must complete 32 hours of classroom training and 245 hours of on-the-job training.
There are three main components for the initial Dairy Queen franchiseetraining program:
- The MTRA or Management Training Readiness Assessment.
- ServSafe Certification.
- ADQ’s training program is split into three phases to teach you about products and equipment, service and management skills and financial/leadership skills.
When you start a new Dairy Queen franchise business, you and up to two assistant managers must attend each of the three components. As a result, when you open your Dairy Queen store, you'll be well-equipped and ready to lead it successfully, even if you don't have any business experience yet.
On top of this training, you, the controlling owner, must attend all the meetings and additional training the franchisor holder sponsors in your area.
These regular seminars allow you to network with fellow business owners and ensure that your store stays up-to-date with all recent Dairy Queen requirements regarding staff and management principles.
Related: Dairy Queen Scoops Out Niche with New Grill Concept
Start a Dairy Queen franchise today
Ultimately, starting a Dairy Queen franchise could be a great way to reach your business goals and provide delicious desserts to the American public for years. Consider starting a Dairy Queen franchise with this information.Explore Entrepreneur’s other guides and resources for more information about Dairy Queen and other franchise opportunities.
About Dairy Queen
- Parent Company
- International Dairy Queen Inc.
- Jim Kerr, EVP, Franchise Development
- Corporate Address
8000 Tower, #700, 8331 Norman Center Dr.
Bloomington, MN 55437
- Franchising Since
- 1940 (83 years)
- # of employees at HQ
- Where seeking
This company is offering new franchisees throughout the US.
This company is offering new franchisees in the following international regions: Asia, Middle East, Central America, Canada, South America, Mexico
- # of Units
- 7,268 (as of 2023)
Information for Franchisees
Here’s what you need to know if you’re interested in opening a Dairy Queen franchise.
Financial Requirements & Ongoing Fees
Here’s what you can expect to spend to start the business and what ongoing fees the franchisor charges throughout the life of the business.
- Initial Franchise Fee
Definition: The initial fee paid to a franchisor to join their system
What you need to know: Found in Item 5 of the FDD, this may be a flat fee, or may vary based on territory size, experience, or other factors.The franchise fee is an up-front (one-time) cost that a new franchisee pays to the franchisor. This fee is usually due at the signing of the franchise agreement and covers the right to use the franchisor's trademarks, name, and related business systems.
- Initial Investment
- $1,461,200 - $2,426,990
Definition: The total amount necessary to begin operation of the franchise
What you need to know: The initial investment includes the franchise fee, along with other startup expenses such as real estate, equipment, supplies, business licenses, and working capital. This is outlined in a chart in Item 7 of the FDD, showing a range of possible costs from low to high.
- Net Worth Requirement
Definition: The minimum net worth you must have in order to qualify to become a franchisee of this company
What you need to know: Net worth is the value of a person's assets minus liabilities. Assets include cash, stocks, retirement accounts, and real estate. Liabilities include items like mortgages, car payments, and credit card debt.
- Cash Requirement
Definition: The minimum liquid capital you must have available in order to qualify to become a franchisee of this company.
- Royalty Fee
Definition: A ongoing fee paid to the franchisor on a regular basis.
What you need to know: Most franchisors require franchisees to pay an ongoing royalty fee, which is detailed in Item 6 of the FDD. This fee is typically a percentage of weekly or monthly gross sales, but may also be a flat weekly, monthly, or annual fee.
- Ad Royalty Fee
Definition: An going fee paid to the franchisor on a regular basis to support advertising or marketing efforts.
What you need to know: This may also be called advertising fee, marketing fee, brand fund fee, and more, but the basic purpose is the same-- to support promotion of the brand systemwide. As with the royalty fee, it is detailed in Item 6 of the FDD, and can be a percentage of weekly or monthly gross sales or a weekly, monthly, or annual fee.
- Term of Agreement
- 20 years
Definition: The length of time your franchise agreement will last.
What you need to know: Franchise terms are typically anywhere from 5 to 20 years in length, but are sometimes instead dependent on factors such as the term of your lease. Once your term is up, you may have the option to renew your agreement, typically for a smaller fee than the original franchise fee.
- Is franchise term renewable?
Some franchisors offer in-house financing, while others have relationships with third-party financing sources to which they refer qualified franchisees.
- Third Party Financing
- Dairy Queen has relationships with third-party sources which offer financing to cover the following: franchise fee, startup costs, equipment, inventory, accounts receivable, payroll
Training & Support Offered
Franchisors offer initial training programs and a variety of ongoing support options to help franchisees run their businesses.
- On-The-Job Training
- 245 hours
- Classroom Training
- 32 hours
- Ongoing Support
Purchasing Co-opsNewsletterMeetings & ConventionsToll-Free LineGrand OpeningOnline SupportSecurity & Safety ProceduresField OperationsSite Selection
- Marketing Support
Ad TemplatesNational MediaRegional AdvertisingSocial MediaEmail MarketingLoyalty Program/App
Additional details about running this franchise.
- Is absentee ownership allowed?
Definition: Absentee ownership means that the franchisee does not actively work in the franchise business or manage day-to-day operations.
- Can this franchise be run from home/mobile unit?
Definition: The business can be run from your home and/or a vehicle, and it is not necessary to have a retail facility, office space, or warehouse.
- Can this franchise be run part time?
Definition: This business can be run by the owner on a part-time basis (less than 40 hours per week) and/or as a side business; it is not necessary for the business to be open/run full-time.
- # of employees required to run
- Are exclusive territories available?
Definition: An exclusive territory is a fixed area in which you are given the right to operate and in which no other units of the same franchise may be opened.
What you need to know: Territory size may be based on factors such as radius, population size, zip codes, and more. Details can be found in Item 12 of the FDD.
Interested in ownership opportunities like Dairy Queen? Request a free consultation with a Franchise Advisor now.
Franchise 500 Ranking History
Compare where Dairy Queen landed on this year’s Franchise 500 Ranking versus previous years.
Curious to know where Dairy Queen ranked on other franchise lists? Find out below.
Are you eager to see what else is out there? Browse franchises that are similar to Dairy Queen.
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