If you’ve ever been on a road trip across the United States, or even just gone for a drive around your neighborhood, you’ve likely seen a Dairy Queen or two. The fast food joint is known for its delicious frozen treats and classic food items like burgers, french fries, chicken strips, and more. It’s also beloved by people all over who run to the chain to satisfy their sweet tooth.
But there’s more to Dairy Queen than meets the eye, and that’s kind of an understatement. Sure, Dairy Queen might just seem like your typical fast food restaurant, but there’s a lot that makes the fan-favorite different from your typical burger joint. From their menu to their policies, and even some controversy they’ve faced, Dairy Queen isn’t like other restaurants. More, the untold truth of Dairy Queen is super interesting, and it proves just how far the chain has come since it first opened up.
Dairy Queen has been around for a while, and it started in this state
While these days most Dairy Queens feature a modern exterior and an updated menu, the franchise obviously has a long history that extends far beyond what you probably assumed. Sure, Dairy Queen has changed over the years, but to look back at when it first got started is still pretty fascinating. The company’s history also explains why so many people think of Dairy Queen as a totally classic fast food place.
According to the Dairy Queen website, the first Dairy Queen ever opened in 1940 in Joliet, Illinois. Clearly, Dairy Queen has been around for a while, and since it actually started in a small city in Illinois, it has all-American credentials. Being born in middle America makes Dairy Queen exactly the kind of place that people crave while on a road trip Stateside or when wanting some kind of comfort food.
This was the original DQ menu
As is the case with most fast food joints, Dairy Queen has seen quite a few changes over the years that it’s been operating. Obviously, considering the fact that the chain has been around for so long, it makes sense that things like the menu would be different now than back in the day. And that’s the truth.
Back when Dairy Queen first opened, the menu was a lot smaller and simpler than it would eventually become. In fact, milkshakes and malts weren’t put on the menu until 1949, nine whole years after Dairy Queen first opened its doors. According to Taste of Home, the original Dairy Queen menu looked a lot different than it does today. Sure, they originally served soft-serve cones, ice cream sundaes, and larger containers of ice cream, but the costs of their most popular items is what is truly staggering. Specifically, a soft-serve cone only cost five cents — just a nickel, and a fresh hot fudge sundae was just eight cents. While the delicious additions to the Dairy Queen menu are certainly welcome, those prices would be nice.
The famous DQ blizzard wasn’t always on the menu
While the Blizzard might be Dairy Queen’s most well-known product, it actually wasn’t on the menu for quite some time since it opened. In fact, it took about 45 years for the Blizzard to get on the menu, according to the Dairy Queen website. Specifically, the Blizzard hit stores in 1985, and restaurant goers were instantly taken with the soft-serve ice cream treat blended with chopped up candy bars or even cookies.
The Blizzard was so monumental that The New York Times covered it about a year after it launched. ”It’s certainly the biggest thing that has happened to Dairy Queen in the last 25 years,” Harris Cooper, International Dairy Queen’s president and chief executive, told the publication.
Americans were absolutely smitten with the Blizzard, with restaurant workers telling The Times that the machines were usually constantly running to meet the demands of their customers. Blizzards might be your go-to menu item when you head to a Dairy Queen these days, but it was years before the famous treat hit the menu.
But Blizzards aren’t even ice cream
When you think of the treats at Dairy Queen, you likely think of them as ice cream. After all, it’s frozen, creamy, and isn’t soft serve typically in the "ice cream" category anyway? Well, not always. As it turns out, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has specific requirements for something to be called "ice cream," and Dairy Queen’s soft serve and Blizzard treats don’t meet those requirements.
In fact, the Dairy Queen website actually states as much: "Technically, our soft serve does not qualify to be called ice cream. To be categorized as ice cream, the minimum butterfat content must be ten percent, and our soft serve has only five percent butterfat content," the website notes.
So, while you can call a Blizzard a delicious frozen treat, there’s a reason they won’t call it ice cream — because it’s made from their soft-serve, which isn’t technically ice cream. That said, it’s still pretty delicious.
Dairy Queen has faced rumors about its quality of meat
In addition to delicious frozen treats and snacks, Dairy Queen is also pretty well-known and popular for its food items. Ranging from burgers to chicken to salads, and onion rings and soft pretzels, Dairy Queen has plenty to choose from if you’re craving more than just a Dilly bar. But as far as those hamburgers are concerned, there’s been some concerns.
Someone had complained that there was "human meat" in the burgers that Dairy Queen was serving, according to The New York Post. But Dairy Queen maintains that couldn’t be further from the truth. Those rumors got started because of an FBI raid at a Greenwood, South Carolina Dairy Queen. But manager Saif Momin denied that. "If that was the case, they already would have shut me down," Momin said. "I just want to make sure people know it has nothing to do with my business. They were looking for people that don’t work there." And, the FBI was looking for someone participating in an unlicensed money-transfer business at that location. So no, when you order a Dairy Queen burger, there’s no chance you’re eating human meat.
Dairy Queen took over Orange Julius
If you’ve ever been to a Dairy Queen, you might have noticed that they sometimes have a special section of their menu that isn’t just soft serve or burgers or even ice cream cake. No, there’s an entire section on most Dairy Queen menus reserved entirely for a brand of beverage that you might not have even heard of. The Orange Julius isn’t as popular today as it was years ago, but you can still savor the sweet drink at most Dairy Queen locations as it turns out.
According to The Daily Meal, a traditional Orange Julius consists of orange juice, ice, sugar, egg whites, milk, and vanilla. The drink was very popular in the 1950s through the 1980s, and really took off when Dairy Queen bought the brand in 1988. In fact, many Dairy Queen locations also became Orange Julius locations after the buyout, and the two merged into one.
In addition to the traditional Orange Julius, Dairy Queen also offers smoothies and a strawberry banana orange Julius drink as well, all under the Orange Julius umbrella. So, if you’re ever craving a creamy, orange treat, you know where to go.
This is how important the DQ soft serve recipe is
While you might not care to know just how Dairy Queen makes its burgers or fries, anyone who has had the chain’s soft serve is probably interested in how they could replicate the concoction at home. But when it comes to Dairy Queen’s famous soft serve recipe, that’s kept top secret. In fact, the recipe is so important to Dairy Queen that executives wouldn’t even discuss it during an interview with ABC News.
Dairy Queen’s chief branding officer, Michael Keller, told ABC News it was impossible for anyone else to know the recipe to what makes that soft, creamy, ice-cold treat so delicious. "There’s no way I could tell you what’s in that formula….it is kept in a safe deposit box and there are only a few keys to it," Keller said.
Because the soft serve is so iconic, and is used in Dairy Queen’s other fan favorite, the Blizzard, it makes sense the company would want to keep the recipe under strict lock and key. If you weren’t aware of just how seriously Dairy Queen takes it’s soft serve, you are now.
Mark Cuban had a Dairy Queen controversy
You might be surprised to learn that someone like business mogul and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban has actually worked at a Dairy Queen before, and not just as a teenager or young adult trying to earn some extra cash.
As The Dallas Morning News reported, Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, landed himself in some hot water when he made a disparaging comment about Ed Rush, the director of NBA officials. "Ed Rush might have been a great ref, but I wouldn’t hire him to manage a Dairy Queen," Cuban said. The NBA then fined Cuban $500,000 for "repeated public criticism of NBA officiating," but that wasn’t where the story ended. In fact, Cuban flew to a Dallas area Dairy Queen to work there for a day.
Apparently, Cuban was a natural behind the counter as he took orders, served up treats, and even made some Blizzards for customers: "He caught right on," Cuban’s fellow Dairy Queen employee, Sharon West, told The Dallas Morning News. "He is a fast learner."
Clearly, Cuban learned his lesson and worked hard at Dairy Queen, lest you think the billionaire is above serving burgers and fries.
The band No Doubt formed at Dairy Queen
When you think of Dairy Queen you might not think of a pop-punk band from the 1990s, but as it turns out, the band No Doubt formed at a Dairy Queen.
Former No Doubt band member John Spence actually helped launch the band in a pretty fascinating location. According to Interview Magazine, while Spence, Gwen Stefani and her brother, Eric, were working at their local Dairy Queen in Orange, California, they decided to start a band. Specifically, while they were whipping up chocolate-dipped cones in 1986, they decided to get serious about music.
That’s pretty cool, and Stefani even revealed Dairy Queen was a pretty important job for her for another reason. In an interview with Marie Claire, Stefani revealed she made her first dollar "Working at Dairy Queen." With that, Stefani proved once and for all that celebrities really are just like us. Of course, not everyone forms a world-famous band at their first real job, but you get the point.
This is why Dairy Queen serves their blizzards upside down
If you’ve ever ordered a Blizzard from a Dairy Queen, odds are you’ve gotten it handed to you upside down. And there’s a reason for that. Dairy Queen itself claims that the Blizzard is different than your typical frozen dessert, saying, "We do things differently here. We defy gravity" (via Food & Wine). So, in order to prove to customers that their Blizzards really do defy gravity, and are so thick and creamy, most Dairy Queen workers will serve you your Blizzard upside down, or it’s free. The key word there being most.
According to the Diary Queen website, not every Dairy Queen will give you your Blizzard for free if it’s not served upside down. "The independent franchise owner of each restaurant decides whether the Blizzard Treats in their location will be served upside down, and if they participate in the ‘Upside Down or the Next One’s Free’ promotion," the website states. So, before you get too excited about this possibility and order a Blizzard while expecting a fancy upside down trick, make sure that location participates in the promotion. Otherwise, you’ll just be disappointed.