Dairy Queen CEO Says Diners Need Choice as He Enters NYC

International Dairy Queen said customers should have a variety of menu choices as the fast-food chain enters New York, where city officials are pressing for restrictions on the size of soft drinks sold at restaurants.

“We want to have options on the menu,” John Gainor, Dairy Queen’s chief executive officer, said today in an interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. “Obviously, if it’s passed, we will have to work with it,” he said of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban at city restaurants on sales of sugary soft drinks larger than 16 ounces a cup.

The administration announced the plan last month as part of its strategy to combat what it described as an epidemic of obesity and related illness such as heart disease and diabetes. Companies including Coca-Cola Co., the world’s largest soft-drink maker, and McDonald’s Corp., the biggest restaurant chain, have criticized the restrictions.

Dairy Queen, with more than 6,000 locations in nations including the U.S., Canada, Thailand and Egypt, currently has no stores in New York City. The company, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., expects to open three or four stores in the city, including one in Staten Island, this year, according to Gainor.

The restaurant chain has items on its menu that are lower in sugar and some that are fat-free, he told Betty Liu in an interview on Bloomberg Radio’s “In The Loop, At the Half.” Several years ago, Dairy Queen introduced a smaller portion size for its Blizzard dessert, he said.

“That really was a result of the consumers saying we love Dairy Queen treats, but we really want to eat in moderation,” Gainor said.

‘Nationwide Trend’

The planned New York law would allow patrons to buy as many of the smaller soft drinks as they wanted and get refills. It wouldn’t apply to convenience stores and groceries.

“People will come to see this very much in the interest of public health,” Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said of the proposed restrictions at a May 31 press conference. “This is going to start a nationwide movement toward this, a nationwide trend. I think it will prove to be very popular.”

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP. Berkshire, based in Omaha, Nebraska, is the largest shareholder in Coca-Cola.

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