Attention, Winter Garden: DQ eyes December opening

The partners behind the much anticipated DQ Grill and Chill are hoping to celebrate the holidays with Blizzards and dipped cones.

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  • | 8:47 a.m. October 6, 2021
DQ Grill and Chill
DQ Grill and Chill
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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Those jonesing for a Blizzard in Winter Garden may get an early holiday gift as a new DQ Grill and Chill nears completion at 14180 W. Colonial Drive.

“We are targeting a mid- to late-December opening date,” partner Marawan Raafat said.

Raafat, who has years of restaurant business experience on Florida’s Treasure Coast, is partnering on the project with South Florida-based orthopedic surgeon Dr. Check Kam. 

“We each spend a lot of time in the Orlando area,” Raafat said. “Winter Garden has a small-town feel. It’s very community-based, and Dr. Kam and I thought it made a great fit for a DQ.”

A new business not only means new choices for the community but also means new job opportunities.

“We’re looking at hiring and will be advertising for jobs the closer we get to completing construction,” Raafat said. He estimates the location will bring a total of 30 full-time and part-time jobs to the area, along with creating several opportunities for local suppliers and contractors. 

“We’re going to be utilizing local services whatever they may be — local accountants, maintenance professionals and other services,” he said. “So, there’s a lot of indirect employment needs, as well.”

Dairy Queen first announced the DQ Grill & Chill concept in 2002. Today, there are more than 2,000 locations serving hot food and ice cream treats. Features include a modern open-air grill design, booths, warm lighting, separate “grill” and “chill” kitchens, large gathering tables and a modern outdoor patio.

Plans for the 2,612-square-foot location were approved by Winter Garden city commissioners in February 2020. The one-story building includes an additional 464-square-foot space to be used for a freezer, cooler and dry storage.

The prospect of cool treats became a hot topic after the approval. Word spread across social media and throughout the community, with many wondering when the lights and the ice cream machines finally would be turned on. But not even the home of the Blizzard is immune to a freeze in the global supply chain.

Labor shortages and increased shipping demand, due to the pandemic, have lead to a shortage of shipping containers and bottlenecks at ports and railways that have become an ongoing problem for the construction industry and the economy at large.

“One of our biggest challenges at the moment is basically just securing all the equipment,” Raafat said. “The equipment comes from overseas, so the process became very complicated and has impacted all the supply chains for, not just the equipment, but also the construction materials.”

Despite the logistics issues and a brief rain delay in the foundation pour, Raafat remains focused on a December opening and looks forward to making the DQ location stand out.

“We’re definitely going to be a big part of the community and try to be involved in charities, and local events,” he said. 

And the possibility of opening more businesses in the Winter Garden area is one he’s happy to leave open.

“You never know where life takes you, so everything’s on the table,” he said.


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