Above from left: Danny Gillies, Brittany Schaefer, franchisee Joyce Lawrie, and Cameron Wallace.
by Stephen Dafoe
There is a new face behind the counter at Morinville Dairy Queen. Joyce Lawrie took over the franchise from Marc and Michelle Cardinal Dec. 16.
Lawrie has spent her life in the restaurant business, having worked 17 years with Darden Restaurants, who run Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants. She was the General Manager of the south side Olive Garden for many years before making the switch to DQ’s corporate offices in 2007.
“I have been a business consultant for Dairy Queen in Canada for 12 years,” Lawrie said. “I looked after northern Alberta all the way from Fort St. John in B.C. down the top of Alberta to Lloydminster.”
Lawrie said she had been missing the day-to-day of restaurant life for the past five years.
“I would go into stores and would help the franchisees with whatever they needed, but I wasn’t involved in the day-to-day operations,” she said, adding she reached out to Cardinal four years ago to keep his ear open for a franchise opportunity. “I wanted the right fit for me. I wanted the right fit for everybody.”
Lawrie said, although she was not looking specifically for one of Cardinal’s locations, the two sat down a year ago to discuss the Morinville operation.
“[Mark said,] ‘You know what, I think Morinville would be a fantastic place for you. You’re going to be there every day. It’s a community store. You’re a community person. Your personality would fit perfect,’ Lawrie recalled. “So I said, ‘OK. Let’s do it.'”
Lawrie sees her 12 years’ experience with DQ as an asset in running the Morinville franchise.
“I do know Dairy Queen. I’m not an outside business person who has come in and is just learning Dairy Queen,” she said. “I think the transition will be a little bit easier for everybody – obviously for my team and the fans because I have 12 years of Dairy Queen knowledge. So I think that will be a lot easier for everybody, including myself.”
Loving the location
In her first few weeks operating the Morinville location, Lawrie has been well received by the customers; people DQ affectionately call fans.
“Friendliness. It’s not just the fans that come in here. I’m trying to do all my business, whether it’s grocery pickup or the bank, in Morinville,” Lawrie said. “Everybody that I’ve encountered has been super nice to me when I tell them I’m the new owner of Dairy Queen. They’ve been very congratulatory. They’ve been awesome and excited for me.”
Lawrie said she plans to continue with work the Cardinals did in the community, including supporting the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation (JMMF) with a Blizzard Day. For the past two years, JMMF has been the recipient of Blizzard proceeds and customer donations from a Blizzard Day held in February.
The franchise owner is also planning to join the Morinville & District Chamber of Commerce and assist some local sports teams with free Dilly Bar coupons. “I definitely plan on supporting Morinville any way I can,” she said.
With a vast experience in the restaurant business, Lawrie brings a simple philosophy to Morinville: Look after her employees and her employees will look after the fans.
“I think a lot of people say look after the customers, and absolutely it is 100 percent all about the customer, but you have to look after your employees too,” Lawrie said. “Look after your employees and your employees will look after your customers. To me, it is about service, good quality food, and service. They’re the two top things on my list.”
The franchise owner plans to be at the franchise six days per week, taking shifts that include nights and weekends. “My goal for a very long time is to work mid shifts where I start at 12 and work until eight so that I’m here over lunch and dinner and get to work with the morning crew and the night crew.”
Lawrie said she is looking forward to greeting the customers at her new franchise.
“Come in and say, ‘Hi.’ I’d love to get to know everyone one-on-one to be part of a community,” she said.