After a successful entry into the state of New York with a unit in Long Island, Dairy Queen is set to open its Grill & Chill concept in Manhattan this spring. Located on West 14th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, this DQ Grill & Chill will also be the brand’s first two-story restaurant.
“It’s an iconic market,” says John Gainor, CEO of International Dairy Queen Corp. “We have not have not had a Dairy Queen presence in Manhattan, and like many things, the opportunity is the result of the timing of having the right concept and the right operator or franchisee.”
Gainor says the unit’s franchisee, who wishes to remain unnamed, has a thorough understanding of and rooted business interest in the Manhattan market, which was important to Dairy Queen’s corporate team. “It’s very important this store is owned by a franchisee who truly connects to the market and understands the customers,” Gainor says.
Real estate in New York City was initially a challenge for the Dairy Queen team, he adds. The brand relies on analytic models to identify Dairy Queen customers and the trade areas they would frequent, but even when the brand can identify a geographic region, space may not be available, especially in a bustling city environment like Manhattan, Gainor says.
“From a facility standpoint, I think we found an excellent opportunity, and we have a location that’s going to provide us with just over 100 seats,” he says of the two-story space the brand eventually found. Gainor says the extra seating on the mezzanine level will free up room on the first level for customers waiting in line, ultimately speeding up operations.
In addition to securing a knowledgeable operating team and the right location, Gainor says, the Grill & Chill concept’s expanded food menu will be a key to success in Manhattan. “Dairy Queen has such a long heritage, and the treat has that real appeal we know people will try us because of,” he says. “They’re also going to try us because our food menu has been developed strongly and competes very well in the [quick-serve] space.”
The Grill & Chill menu offers burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, salads, and sides alongside Dairy Queen’s iconic Blizzard Treats, shakes, and soft-serve ice cream. Gainor says the Orange Julius menu, Dairy Queen’s lineup of premium fruit smoothies, is also boosting the brand’s competitive edge. These menu expansions were part of the reason Dairy Queen was able to enter more suburban and urban markets, he adds.
“We started as a soft-serve treat business and many of our stores started in small-town areas outside of suburban areas. As we developed a strong food menu, we started coming into suburban markets,” Gainor says. “Now, our openings over the last five years have been so strong that we have a lot of confidence the menu will connect with the community—we not only have the food for lunch for those in a hurry, we have the treats for afternoon and evening and weekend occasions.”
Gainor says Dairy Queen has a market plan in place for Manhattan and will add more stores in New York City in the coming years.
By Tamara Omazic