Army vets to open RI's first Dairy Queen Grill and Chill
By the first day of 2018 the first Dairy Queen Grill and Chill in Rhode Island should be open for business near the intersection of Atwood and Phenix Avenues in Cranston. The new store will bring between 50 and 75 new jobs with it.
And as construction of the roughly $1.5 million project comes to a final close in the new location, next to the Atwood softball field where the police station used to be, franchisees Will Dailey and Damon Draught are excited to get the first RI Grill and Chill in Cranston, which will have a full-service restaurant as well as a drive-thru.
Neither of the franchisees hail from Rhode Island, but now the connection to the Ocean State is strong.
The pair first met while serving in the Army back in 2010. They served on active duty in Watertown, New York and were deployed together to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012. After the deployment, Draught decided to retire from the Army to the Watertown area, while Dailey continued to serve, bringing him to Newport in 2014.
Draught’s retirement is when the connection with Dairy Queen began. Utilizing the skills and financial capital he gained in the Army, Draught began franchising Dairy Queens out in Watertown and had success.
Draught kept in touch with Dailey throughout this venture and they met back up again in person last year when Draught’s son took a college tour of Brown University. Dailey told him that he planned on retiring soon (within a couple years) and Draught immediately brought up the possibility of a Dairy Queen in Rhode Island, since there were no Grill and Chills in the state and he thought it would be a great market for one, especially because Dailey had the clear intention to keep his family of three in Rhode Island.
“My wife and son and I love Rhode Island and decided that this is the place we’re going to stake our flag and make our home,” he said.
The plan was thus set into place officially in the summer of 2016, with Draught using his Dairy Queen Corporation connections to get the Minnesota based company out to Rhode Island to help Dailey select an ideal location.
During this initial process, Atwood Avenue in Cranston was selected because, according to Dailey, there aren’t many quick service restaurants nearby the selected location and it fit the commercial style of the area.
“Dairy Queen fits right into the neighborhood type community that we have here in Cranston,” he said.
Mike Mettler, Vice President of Franchise Sales and Development for International Dairy Queen, commended the work of Dailey and Draught in getting the first Grill and Chill into Rhode Island.
“When DQ opens a new location, it takes a combination of a good piece of real estate and a great franchisee,” he said. “In this case, we have both of these things.”
Dailey credited the City of Cranston for their help it has given during the process, saying that “the economic development folks, the fire marshal, everyone’s been great, very helpful.”
Despite the good experience the franchisees have had with the project thus far, there have been challenges for Dailey especially because this is the first time he’s franchised a restaurant before.
He said the biggest challenges included land acquisition, construction, and making sure all the right paperwork was done to make sure the project stayed right on track in conjunction with city rules.
Aiding Dailey to combat these challenges was the experience of his co-franchisee Draught, the hands-on guidance of DQ corporation, and, perhaps most importantly, his military background.
“The military background that we both have, having served over 20 years in the Army, has helped us to develop a timeline, know how to stay on task, and synchronize various efforts,” he said. “There’s lots of team-building involved.”
DQ’s VP praised their diligence on the project.
“They do what they say they’re going to do,” Mettler said. “They’re very organized, have a tremendous attention to detail and are very disciplined…They’re an example of a very good group to work with in terms of commitment to brand and community.”
The biggest challenge, Mettler said, are the especially expensive real estate prices in New England, with Rhode Island not being an exception. Although he wouldn’t disclose the specifics of how much the land costs, he did say that the cost to develop a Grill and Chill is around $1.5 million in addition to whatever they pay for the land.
That cost was clearly worth it for DQ and for Dailey and Draught, who needed to contribute an initial investment of $400,000, because they wanted to get the first Grill and Chill into Rhode Island. The economic impact on the area should be felt immediately as well, as an initial hiring process of 75 people is currently ongoing, although that number may be cut to 50 next year depending on the success of the store.
As for future plans in Rhode Island, both Mettler and Dailey are looking at potential real estate sites and have a clear plan to get more DQs in other parts of the state, although no concrete plans are set right now.
People looking to work at the new DQ can go to the 1 Reservoir Avenue building from Dec. 11 to 15 between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. for an open job call.
“We’re helping to revitalize the area,” Dailey said. “It’s a new building and it’s really going to be great for the area.”