- July 1, 2020
The long-awaited Dairy Queen Grill & Chill opened its new location in Winter Garden Tuesday, Nov. 22.
The eatery, located at 14180 W. Colonial Drive, is locally owned and operated by Check Kam and Marawan Raafat.
The 2,612-square-foot location houses a max occupancy of 96 and already employs 40. The owners hope to add 10 more to the staff.
In addition to the owners, the team is led by Director of Operations Joseph Abby, General Manager Derek Pinto and Assistant Manager Keanan Tally.
“Check and I are thrilled to be opening a Dairy Queen Grill & Chill in Winter Garden,” Raafat said in a press release. “After years of owning various restaurants, I have always wanted to be a part of an iconic brand like DQ. Having lived in the area for years, we saw a need for a welcoming environment where families can come together and enjoy a meal, and we knew that DQ was the perfect concept to fill that need. Our mission is to make people happy and bring joy to the community by providing good food and excellent service. We’re confident that our location will become a pillar in the Winter Garden community.”
Raafat has years of experience as a business owner and has owned multiple other restaurant concepts. Kam, a doctor, said he is eager to enter the restaurant space and bring the iconic brand to the area.
The owners both place an importance on excellent customer service, quality food and community involvement.
“A lot of Dairy Queens are operated by large entities, but this one will be special, because it’s locally owned,” Raafat said. “We’ve always tried to focus on giving back to the communities and operating in small towns that appreciate our business.”
With a management and staff team that Raafat is proud of, he said the location will be an enjoyable place to both work and eat.
“I love the restaurant business because we get to interact with the world,” he said. “You get to engage with staff members and customers on a day-to-day basis. There’s nothing better than seeing a family leave content, happy and smiling because of something we created. We really just want people to enjoy it.”
Pinto said he is most looking forward to working with his team to watch the location blossom.
“There’s so much opportunity in this market, and not just in the market but in the community,” he said. “I’ve loved every interaction I’ve already had with customers and even the staff. They work really hard for what they want, and we’re going to do fantastic things here.”
A LONG TIME COMING
Although plans for the location were approved by Winter Garden city commissioners in February 2020, supply chain shortages led to multiple delays of opening,
Abby said the demand in the area for the Dairy Queen has only grown.
“The people have literally been chomping at the bit,” he said. “The Facebook page that we have is nonstop. The biggest thing that’s amazed me that’s going on here is that even though no one knows me, my staff or even the general manager, is that the community has so much excitement, and we already have such a following. I love seeing people interact and share memories with each other about Dairy Queen on the page. Everybody has a DQ story.”
The location hosted a friends and family event Sunday, Nov. 20.
In addition, the DQ held a contest on its Facebook page. Julie Smedley and Mary Catherine-Baughman, one of the winners of the contest, said they plan on enjoying the restaurant’s offerings every day because their dance studio is located nearby.
When asked what they enjoy the most about Dairy Queen, the answer was simple: Everything.
“People don’t just say, ‘I’m going to Dairy Queen,’ they say, ‘I’m going to my Dairy Queen,’” Abby said. “And that truly makes all the difference.”