Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen claims to be the world's favorite quick-service restaurant, dishing up frozen desserts since 1940. There's a good chance you've tried at least one of its signature treats, from the Buster Bar and Dilly Bar to the ice cream cake and Blizzard, to say nothing of the DQ Treatzza Pizza. ScrapeHero reports that there are more than 4,300 Dairy Queen locations worldwide today, and the chain has evolved to include a grill menu of burgers, chicken strips, and more, alongside its dairy (and now non-dairy) ice cream-centered offerings.

With revenue topping $220 million in 2021 (via CNBC), it's clear that consumers have a soft spot for soft serve — but what about the employees taking orders and whipping up these bites and treats day after day? Whether you're considering applying for a gig yourself or you're just curious about the behind-the-scenes action at your favorite fast dessert spot, you might benefit from our deep dive into the personal experience of real employees. In their own words, here's what actual workers reveal about what it's really like to work at Dairy Queen.

Work schedules can shift seasonally

While plenty of Dairy Queen locations are open year-round, most of us still associate the brand with its collection of frozen treats, making it a warm-weather haven for cooling off. For much of the country, that means these shops are far busier in the summer, when seasonal sales soar and more employees are needed. For students looking for summer jobs, that's great news — but it's considerably less helpful for employees hoping for steady hours throughout the year.

One former sales associate from Waterloo, Iowa felt the cold sting of winter when complaining that seasonal sales brought seasonal hours, but also praised the store for still offering some extra hours for those who needed them. Another employee, from Monett, Missouri, agreed that "hours were not very consistent, especially between seasons," but agreed that management remained flexible with scheduling even in the off-season. 

Not all seasonality is strictly weather-dependent, though. Some stores are located in popular vacation areas that just don't have enough of a population to maintain sales off-season, as one assistant manager in Byrdstown, Tennessee noted in an Indeed review that noted very seasonal work due to location.

It's a good first job

As with many seasonal positions, current and former employees of Dairy Queen say it's a great first job for those looking to gain some experience in the working world. One anonymous reviewer said working at Dairy Queen was a "great learning experience," with a "fast and easy" interview process and courteous coworkers. If that's not an ideal introduction to the workforce, we're not sure what is. 

It's not just first-time employees who agree that Dairy Queen is great for first-timers: An assistant manager leaving a five-star review on Glassdoor specifically noted that the chain offers good beginner jobs, particularly for younger people.

As another Glassdoor reviewer noted, Dairy Queen is a good place for first jobs, but the wages are low. Nonetheless, those who did choose Dairy Queen as their first employer seem to agree it was a great choice. As one anonymous reviewer on Niche detailed, Dairy Queen is among the best available options for first-time employment because it provides service skills, people skills, and even new friendships.

Dairy Queen is a good place to meet people

We also took a look at what current and former employees had to say about making new friends and forming bonds while on the clock at Dairy Queen. A general manager in Clayton, Georgia described the store as a family-friendly environment that was great for meeting people. Another manager from Beaumont, Texas left a series of complaints in their Indeed review of Dairy Queen, but did agree that meeting new people was the top benefit of working there.

While you might assume these employees are referencing their coworkers when applauding the new relationships they've formed by working at Dairy Queen, some have identified meeting new customers as the real perk. One Indeed reviewer from Bryan, Texas agreed that Dairy Queen offered a great experience for meeting new people, but went on to acknowledge good interactions with customers as part of that analysis. Whether it's coworkers, customers, or both, Dairy Queen's environment of friendliness does seem to benefit employees overall, and is nicely summed up by an anonymous Niche reviewer who appreciated the chance to build a social network and make new friends at Dairy Queen.

There aren't a lot of opportunities for advancement

If you're looking for more of a career than a job, Dairy Queen may not be the best place to submit your resume. While there are management positions available within the national chain, they're limited, and there doesn't appear to be much room for advancement. The general sentiment from current and former employees regarding the career ladder at Dairy Queen is frequently echoed across the country: There isn't much room to climb.

A line cook from Smyrna, Tennessee, who left an average three-star review on Indeed, found the job to be acceptable but complained of "not a lot of room for moving up" within the store. A server from Chicago, Illinois, apparently much happier with Dairy Queen and giving a five-star review, still agreed that the career forecast was bleak, using slightly stronger words to cite "no advancement opportunities available" at all. 

Despite the lack of opportunity to climb the corporate ladder, plenty of employees were still satisfied with what they'd signed up for. On Glassdoor, an employee from Elk Grove, Illinois, noted "no room for moving up," but also left a five-star review of the company. It seems pretty clear that there aren't a lot of career opportunities at Dairy Queen, but that doesn't mean it's a bad place to work. It all depends on your goals.

DQ is a good spot to witness tantrums

At almost any retail establishment, there's likely to be some potential for spectacular performances by unhappy customers. And if you've ever been "hangry" yourself, you may have a small tinge of sympathy for those melting down over receiving the wrong fast food order. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic says there's a biological link between stress and the craving for fatty foods, so there's a decent chance that those who've made their way to these less healthy establishments are already on the edge. (That's not to say this kind of behavior is reasonable or acceptable.)

Employees of Dairy Queen have witnessed such primal behavior themselves. On Comparably, one anonymous employee thought almost everything about the job was great, except the rude customers, and even seemed resigned to the fact that this would never change. Using stronger language, an employee from Wentzville, Montana described most customers as "bare with emotion." One Reddit user found Dairy Queen customers to be even more emotional than other food patrons, claiming that "dessert people are just extra and entitled," specifically calling out grown adults for getting emotional over ice cream and describing the displays as "tragically hilarious." In a follow-up comment, another Reddit user confirmed the extreme number of tantrums thrown by adults, but called it the personal highlight of the summer gig.

The coworkers tend to be supportive

When customers are the worst, it helps to have coworkers who are the best. At Dairy Queen, many former and current employees agree that their coworkers are, indeed, the best — which helps explain why many continue to work through customers' tantrums. In a five-star Dairy Queen review from a former cashier in Beaver, Utah, the satisfied employee said their coworkers were "awesome and so fun to be around." Another former cashier from Staten Island, New York said management was terrible, but that coworkers rallied together to get the job done, even without the support they should have had.

On Comparably, the aggregated reviews of Dairy Queen teams yield a mere D+ average, but the chain ranks second among all of its competitors (and now we're afraid to see what coworkers are like at these other establishments). Still, the majority of coworker-specific comments listed are positive, and include phrases like "friendly, reliable, team players," "like family," and "easy to work with," with 70% of reviewers saying they look forward to interacting with their team members. Overall, the consensus seems best summed up by Reddit user SynthExe, who said the pay was low and the customers were abysmal, but the great coworkers made the job worth keeping for more than a year.

Dairy Queen employees get a 50% discount

Even within the same company, individual benefits can vary by location, and there do appear to be some discrepancies among perks at Dairy Queen. A grill cook in Terre Haute, Indiana claims to receive a free food item during every shift, but most other reviewers tend to disagree, specifically citing "no free lunch." Deeper dives appear to reveal what one cook from Spencer, Massachusetts observed: There's "free food if you work in the kitchen." Whether that's the policy or just situational is unclear, but it does seem that those in the back of the house are chowing down on the company dime more than those in the front.

What does appear to be universal is that Dairy Queen offers a 50% food discount to employees. One staff member from Evansville, Indiana noted a 50% discount on all food and ice cream, though a shift leader from Augusta, Georgia specifies that the discount applies to employees on break. However, a shift leader in Springfield, Illinois states that the discount applies to employees off the clock. There's surely an official policy somewhere within the corporate handbook, but employee reviews reveal that it's not followed to the letter nationwide. Lest you think you'll take a job and be able to swipe snacks and shakes, Reddit user Spectre­_04 says "stealing is sorta difficult," and goes on to describe a manager who got fired for walking out with a few extra blizzards after a shift.

Frequent no-shows make the job harder

We've already learned that coworkers at Dairy Queen are a true highlight of most gigs, but coworkers can generally only be fun and helpful when they're present. Unfortunately for Dairy Queen stores, employees claim that their coworkers are often absent, and that can make a shift considerably less bearable, or even literally impossible. More on that to come.

A former employee from Bothell, Washington said team members were generally friendly, but almost never on time, which can certainly make shift changes difficult to manage. The review goes on to note that some coworkers didn't show up at all, particularly on busy days. That sentiment was echoed by a Topeka, Kansas employee who blamed management for not being able to get employees into the store for their shifts, to the point that management would be forced to close the store early due to lack of staff. While this store appears to suffer a more extreme case of staffing issues than most, that's certainly a serious hardship for the employees who do show up.

There are a lot of products to learn

The Dairy Queen menu is not small, and signature products like the Blizzard come with a multitude of options. If you're a Dairy Queen employee in the kitchen or on ice cream duty, you'll need to be comfortable learning a lot of items and executing them rapidly (this is fast food, after all). For some, that may be an issue, even in an otherwise enjoyable job — like the five-star Glassdoor reviewer who appeared to enjoy working at Dairy Queen, but wasn't a fan of the large variation in menu items.

Blizzards, in particular, seem to be among the more challenging menu items to learn. A former employee from San Antonio, Texas complained that the range of Blizzards contained a lot of ingredients to memorize, and the addition of seasonal options made matters more complicated. This reviewer also noted that different items are packaged in different ways, and are even handed out to customers with specific maneuvers, all adding to the long list of details a Dairy Queen employee must master. Still, while admitting that memorizing the menu may be daunting for new hires, an employee from Garden Grove, California says team members tend to be happy to help new employees through the learning process. And some people just seem to enjoy the challenge in general, like the anonymous Comparably reviewer who preferred making the products over interacting with customers.

It's a popular job for teenagers

Based on many of the details we've learned so far, it shouldn't be too shocking to learn that Dairy Queen is a popular place of employment for teenagers. We've heard that it's a great first job, it's most popular in the summer, the pay is low, and there's a discount on fast food and ice cream — it almost sounds like it was made for teens. And both former and current employees of the ice cream and grill chain concur.

While words like "old" and "young" are reasonably relative, a former manager from Florence, Oregon left a five-star Indeed review of Dairy Queen, specifically citing "working with the young people" as "one of the best job experiences of my life." A younger demographic isn't everyone's cup of tea, though. One former crew member from Bend, Oregon advised that new employees would quite possibly report to shift leaders who are younger than they are, since Dairy Queen is so popular with teenagers who quickly build seniority. 

If you really want to know who's working in a store, the best person to ask is probably the store manager. One such head honcho told Glassdoor that a setback of the job is constantly training new teenagers every season.

There are a lot of late nights

As many people prefer for their desserts to come after their meals, Dairy Queen tends to be more popular in the evenings, and that means employees will often find their shifts scheduled late into the night. While this may be annoying to some, it's particularly problematic for student employees. One college student and former employee of a Richmond Hill, Georgia Dairy Queen found it to be a decent college job, but struggled with the late night hours. A former shift leader in Dyer, Indiana agreed that the store's late closing hours made it difficult to juggle the job and schoolwork simultaneously.

If you know your schedule ahead of time, you may be able to balance late hours with other commitments, but some Dairy Queen employees say they were forced to stay late unexpectedly. A former cook and student in St. Louis, Missouri was allegedly forced to stay late so others could catch buses, and a former cashier from Reno, Nevada said managers didn't respect stated availability and forced employees to work on days when they had other obligations. Let's keep in mind, too, that you don't need to be a student to struggle with late hours. And a former employee from Billings, Montana griped that the regular late-night shifts made it challenging to have any kind of personal life.

It can get pretty messy

Working in a restaurant, you may expect to get a stain on your shirt now and then as you handle food for hours on end, but Dairy Queen employees say they are pretty much guaranteed to get messy by the end of their shift. One cashier and cook in Bloomington, Indiana said the job was "very messy," but they expected that from a fast food job; most other reviewers found the mess to be extraordinary.

In a very general comment, an Omaha, Nebraska employee says you will get messy often at Dairy Queen, and that helped lead to a two-star review on Indeed. More specifically, an anonymous Glassdoor reviewer claimed to be covered in syrup and spray after each shift, and a shift manager in Columbus, Ohio described being covered in soft-serve after working, also noting that the job required constant cleaning. Whether it's ice cream, syrups, or another substance, it seems clear that something is bound to get on your person during a shift at Dairy Queen — so this might not be the job for you if you're persnickety about cleanliness.

Making Blizzards isn't for everyone

Ah, the Blizzard, one of Dairy Queen's most recognizable offerings. We've already learned that they can be difficult for some employees to master. The process itself is rather straightforward, as detailed in this surprisingly popular YouTube tutorial, but the variety of ingredients can be challenging for some. According to employee reports, Blizzard-making is a polarizing task at Dairy Queen — you either love it or hate it.

Some detest making Blizzards. Ellen Cowgur Smith, who said on Quora that at least one flavor of Blizzard is "extremely irritating" to make, and a former employee from Walton, Kentucky complained that some Blizzard machines were too loud. Still, others really love this chore, like the Thorntown, Indiana employee who, despite leaving a lowly two-star review, thought making Blizzards was "a lot of fun." Going a step further, a former shift manager from Terre Haute, Indiana said that being a Blizzard tech was "awesome." But among those who got a thrill out of whipping up the thick, candy-filled shakes, none seemed to enjoy the task more than the Dallas, Georgia employee who loved being the first to try new Blizzard flavors and inventing fun new concoctions of their own.