By Alex Whitten
Think Dairy Queen and thick, creamy ice cream comes to mind.
But the brand has served much more than the sweet treats, and recently, it has evolved a new concept that offers what it calls “fan food.”
Dairy Queen’s DQ Grill & Chill will open a new location in Gilbert by November.
Last year, it opened two new locations in Chandler.
The expansion to Chandler and Gilbert is necessary to bring the franchise out of its mall locations, according to Greg Cowgur, executive vice president of DS Enterprises, the restaurant group that owns Dairy Queen.
Although the brand has seen strong growth over the years, the steady decline of mall traffic and popularity has driven it to find new locations.
“Malls just aren’t doing what they used to back in 2008,” Cowgur said. “I wanted to get out of the malls and be in a more traditional street location.”
Dairy Queen has two outlets in Gilbert serving food and treats and a few more serving treats only, including one in SanTan Village.
Cowgur said that Dairy Queen was underrepresented in the two municipalities. Additionally, he picked the new locations due to the area’s steady growth in income levels and demographics, he said.
The DQ Grill & Chill restaurant changes the classic and nostalgic look of the typical Dairy Queens throughout the Valley to one that is more modern and current.
The concept blends its heritage with innovation for quick service and food design.
The new design features open air grills, separate areas to “grill” and “chill” and outdoor patios. The more inviting interior sports comfortable booths, large wooden tables and warm lighting.
As the brand continues to grow nationally from year to year, around 3-7 percent, Dairy Queen and its innovation has become an example for its competitors, and plans to stay in the competition, according to Cowgur.
As for how customers will react to the new restaurant, Cowgur said he expects them to be surprised by the quality of the food and the friendliness of the staff.
“Especially here in the Valley, a lot of people don’t know what Dairy Queen is or that it even has food, but it has, for like 50 years,” Cowgur said.
Gilbert is not expected to be the brand’s newest location for too long.
Cowgur is looking to continue expanding across the Valley.
“Wherever the opportunities are, opening up one a year is ideal,” he said.