The Untold Truth Of Braum's

Even if you're the biggest fast food fan in the world, it would be almost impossible to eat at every single fast food establishment in the United States. There are many, many different chains and, what's more, quite a few that are only regional. That all can make it pretty hard to keep track. 

Take Braum's, for instance. The fast food chain is mostly famous for its ice cream, but the truth is that they also serve a robust burger menu and even have a growing grocery store presence, among other things. And more than that, Braum's is a pretty special place that's simply not your typical burger joint. It sure isn't McDonald's, that's for certain.

A peek into the history, present, and future of Braum's will prove that the fast food chain is seriously interesting, even if this is the first time you're hearing of it. And if you've never been lucky enough to eat at one, you'll probably want to change that as soon as possible after learning about this unique place. Braum's might not be as well known as some other chains out there, but for those who have had its ice cream and other treats before, it's downright iconic. This is the untold truth of Braum's.

Braum's is a regional chain

If you've never even heard of Braum's before, don't stress too much about it. The fast food chain is really only prominent in parts of the American South and a couple of Midwestern states, so if you live in another part of the country, chances are pretty good that you just haven't seen one nearby. That's because the chain is only focused on serving up their delicious burgers and ice cream in a specific region, at least for now. That said, it's not as if they're doing poorly for themselves. Specifically, Braum's has almost 300 locations in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Basically, the chain is very regional, and if you don't currently reside in one of those five states, then you may have a hard time getting your hand on some without undertaking a bit of a road trip. That said, if you're not from those areas but ever find yourself traveling around there, definitely make it a point to try and find your nearest Braum's so you can give it a try.

It started as a family farm

Obviously, Braum's isn't as big of a chain as, say, Burger King or Wendy's. But that's arguably part of what makes it so special. Consider the fact that you're not going to find a Braum's around every street corner, but when you do head to a location, you'll surely notice that the quality of the treats being served there is a lot higher than what can be found at most fast food chains. Wonder why? Well, part of it is the fact that Braum's started out as a family farm with some pretty close attention to detail and very accessible ingredients. Serving fresh and high-quality food is a tradition they've carried through to all their locations.

The story of Braum's actually began in 1933, when Henry H. Braum opened a small butter processing plant in Emporia, Kansas. Then, in 1940, Braum started to process ice cream in his plant. Things were going so well that, by 1952, Henry and his son, Bill, sold their wholesale side of the business. They then bought a closed-down Kraft Cheese Factory and began processing milk and ice cream there, clearly still holding true to their roots and experience in the dairy industry. It was there that the pair created their first chain of ice cream stores in Kansas that they named "Peter Pan Ice Cream," inspired by a park in their hometown.

This is when the first Braum's opened

After Henry H. Braum and his son, Bill, found success in the ice cream business, it makes sense that they would expand even further. And that's exactly what they did. In 1961, according to Braum's, Bill bought the company from his dad and eventually ended up selling the Peter Pan brand of ice cream as well. Because of this sale and of a particular condition that allowed the family to keep their dairy herd but not compete with the new owner, the Braum family couldn't sell any ice cream in the state of Kansas for a decade.

That's why, in 1968, Bill Braum and his wife Mary opened the first-ever Braum's Ice Cream and Dairy Store in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. From there, Braum's expanded to include over 20 locations all across Oklahoma, though they were still shipping in dairy products from the herd and processing plant still owned by the Braum family. That changed three years later when the cows (which at the time made up the largest dairy herd in Kansas) were transported across state lines to Oklahoma.

Braum's has strict rules for expansion

You might be wondering why Braum's hasn't expanded to more locations if they really are as successful as we're saying. But as it turns out, there's a very good reason for that, and it has nothing to do with Braum's ability to expand or the quality of its food. On the contrary, Braum's often chooses not to open new stores beyond a certain radius in order to keep things fresh and authentic.

Specifically, Braum's says that it tries to keep its stores within a 300-mile radius of their processing plant in Tuttle, Oklahoma. That's because Braum's wants the food and dairy they ship out to their various locations to be as fresh as possible. Expanding beyond that 300-mile radius could potentially compromise the quality of their ingredients as they endure a long ride in a refrigerated truck, at least to the minds of Braum's and its higher-ups. However, that's not a hard and fast rule. In 2020, KCBD reported that Braum's opened several locations in Lubbock, Texas — which is actually about 330 miles away from Tuttle, Oklahoma. 

Braum's still manages its own dairy herd

Not only is Braum's a family business, but when you eat there you're getting some seriously fresh dairy products. Specifically, Braum's claims to be the only big ice cream maker in the United States that actually milks their own cows, according to Southern Living. Not only that, but their cows are on a specialty diet that is reportedly free of any hormones or antibiotics, which are often added to the feed of other dairy herds to improve production and herd health. However, as some argue, it potentially comes at the cost of nutrition, though that's all relatively complicated and debatable, per the Journal of Advanced Veterinary and Animal Research

This push for ultra-fresh ingredients all makes sense when you consider that the history of Braum's goes way back and that the Braum family has seemingly always been interested in dairy farming. Eating at Braum's is pretty close to a farm-fresh experience. As many argue, once you try it once, you'll probably find that you agree with their 300-mile radius rule. There's nothing like fresh ice cream, and ice cream that's made from high-quality dairy cows and then carefully transported to all of Braum's 300 locations daily is even better.

You can get more than just ice cream at Braum's

You surely know by now that Braum's is pretty well-known for its dairy products, and especially its many different flavors of ice cream. But the chain actually offers a larger variety of menu items that go beyond frozen treats. In addition to its ice cream, Braum's also offers burgers and fries on their menu, both of which are seriously delicious.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the burger from Braum's is seriously satisfying and also accompanied by what sounds like some perfectly cooked crinkle-cut fries, with a distinct crunch on the outside and a lovely, pillowy interior. Oh, and of course the sesame seed bun for the burger was baked relatively close by. So, if you're ever in the mood for a classic burger and shake combination in addition to your ice cream cravings, Braum's is still clearly the place to go.

Braum's has faced some scandal

As successful and seemingly honest of a company as Braum's may be, it hasn't made it this far without its fair share of scandal and bad news. And in 2019, they made headlines for recalling a flavor of ice cream, and not just because people weren't into the taste. Indeed, it was for a potentially dangerous reason.

As Tulsa World reported, Braum's put out a voluntary recall for their Peanut Butter Pretzel ice cream, as it was potentially linked to a salmonella outbreak. Braum's had purchased peanuts from the Peanut Corporation of America, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had pinned as a contaminated source. 

While Braum's ice cream itself wasn't responsible for the salmonella, the company was nonetheless aware that there could be a problem. "We're trying to be as careful as we can," Terry Holden, a spokesman for Braum's Ice Cream and Dairy Stores told Tulsa World. So, though Braum's tries to do everything right and surely did so in this case with what must have been a somewhat painful recall, it's still faced some scandal and had to deal with some not-so-great press.

It's also a grocery store

Not only does Braum's give customers plenty to choose from in terms of fast food staples and ice cream treats, but it also has a small grocery store that's attached to most of its locations. Yes, believe it or not, Braum's isn't just a regional fast food chain, but also puts out its own line of groceries. And that includes some house-brand basics, too.

All told, Braum's Fresh Market offers more than you might expect from a venture that other chains have often treated as a bit of an afterthought if they think of it at all. They have dairy products on offer — that's a bit obvious, given their expansive dairy herd and dedicated milk production plant. The Fresh Market also sells meat and produce items, along with some bakery treats, too. Of course, it's smaller than your standard grocery store, so you might not have as many options as you would at your local Kroger or Whole Foods. Still, the selection remains pretty impressive, given that few, if any, fast food chains known primarily for their ice cream have ventured into the grocery side of things.

The biggest Braum's location is in Texas

In case you were wondering how big a Braum's Ice Cream & Dairy Store typically is, you don't need to ponder it anymore. For the most part, all Braums' locations are about the same size as your standard fast food restaurants: not too big and not too small, making them just the right size for moving people through the space relatively quickly. But, in 2020, Braum's decided to shake things up and open up its largest location to date.

Specifically, Braum's opened its largest storefront on June 9, 2020, in Wolfforth, Texas, just outside of the city of Lubbock. The comparatively humungous location boasts nearly 6,500 square feet of space. The creators were just as excited for it as the public was, too. "When we first starting envisioning this location, we wanted something that stood out and really allowed us to offer our new customers a beautiful store that provided an exceptional customer experience," Drew Braum, President and CEO of Braum's, said.

Braum's has made some interesting claims about its milk products

If there's one thing that Braum's does well, it's surely dairy production and distribution. The fast food chain is famous for its ice cream, and from milking its own cows to making its own dairy products, the chain is plenty busy. But it's not stopping there. Specifically, Braum's has decided to revolutionize the company's milk production so that more people could enjoy its fresh dairy products.

According to Braum's, the company released a new kind of milk that it deemed "A2 fresh milk." The milk, which features a specific type of milk casein protein, reportedly comes with added health benefits and might even be easier on some people's digestive systems. Braum's notes that its herd is genetically tested to ensure that cows are only producing A2 milk, meaning that all the dairy products from Braum's features the A2 casein protein and not the A1 protein that may hamper digestion in some consumers. It's possible that A2 milk is easier for people who are lactose-intolerant to digest, though the results can differ from person to person.

The founder lived a very long life

Braum's started out as a small-town dairy farm and family business founded by Bill Braum, who ran the company as long as he lived. Though he died in 2020 at the age of 92, per The Oklahoman, it's pretty clear that he lived a long and full life. And, of course, Braum's would never have existed without him.

According to Braum's, Bill Braum was a huge part of the success of the growing fast food staple, drawing upon his many years of expertise and penchant for innovation to make the company succeed. "Bill Braum's expertise and roots in the processing and marketing of dairy products made him a true innovator. Braum gave real meaning to the term 'vertical integration,' " the company said. Braum died at his home, close to the farm that he and his family had started many years ago and which grew into the still successful company that bears the family name.