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     Dairy Queen

    Dairy Queen’s Sweet Deals value menu may be rolling out nationally just in time to fight the recession, but it’s hardly a knee-jerk reaction to economic pressure, according to officials. The chain began testing the offer in 2007, before the downturn hit, said Michael Keller, chief brand officer, who was worried even then about DQ’s value proposition.

    “I didn’t get it,” Keller said. “Guests liked our food, but why didn’t they visit us as often as they did some of our competitors? It was about barriers to repeat purchase, and one of those was value.”

    As officials at Dairy Queen and other chains have realized, protecting margins and cutting prices aren’t the only considerations when executing value menus or combo deals. In this economy, brand perception also plays a key role in the decision to unveil one or the other—and can prove a hurdle in the race to appeal to consumers’ sense of value.

    DQ’s response to the value question is Sweet Deals, which will become a permanent menu beginning March 1 at 2,323 restaurants in the United States and 400 in Canada. The tiered offering lets customers buy two items for $3, three for $4 and four for $5. The nine menu items include a cheeseburger, hot dog, chicken wrap, fries, onion rings, side salad and a medium beverage, as well as a small soft-serve sundae or cone.

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