The key to having a good dairy queen experience is to know your local dairy queen.
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In my town we have no less then 6 different dairy queens, and of those I wouldn't put my foot into two of them. Dairy Queen, like many fast food places, is part of a chain, but owned independently.
Independent ownership in a chain
What does independent ownership of a chain restaurant mean? It means that while the menus will be similar for all stores, the quality may very widely. Diary Queen is a prime example.
Staffing and management issues
Letís face it, 7 out of 10 people working at dairy queen are under the age of 20. It takes a great manager, and owner to get workers in line, and keep quality high. The manager that turns a blind eye to that worker that never cleans the ice cream machine is going to sell an inferior, and possibly deadly product.
Dairy Queen comes in several different styles, depending on the area you live in, and the local managers. I personally have seen three types.
1. Classic- Dairy Queen / brazier- This is the store that most people equate with dairy queen, almost all of the classic dairy queen's have the same layout. (open all year in most locations)
2. Old style drive up/walk up - 7 out of 10 of these you don't want to ever go to. Most older style dairy queens will only open in the summer. No fried foods at most locations. (fries, mushrooms, etc)
3. Antique - These are a lot like the classic Dairy Queen, but have a large amount of older antiques as eye candy inside. (coke signs, ancient gas pumps, and ancient neon signs) Generally the quality of antique dairy queens tends to be higher. The one in my area has a couple plaques on the wall for cleanest restaurant and such. The atmosphere of Antique Dairy Queens is usually the best of the three types.
Over the years many of the items at Dairy Queen have risen in price, however not all Dairy Queens have the same prices. Many of the best Dairy Queens have managerís specials that reduce the prices on certain days or even all the time. These deals usually are specific to one location.
In my travels, I have noticed that towns that have only one Dairy Queen, tend to have a lower quality product. Quality is usually even worse if they are also the only ice cream place in town. (There are of course exemptions to the rule). The reverse is also somewhat true as well, in towns that have more Dairy Queens you can usually find a good one easier.
What I like
I usually buy either a Chocolate Rock, or a dipped cone. Hot foods quality by location, but my favorite dairy queen offers a decent cheeseburger that's flame broiled. (par for Burger King, with a little better flavor) Blizzards are good in most locations.
In closing, the key to having a good Dairy Queen experience is to shop around. While all locations have the bright little signs, they don't always have the same service, quality, and sanitation.