The DQ® Story

A History of Sweet Success

While many things have changed for us over the years, one thing remains constant: we have always been and continue to be a place for celebrations, much-needed breaks, and family time with delicious food and treats. The secret to our success is just as simple now as it was when we first opened in 1940. Happy customers make successful restaurants. Dairy Queen® locations follow much more than a fast-food routine – we create meaningful, memorable moments for our fans and quality experiences for our franchisees.

Discover the history of Dairy Queen®, from its humble beginnings with Grandpa and Alex McCullough's creation of soft-serve ice cream; from the iconic Blizzard™ Treat to the evolution of our food system with the DQ Grill & Chill® concept. For over 80 years, Dairy Queen® has been a trailblazer in the quick-service restaurant industry.  

Though our brand has had many contributors over the years, the late John Mooty, former Chairman of the Board at International Dairy Queen, Inc. (IDQ) for 20 years, once reminded us that it is our responsibility as caretakers of the Brand to ensure that we leave the DQ® brand in a better place for the next generation. 

Few brands achieve iconic status, but DQ® is one of them. As caretakers of this brand for over 80 years, we are proud to see it continue to grow and prosper around the world. Join us today as we grow and share our celebrated brand across all generations! 

A Smile and A Story®

Few brands achieve iconic status, but DQ® is one of them.  As caretakers of this brand for over 80 years, we feel proud to see it continue to grow and prosper around the world.

  • 1927
    The Homemade Ice Cream Company is established and run by the McCullough family in Green River, Illinois.
  • 1938
    The McCulloughs develop the soft-serve concept and the name Dairy Queen® is introduced. The product is first served at an "All You Can Eat" sale in Kanakee, Illinois.
  • 1939
    Harry Oltz advertises his invention of a frozen custard dispenser. The McCulloughs and Oltz sign an agreement that launches the Dairy Queen® industry.
  • 1940
    The first Dairy Queen® store opens in Joliet, Illinois. Menu items were limited to soft serve cones, pints, quarts, and sundaes.
  • 1943
    Harry Axene introduces franchising territories and selling Dairy Queen® licensing rights for royalties. He had the vision of putting together a national franchising system.
  • 1948
    The first meeting of Dairy Queen® National Trade Association happens in Davenport, IL. The group developed standardized cones, paper, plastic goods, food products, and advertising.
  • 1955
    The number of Dairy Queen® locations grew from 100 in 1947 to 2,600 by 1955.
  • 1953
    The first international Dairy Queen® location opens in Winnipeg, Western Canada.
  • 1956
    The Dilly Bar® debuts among other new products like the banana split, the Maltie, flavored sundaes, and DQ® sandwiches.
  • 1961
    As popularity of charcoal broiling grows, the Brazier® program is introduced at a Georgia location. The menu includes burgers, hot dogs, and French fries. In Georgia, sales were 70% Brazier® and 30% soft serve.
  • 1962
    International Dairy Queen, Inc. (IDQ) is established, becoming a leadership entity for developing effective advertising, branding, merchandising, and expansion of Dairy Queen® foreign presence.
  • 1970
    Dairy Queen® products continue to develop. The system becomes one of the largest fast-food chains in the United States with gross sales reaching approximately $450 million.
  • 1976
    Seventy-five Dairy Queen® stores operate outside of the United States and Canada. By the end of the decade, the Dairy Queen®  system had 154 stores outside of the United States and Canada.
  • 1977
    Public trading of company stock begins for the first time and corporate stock increases dramatically. IDQ was quoted among the top fourteen hundred companies in the Nasdaq.
  • 1980
    Food sales continue to grow in popularity. Stores begin offering drive-thru window experiences. By 1981, 40 percent of the stores worldwide sold Brazier® food products.
  • 1984
    Dairy Queen® franchise operators around the country raise $30,000 for local children's hospitals.
  • 1985
    Blizzard® Flavor Treat is introduced to the menu and purchases were at 75 million treats during its first year on the menu.
  • 1992
    Dairy Queen® Value meals are introduced as food becomes a hot commodity for the DQ® system. Super Value Meals featured a Homestyle Burger and a variety of basket meals.
  • 1998
    International Dairy Queen, Inc. is acquired by Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.
  • 2001
    The first DQ Grill & Chill® restaurant opens in Chattanooga, TN. With an evolved menu and branding, the Grill & Chill® concept continues to be the strongest investment in DQ® history.
  • 2006

    First Miracle Treat Day in Canada and the U.S. with donations going to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals®.

  • 2010

    Mini Blizzard® Treats are introduced to the Dairy Queen® menu, adding more ways to enjoy a DQ® classic treat.

  • 2015

    The DQ® system celebrated 75 years of Fans, Franchisees, and Fun!

  • 2018
    DQ® mobile app launches. It's never been easier for fans to order their favorites and be rewarded for their loyalty.
  • 2019
    First DQ Grill & Chill® restaurant with the Next Gen design opens.
  • 2020

    The Non-Dairy Dilly® Bar debuts as a gluten free, dairy-free, and plant-based, vanilla coconut cream frozen dessert option.

  • 2022
    DQ Grill & Chill® launches delicious new Signature Stackburgers™.
Our Owners Have a Lot to Say Reviews & Testimonials
  • There is no better feeling than flipping a Blizzard® treat for someone who is reliving a childhood memory or serving the...

    - Blake, Arkansas Dairy Queen® Franchisee