When Raman Kalra immigrated to the United States in 2001, he had $1,000 in his pocket and the hope for a better future.
While his wife attended school in the Phoenix area, Kalra worked every job he could just to make ends meet. From spending his days as a dishwasher at a busy restaurant to bartending at a local bar, over the years, Kalra started putting away money into savings—his ultimate dream was to one day become a business owner.
By the time Kalra’s wife graduated from school, he had saved enough money to finally consider his options. While tending bar one afternoon, he struck up a conversation with a local. Mentioning his entrepreneurial goals, Kalra said he was interested in franchising. That’s when he brought up the Dairy Queen® brand.
“I was still unfamiliar with a lot of American brands—but I knew that the Dairy Queen system was one with a great legacy. So, one day, I asked a bar patron what he thought about the brand. His eyes lit up with a smile and a story. That was when I knew this was the opportunity for me and the right plan—I could create a fulfilling career for myself while also helping to serve hundreds of happy customers a day,” Kalra said.
The fact that Phoenix has a desert climate helped to influence his decision, too. Kalra believed bringing a Dairy Queen location to the area—a brand notorious for its cold treats—would be a much welcomed addition. So, in 2011, Kalra took over his first Dairy Queen restaurant within the Phoenix area. It was an under-performing store and had a reputation for a high turnover of owners. With Kalra at the helm, sales at that location nearly doubled.
But Kalra had even bigger plans in mind—his belief in the brand was so strong that he wanted to work towards becoming a multi-unit franchisee. With the guidance from members of the Dairy Queen corporate team, Kalra learned the ins and outs of being a multi-store operator. He hired a manager and mentored a team he could count on. It wasn’t long, then, until he opened his second location in Peoria—a suburb of Phoenix. Today, Kalra is proud to say that he’s the owner of five successful Dairy Queen locations in the Phoenix metropolitan area—one of which just opened in December 2016 in Goodyear, Arizona.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the DQ® corporation’s support. They helped to ensure that I was 110 percent prepared when my store’s doors opened. They helped to pinpoint the best locations. And they were there during the construction process,” Kalra said. “That’s the great thing about being a Dairy Queen franchisee—you’re not working for the franchisor; you’re working with them.”
If the sheer number of Dairy Queen locations that Kalra has opened over the past five years is any indication, the brand is thriving in the greater Phoenix area. With 77 Dairy Queen restaurants currently open in the region and another five in development, Maricopa County has become an important market for the brand. And because of the success of Kalra’s five locations—and the other multi-unit franchisees paving the way for the brand in Phoenix—this is just the beginning for the Dairy Queen brand’s ever-expanding Arizona footprint.
“When I opened my location in Goodyear, people started lining up at 5 a.m. for their first taste of Dairy Queen soft-serve. By the time we opened the doors, there were hundreds of people lined up down the block. I’ve even had customers come up to me to shake my hand and thank me—they had been waiting to have a Dairy Queen restaurant open in their neighborhood for years,” Kalra said. “I’m so thankful to have found this opportunity with the Dairy Queen system. Not only has it helped to change the lives of customers, but it’s helped to change mine, too.”