By K.Q. THOMAS, Four Points News
Blizzard, Hungr-Buster, and Dilly Bar are now easier to get as the new Mayfield Dairy Queen restaurant opened doors in late April at RM 620 near Four Points Drive. This is the 12th store owned and operated by the Mayfield family.
“The growth in the Four Points area is phenomenal,” said Nathaniel Mayfield, a Mayfield DQ executive vice president. “We predict it will continue to grow.”
Nathaniel has been a Steiner Ranch resident since 2005. He lives with his wife Ulrike, and daughters Elizabeth, 12, Charlotte, 10, and Rebecca, 8.
He is also the son of the current company owner, Robert Mayfield, and the grandson of the company founder, Tolbert Mayfield. Nathaniel’s brother, Linton, is also an executive vice president with the company.
Nathaniel, who is also a professional trumpet player, is president and CEO of Mayfield Energy, LLC. He has a degree from the Juilliard School and an MBA from the University of Texas. He is primarily involved in marketing and branding for Mayfield DQ
Linton has a background in restaurant, hotel and institution management from Texas Tech University and studied history and geography at Sam Houston University. He joined the family business in 1997 and is involved with the technology side of the business, accounting, and location scouting.
Dairy Queens are often referred to as Texas Stop Signs, as they have historically been one of the most popular and ubiquitous franchises in the state, Nathan Mayfield said. With very little competition, “When DQ came to Texas, it exploded,” he said. At one time there were close to 1,500 stores in Texas. Currently there are about 600 stores and about 150 franchisees here.
Nationally, Dairy Queen invented the first soft serve machine 1939, paving the way for the first store opened in 1940 in Joliet Ill. It was the third restaurant to franchise in the nation, after A&W and White Castle.
Tolbert Mayfield was one of the first DQ franchisees in Texas and opened his first location in Cleburne on April 2, 1949. (Family lore says he chose the second day of April to avoid any potential April 1st jinxes.)
Robert Mayfield, Tolbert Mayfield’s son, began working at a DQ when he was 11. “I chipped ice for the glasses of root beer,” he said. “And we only served root beer then, from barrels.”
Robert went on to the University of Texas School of Law and had a successful practice in Hereford, just south of Amarillo. Although he still maintains his law license, he took over his father’s four Austin stores in 1979.
“I wanted to be the Colonel Sanders of Dairy Queens,” he said.
Of course, the business has changed since he began chipping ice. In the mid-1950s, Dairy Queen added food to the menu, with burgers, fries and corn dogs, he said. The menu now is much more extensive. And, the Texas menu has some unique-to-the-state-items, such as Texas T-Brand Tacos and the Dude Chick’n Fried Steak Sandwich.
Another huge change in the industry is the need to find and retain quality employees. The company currently employs about 350 staffers. “In my father’s time, just after the Great Depression, you were just supposed to be thankful to have a job,” Robert said.
“But the labor market is tight and we want to have the best employees, and we want to keep them,” he said. “Now we see employees as integral to a successful business.”
To that end, Mayfield DQ pays a minimum of $15 an hour, with advancement opportunities. Work anniversaries are acknowledged with gift cards and birthdays with a cake. Exceptional work is recognized with bonuses.
Around 60 percent of new restaurants fail within the first year, added Nathaniel. “So staying competitive can be a day-to-day struggle. But we have the benefit of years of history to learn from.”
Every new store is tweaked to maximise efficiency for the staff, while offering a pleasant experience for the clientele. “And we have a solid company culture,” he said.
The company’s hard work certainly pays off. Mayfield DQs garner a lot of Austin love on Yelp, for example.
“I never thought we would leave a review for a fast food joint but this is well deserved,” wrote one Austin reviewer. “We have been here a handful of times and every time leave saying ‘wow this is the best DQ we have ever been to!!’”
Another reviewer said: “Four stars for excellent service and engaged, enthusiastic employees. They always make us feel welcome. Burgers are good and of course the ice cream is yummy.”
And Mayfield DQ continues to grow, albeit slowly and carefully. A new store is in the planning stages for Southpark Meadows, slated to open later this year.