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Dairy Queen CEO John Gainor to retire at year’s end

COO Troy Bader to take over quick-service chain

John Gainor is stepping down as CEO of International Dairy Queen Inc. at the end of the year, the company said Thursday.

Troy Bader, Dairy Queen’s chief operating officer, will take over for Gainor, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

The company said Gainor is retiring.

Gainor had been an executive with logistics and transportation companies in 2003 when he took a position with the Minneapolis-based quick-service chain as its chief supply chain officer.

He was named CEO in 2008, and over that time helped the company evolve from a chain that served primarily treats like Peanut Buster Parfaits and Blizzards into a well-rounded, quick-service concept.

Systemwide sales at the chain increased 27 percent between 2012 and 2016, when it generated more than $3.6 billion and was the 20th-largest restaurant chain in the U.S., according to NRN Top 200 data.

The results helped Gainor earn a Golden Chain award from Nation’s Restaurant News in 2015.

“John has done everything I hoped for — and more — in accelerating IDQ’s growth in the U.S. and internationally,” Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Dairy Queen’s owner, Berkshire Hathaway, said in a statement.

Gainor recommended Bader for the position. Bader has been responsible for leading Dairy Queen’s core functions in the U.S. and Canada. He joined the company in 2001 and was promoted to chief operating officer in 2011.

“I am confident he will continue to lead the system toward positive growth and ongoing success,” Gainor said in a statement.

Dairy Queen operates or franchises more than 6,700 locations in the U.S. and internationally.

The chain introduced its “$5 Buck Lunch” promotion in 2013, helping to generate more food sales and bolster a side of the business it had long wanted to develop. The company also focused its marketing on its fan base, using the “Fan Food, Not Fast Food” tagline.

The higher sales helped the chain open in newer markets, including Manhattan, that it had once avoided because of cost concerns.

“We’ve listened to our fans over the years,” Gainor said in his Golden Chain interview. “We believe [it] is very important to give to your fans, your customers, what they want. We’ve had the opportunity to what I would call reinvent the brand.”

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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