Around the Water Cooler With Dairy Queen’s CEO

John Gainor can spot an efficient employee as well as detect a missing Blizzard ingredient.

Dairy Queen CEO and President John Gainor (left) with his son and Curly the Cone at a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shareholder’s meeting in Omaha, Neb.
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DQ always features a Blizzard of the Month. People come in the store, see the poster on the wall and it sometimes inspires them to order it. Do you recommend a similar strategy for other businesses that want to draw attention to different products?

This month is Lemon Meringue Pie. It's really awesome, but this summer we launched our S'mores Blizzard. It's as good as making S'mores out over the campfire.

And we broke the rules. Rather than keep it around for one month, we launched it in June, and it's available all summer. To be honest with you, it's been at the demand of our fans. Our fans love to have new products, and occasionally we bring back the fan favorites.

So Blizzard of the Month has been a good strategy for Dairy Queen. It's about giving your fans, your customers, what they crave – that could be applied to other businesses.

[Read: Around the Water Cooler With Banana Republic's President.]

For businesses affected by the weather, like yours, what should managers and employees do on rainy days to buffer dips in revenue?

Social media is so huge, and there are ways to use social media to drive people into restaurants. Because the name Blizzard happens to be blizzard, we have some stores in the winter time that when it snows, they'll run a promotion tied to the snow: "Come in, and get out of the blizzard." We have nearly 6 million fans in our Blizzard Fan Club, and that's a great way to quickly communicate. And we also use Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. More and more marketing is being done through social media, and it can be more immediate.

What's the best career advice that you've ever received?

It's two things. One is you have to find something that you enjoy. I think it's very important that you don't want work to be work. It has to be something that you can enjoy. And if you find that, you can build a great career and enjoy what you're doing.

But I think the other thing is equally as important, and that is you need to treat every employee no different than how you want to be treated. Every person in an organization or in a store, their job is critical. It doesn't matter if it's me, the CEO, or someone working the counter making ice cream or our maintenance guy. Everybody has a role, and you've got to recognize the importance of each of those roles.

Before we end, I have to ask, have you tried every Blizzard on the menu?

In the past 10 years, I have tried every Blizzard that we have offered.

[Read: Around the Water Cooler With Royal Caribbean's CEO.]

Which one's your favorite?

My new favorite is the S'mores Blizzard, but my all-time favorite Blizzard would be the Brownie Batter Blizzard. It's one we roll out and bring back periodically.

That one's my all-time favorite as well.

Well, you and I need to work on our marketing people to bring it back.

Editor's Note: Around the Water Cooler is an ongoing series, in which U.S. News talks with company executives to get their career advice for employees and managers.