20 Things You Didn't Know About Dairy Queen

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Whether you're craving a plain vanilla cone or an elaborate banana split, your local Dairy Queen has been the go-to spot for summertime soft-serve since 1940.

1. THE FIRST DQ WAS LOCATED IN JOLIET, ILLINOIS.

black and white photo of a young well-dressed girl eating an ice cream cone
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To promote the new soft-serve store, founder Sherb Noble suggested an "all you can eat for 10 cents" sale. The promotion was so popular, Noble worried that the stampede of customers would break the glass windows of the store front.

2. A "BRAZIER" DAIRY QUEEN IS ONE THAT SERVES HOT FOOD IN ADDITION TO ICE CREAM.

image of hamburger patties on a grill
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A "brazier," by the way, is another word for a charcoal grill.

3. THERE'S A RHYME AND REASON TO THE COMPANY'S NAME.

image of the parking lot of a Dairy Queen restaurant
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The original store was deemed Dairy Queen because Jack "Grandpa" McCullough, the "driving force" behind DQ's soft serve, said his creation was a queen among dairy products.

4. DAIRY QUEEN'S SOFT SERVE RECIPE IS A HIGHLY GUARDED TRADE SECRET.

image of file folders with a lock over them
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And just like KFC and Coke, they'll never reveal the ingredients. "[The formula] is kept in a safe deposit box and there are only a few keys to it," DQ's chief branding officer, Michael Keller, has said.

5. NO DOUBT FORMED AT A DAIRY QUEEN IN 1986.

image of No Doubt band members at a Super Bowl performance
Donald Miralle, Getty Images

Gwen Stefani and her brother Eric worked with other founding member John Spence at an Anaheim store, where they discussed forming a band. Other celebrity DQ employees include former Attorney General John Ashcroft, actress Bonnie Hunt, and singer Martina McBride.

6. THOUGH DAIRY QUEEN HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE 1940, IT DIDN'T INTRODUCE ITS TRADEMARK BLIZZARDS UNTIL 1985.

the one image of a Dairy Queen blizzard available on stock photo websites
Andrew Burton, Getty Images

They sold more than 175 million Blizzards in the very first year.

7. MANY FRANCHISES TURN BLIZZARDS UPSIDE DOWN IN FRONT OF CUSTOMERS BEFORE SERVING.

image of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates holding DQ blizzards upside down
Frederic J. Brown, Getty Images

It's proof of how thick and delicious their soft-serve is—but it's also a total marketing gimmick. Some stores offer the treat for free if the employee fails to perform the trick.

You can credit a teenage boy in Missouri for inspiring the practice. In the 1950s, Ted Drewes Jr. ran a frozen custard stand located in St. Louis, where he sold concretes—frozen custard mixed with bits of fruit. In 1959, 14-year-old Steve Gamber made a habit of visiting Drewes's stand nearly every day and asking for a chocolate malt. Every time Drewes handed it to him, Gamber would ask for him to make it thicker.

Eventually, Gamber said, Drewes got fed up and started turning it upside down "just to shut me up." But the tradition lasted, and Drewes began turning every customer's concrete upside down before serving it. In the 1970s, Dairy Queen franchisee Sam Temperato, who owned several DQ restaurants in St. Louis, took notice of both Drewes's concretes and cheeky presentation and went to Dairy Queen executives with the proposal for the first Blizzard. (Ted Drewes, meanwhile, is still a St. Louis institution.)

8. THE GREEN TEA BLIZZARD IS THE #1 SELLER IN CHINA.

image of green tea matcha powder crushed on a table
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In the U.S., the most popular Blizzard is Oreo.

9. WARREN BUFFETT LOVES DAIRY QUEEN.

image of Warren Buffett gesturing toward an audience
Paul Morigi, Getty Images

Of course, he owns it—at least, Berkshire Hathaway does—but he really supports the product. Once, while dining at the Four Seasons in New York City, he asked staff to pick him up some DQ ice cream for dessert. Unfortunately, the city didn't have a DQ location at the time, so he had to settle for some cookies.

10. DQ SOLD A FROZEN YOGURT OPTION IN THE '90S, BUT IT DIDN'T CATCH ON.

image of a bowl of frozen yogurt and fruit
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You may remember the Breeze, a lower-calorie Blizzard alternative that was made with frozen yogurt. It was around for about a decade before the company pulled it from the menu, saying demand was so low that the frozen yogurt would often go bad before it could be used.

11. DALLAS MAVERICKS OWNER MARK CUBAN ANGERED DAIRY QUEEN EMPLOYEES ACROSS THE NATION IN 2002.

image of Mark Cuban at a DQ restaurant holding an ice cream cone and wearing a nametag that says "Tony"
Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

Cuban suggested that Ed Rush, the NBA's head of officiating, wasn't even capable of managing a Dairy Queen. In response, the company invited the billionaire to give it a shot himself—and he accepted their offer. Wearing a "Tony" nametag, Cuban spent two hours serving customers at a Dairy Queen in Coppell, Texas, in 2002. He had trouble perfecting the trademark "Q" swirl at the top of soft-serve cones.

12. TECHNICALLY, WHEN YOU ORDER A CONE OR CUP AT DAIRY QUEEN, YOU'RE NOT GETTING ICE CREAM.

image of a soft serve ice cream cone
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According to the company, "Our soft-serve does not qualify to be called ice cream. To be categorized as ice cream, the minimum butterfat content must be 10 percent, and our soft-serve has only 5 percent butterfat."

13. THE DILLY BAR WAS INVENTED IN 1955.

The soft-serve round coated in chocolate and finished with that signature Dairy Queen swirl was introduced to the franchise by Robert Litherland, the co-owner of a store in Moorhead, Minnesota. Employees of an ice cream distributor in Minneapolis showed up at Litherland's door to demonstrate the technique, and finished by holding up the completed bar and saying, "Now, isn't that a dilly!" The name stuck, though Litherland had one regret: "We weren't smart enough to copyright that name." Too bad; it's been getting plenty of use elsewhere lately.

14. THE "MOOLATTE" ICE CREAM TREAT GENERATED SOME CONTROVERSY.

image of a frappucino sitting on a table
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When DQ rolled out the MooLatte frozen coffee drink in 2004, more than a few eyebrows were raised at the made-up word's similarity to the slur "mulatto." But the controversy wasn't enough to squash the product; it's still around today.

15. DENNIS THE MENACE WAS THE COMPANY SPOKESTOON UNTIL 2002.

When the copyright license expired, Dairy Queen chose not to renew it. It's been speculated that company execs felt Dennis was no longer a character kids related to.

16. THERE WAS ONCE A "LITTLE MISS DAIRY QUEEN."

Clad in a Dutch-style cap, dress, and shoes, Little Miss Dairy Queen was featured as a 5-foot weather vane in a select few locations. Most are gone now, but see if you can spot one on your next road trip.

17. THE WORLD'S LARGEST BLIZZARD WEIGHED 8260.85 POUNDS.

image of soft serve ice cream with Snickers bars mixed inside
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It was made in 2005 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Guinness doesn't specify the flavor, but if we had to guess, we'd say it was Oreo.

18. DAIRY QUEEN ALSO HOLDS THE RECORD FOR THE WORLD'S LARGEST ICE CREAM CAKE.

image of a slice of ice cream cake
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Made of sponge cake and vanilla ice cream, the dessert was constructed in Toronto in 2011. It weighed more than 10 tons and was topped with a ridiculous amount of crushed Oreo cookies.

19. SAUDI ARABIA REALLY LOVES DAIRY QUEEN.

image of the exterior of a DQ restuarant
Win McNamee, Getty Images

It must, anyway—otherwise, Berkshire Hathaway wouldn't have opened the world's largest Dairy Queen in Riyadh. The two-level restaurant is 7500 square feet and can seat 240 customers.

20. THE BLIZZARDMOBILE WAS A THING.

image of an ice cream truck
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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Blizzard in 2010, DQ took a cue from Oscar Mayer and rolled out the Blizzardmobile, a large truck that stopped at 25 cities in the U.S. and Canada. The truck distributed free mini Blizzards and conducted various games for coupons and prizes.

A version of this list first ran in 2016.

14 Freshly-Brewed Facts About Starbucks

Starbucks
Starbucks

When Howard Schultz visited Milan, Italy in 1983 and realized the city was home to more than 1500 coffee bars, a light bulb went off in his head. Four years later, the ambitious Schultz acquired Starbucks—which had previously only sold ground coffee in bags, with no single servings—and proceeded to turn it from a six-store Seattle operation into a global phenomenon. Unlock the secrets of your home away from home with these 14 frothy facts.

1. Starbucks has a ban on smells.

Because aroma is so crucial to the Starbucks experience, Schultz—the company's longtime CEO who retired in 2018 and is now its Chairman Emeritus—laid down the law early on: Nothing can interfere with the smell of their freshly-ground coffee. The stores banned smoking in the late 1980s, years before the practice was commonplace; employees are alsao asked not to wear perfume or cologne [PDF].

2. The Starbucks mermaid used to show nipple.


Jim Forest, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND-2.0

The siren of the famous Starbucks logo is intended to represent the seductive power of coffee, with her hair tastefully covering any hint of immodesty. But when Starbucks was still a regional chain in 1970s Seattle, their logo was far more candid: The mermaid had fully-exposed breasts. Some customers commented on it, but it didn’t become scandalous until the company began making deliveries and had to put their signage on trucks. Reluctant to traffic in portable nudity, the logo was revised.

3. An immunologist cracked the Starbucks coffee code.

Infectious disease specialist Don Valencia was essentially just goofing off in 1990 when he developed a coffee bean extract that smelled and tasted just like the real thing. After neighbors couldn’t tell the difference between his sample and fresh coffee, he tried it out on a barista. Eventually, word got to Starbucks executives, who hired Valencia in 1993. Using his discovery to branch out into retail sales, Starbucks quickly became a top-seller of bottled coffee and super-premium ice cream—for a time, they even outsold pint-sized king Häagen-Dazs.

4. There have been Starbucks stores made out of old shipping containers.

A Starbucks store made out of a shipping container
Starbucks

In a monument to the company’s eco-friendly attitude, several stores built out of retired shipping containers have opened since 2011. Some use run-off drains to feed rainwater to nearby vegetation; others use local materials such as discarded wooden fencing to complete the job. The recycled storefronts are typically drive-thru only, but video cameras allow patrons to see a friendly barista's face. At 1000 square feet, they’re also smaller than a typical store—and Starbucks has every intention of using that tiny footprint to burrow its way into locations previously thought to be too small to lease.

5. Starbucks managers were forced to play with Mr. Potato Head.

Eager to ramp up efficiency in the face of stiffer competition in 2009, Starbucks dispatched executive Scott Heydon for some updated managerial training. To demonstrate how employees can cut down on idle time behind the counter, Heydon instructed managers to assemble a Mr. Potato Head toy and then put him back in his box in under 45 seconds. At least one supervisor was able to pick up the scattered pieces and re-assemble the spud in under 16 seconds.

6. The Starbucks CIA location is as secretive as you’d expect.

Man drinking coffee and using his laptop
hitmanphoto/iStock via Getty Images

Like most office buildings, the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia runs on caffeine. But it doesn’t run like a typical Starbucks: Baristas undergo background checks and aren't allowed to leave their posts without a CIA escort. Customer names cannot be called out or written on cups due to security concerns. Despite the precautions, it’s still a social atmosphere: According to The Washington Post, one key member of the team that assisted in locating Osama bin Laden was recruited there.

7. The Starbucks employee dress code is very specific.

When Schultz opened his line of Il Giornale espresso bars in 1985, he mandated employees wear the bow ties and crisp white shirts common in Italy. The current dress code [PDF] has relaxed on the Pee-Wee attire but still insists on a certain kind of conformity. Rings cannot have stones; brightly-colored purple or pink hair is not welcome; untucked shirts can’t expose your midsection when bending over; ear gauges should be less than 10mm. Think you're going to sport a face tattoo or septum ring? Mister, the only thing you’re brewing is trouble.

8. California has a Starbucks ski-thru.

Skiers in Squaw Valley, California looking for a caffeine fix don’t have to take off their equipment: the Starbucks at the Gold Coast Resort is open to visitors via a Ski-Thru. They also take orders from the aerial lift. What could be better?

9. Nonfat milk resulted in a Starbucks corporate standoff.

When Howard Behar came to Starbucks as an executive in 1989, he was dismayed to find that many customers had filled out comment cards voicing their desire for nonfat milk. But Schultz and his team had decided they didn’t like the taste and that nonfat wasn’t authentically Italian. Behar argued that customers should get whatever they wanted. Store managers protested, but when Schultz personally witnessed a customer walk out over the lack of options, he relented. Today, it's estimated that half of the company’s cappuccinos and lattes are frothed without fat.

10. You can get a Butterbeer frappucCino at Starbucks (if you know the right way to ask).


RosieTulips, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND-2.0

The preferred thirst-quencher for Harry Potter fans, Butterbeer isn’t really available outside of the books or the Universal Studios attraction—but you can get a pretty good approximation by requesting a Frappucino with caramel syrup, caramel drizzle, and toffee nut syrup.

11. The round tables at Starbucks may help you feel less lonely.

Feeling self-conscious about sitting in a Starbucks by yourself? Don’t be: the round tables are there to help. The company believes that circular dining areas can make a space feel less empty when compared to the stern edges of a rectangular or square table. They don’t want you to feel alone. So, so alone.

12. The Disney Starbucks has magic chalkboards.

When Starbucks opened at Downtown Disney in Orlando, Florida, some of the company’s trademark features were tweaked to fit their magical affiliation. The chalkboard was re-imagined as a 70-inch touch screen that can render illustrations in real time. Customers can also “draw” on the screen using their fingers, take selfies, and see what visitors in Disney’s Anaheim Starbucks are up to.

13. Some Starbucks stores have the technology for the greatest cup of coffee possible.

Starbucks cares a great deal about serving an excellent cup of coffee. Employees never let brewed pots sit for more than 30 minutes, and stores use no artificially-flavored grounds. The next giant leap in bean prep might be the Clover, a proprietary machine engineered by Stanford that costs $13,000 to install and uses a vacuum and elevator system to shoot coffee grounds upward with precision water temperatures the result is said to be a peerless experience. If you’re lucky enough to be near a store that has one, expect to pay up to $5 a cup.

14. Customers think Starbucks gives away newspapers. It doesn't. Now it doesn't sell them, either.

For years, many Starbucks locations provided newspapers like The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to customers. That practice stopped in September 2019. Why? People believed the papers were provided as a gratuity and left them in a pile or walked out with a paper without paying.

Additional Sources: Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup At a Time.

10 Frank Facts About the Wienermobile

Business Wire
Business Wire

This year marks the 83rd anniversary of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, that effortlessly charming, street-legal marketing tool on wheels. The next time you’re in the vicinity of one—a fleet of six makes up to 1400 stops annually—take the time to reflect on the past, present, and future of history’s most famous locomoting hot dog.

1. The Wienermobile started as a kind of land sub. 


Oscar Mayer

In 1936, Carl Mayer, nephew of hot dog scion Oscar Mayer, suggested a marketing idea to his uncle: build a 13-foot-long mobile hot dog and cruise around the Chicago area handing out his “German wieners” to stunned pedestrians. Crafted from a metal chassis, the vehicle was operated by Carl, who could usually be seen with his torso sticking out from the cockpit.

2. The Wienermobile was once driven by "Little Oscar."

Throughout the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, Oscar Mayer enlisted various little people to portray “Little Oscar,” a company mascot sporting a chef’s hat. Little Oscar soon assumed piloting duties for the Wienermobile, waving to crowds and dispensing wiener whistles that kids could use to alert other children to the presence of the car in their neighborhood. Performer George Malchan portrayed the character from 1951 to 1987.

3. The Wienermobile disappeared for decades.

While novelty automobiles were all the rage circa World War II, Oscar Mayer saw interest wane in the 1960s and 1970s, as kitsch gave way to more contemporary advertising campaigns. But when the company put a Wiener back on the road for its 50th anniversary in 1986, they discovered a whole generation of consumers who were nostalgic for the car. The company ordered six new models in 1988.

4. Wienermobile drivers train at Hot Dog High.

Since resurrecting the marketing campaign, Oscar Mayer has trained aspiring Wienermobile drivers at Hot Dog High in Madison, Wisconsin. The company receives 1000 to 1500 applications for the 12 available positions annually, typically from college graduates looking for a road trip experience. Those selected for duty are given 40 hours of instruction and assigned a different region of the country. The company tracks their routes with a GPS.

5. Wienermobile passengers ride "shotbun."

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Wienermobile motorists—a.k.a. Hotdoggers—typically ride in pairs, with the driver keeping an eye on the road and the passenger acknowledging and waving to passersby who want to interact with the vehicle. This is known as riding “shotbun,” and the greetings are mandatory. Some occupants have reported that even after going off-duty, they’ll keep waving to other drivers out of habit.

6. The Wienermobile interior is just as delicious.

Wienermobile fans who are invited to board—and promise to fasten their “meat belts” before rolling—are treated to a rare peek inside the vehicle’s interior. Ketchup- and mustard-colored upholstery surround the six seats, with condiment "stains" dotting the floor; for parades, occupants can wave from the “bunroof.” Two accent hot dogs are parked on the dashboard.

7. The Wienermobile once crashed into a house.

Though it can be challenging to pilot an enormous hot dog, most Wienermobiles log mileage without incident. A rare exception: a 2009 accident near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when a driver attempted to back the vehicle out of a residential driveway, thought she was in reverse, but shot forward and bored into an unoccupied home.

8. Al Unser Jr. drove the Wienermobile for laps at the Indy 500.

While one might expect the Wienermobile to have the handling of a tube-shaped camper, some models were surprisingly nimble. Race car driver Al Unser Jr. took to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1988 and drove it for laps. The dog reached an impressive 110 miles per hour.

9. There's a version of the Wienermobile called a "Wienie-Bago."

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile WIENIE-BAGO
Oscar Mayer

Super Bowl attendees who couldn’t snag a hotel room in San Francisco for the 2016 showdown between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos had a pork-based solution: Oscar Mayer auctioned off two nights in their Wienie-Bago, an RV that sleeps four. Missed it? If you're in Chicago, you can rent a Wienermobile that sleeps two for $136 a night. A bed, outdoor dining area, and a fridge stocked with hot dogs are all included.

10. You can buy a miniature Wienermobile.

For the 2015 gift-giving season, Oscar Mayer issued a limited-edition, remote-controlled version of the Wienermobile. The 22.5-inch-long mini-dog sent collectors scrambling on Cyber Monday, when the company released just 20 for purchase at a time. The Rover is able to hold two hot dogs for transport across picnic tables. You can still find them on eBay.

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