International Dairy Queen Inc. has opened its 500th Dairy Queen restaurant in China, and plans to maintain its accelerated growth in that country in 2012 by adding more than 100 new locations this year.
Since the first Dairy Queen opened in Beijing in 1991, China has been the frozen-treat chain’s largest international market. The 500th location, which opened in the Hu Dong financial district in Shanghai, is one of more than 350 Dairy Queen units operated by franchisee Shanghai Shida Catering Management Company.
“With the world’s fastest-growing major economy, China continues to be a tremendous expansion market for the Dairy Queen system, and we attribute that in large part to strong alliances with our development partners here, including Shanghai Shida Catering,” John Gainor, International Dairy Queen’s president and chief executive, said in a statement at the opening in Shanghai. “Today, more than ever, people everywhere are looking for value, but they still want to treat themselves … and we look forward to continued expansion.”
China was Dairy Queen’s largest growth market in 2011, the company said. One-hundred thirty-one of the 271 total Dairy Queen units added during the year were in China.
The country also has been a major expansion driver and international proving ground for the world’s largest quick-service companies. Louisville, Ky.-based Yum! Brands Inc., for instance, derives its largest share of its annual operating profit from its China division, whose same-store sales grew 19 percent for fiscal 2011.
Yum has more than 3,700 KFC locations in China, as well as more than 750 Pizza Hut units there, in addition to smaller systems for its Chinese quick-service concept East Dawning and the recently acquired Little Sheep casual-dining chain. The company plans to open more than 600 units in China in 2012.
Likewise, Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s Corp. opened 200 restaurants in China in 2011, and plans to build about 250 restaurants there this year. China also is expected to get a large portion of the 450 remodels planned for the company’s Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa division.
Dairy Queen also has made entries into other foreign markets this year. In June 2011, the chain opened three locations in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, including its largest and only two-story DQ Grill & Chill location. Other strong international markets for Dairy Queen include Mexico, the Philippines and Thailand.
Minneapolis-based International Dairy Queen operates or franchises more than 5,900 locations in the United States, Canada and 18 other foreign markets. The company is a holding of Berkshire Hathaway, the Omaha, Neb.-based investment company run by investor Warren Buffett.