DQ logo image Tammy Burkey’s #1 goal was to be more productive and confident. The General Manager of Lynn’s DQ Grill & Chill in Connellsville, PA, wanted to be healthy too. But at 150 pounds overweight, her blood pressure was on the rise and her lower back and hip were in pain.

Her weight was taking its toll. And she wasn’t alone.

Managers at the other four Lynn’s DQ stores in Mount Pleasant, Uniontown, and Brownsville, PA, were struggling with weight issues too.

Tammy commented, “It’s high pressure and stressful work. We work around all this food. I wanted us, as a team, to be healthier and look healthier.”

The Solution

She wanted a support group and program she could adhere to and attend regularly. Since the managers have regular meetings and are in the same environment, Tammy thought those who wanted to join would benefit the most.

So she approached Judy Lynn-Craig, the owner of the five DQ stores, with the idea of starting a weight loss program for managers.

It was music to Judy’s ears. “I had thought about doing something like this from time to time,” she said. “I don’t want people to come to work at DQ and think they can’t be fit. I give Tammy a lot of credit for stepping up.”

The FitFan Program

Together, they came up with a plan and called it FitFan. This Lynn’s DQ wellness program would be a friendly competition for managers to lose weight and become healthier.

After Tammy presented the idea at their bi-weekly meeting, the group was off and running – literally.

DQ Judy 2Judy commented, “I offered each manager a FitBit. To accept it, they had to sign a form saying they would wear it. We’re all FitBit friends and the app allows us to keep track of who has the most steps.

Before each manager’s meeting, they weigh in. I appreciate that they have the confidence to step on a scale in front of me and we have a few moments to chat about their results. We always keep it upbeat because some weeks we see goals being exceeded and others are more of a challenge. The fact that everyone is putting forth a good effort and the overall results are so positive, we have to be very pleased with that.”

Judy manages a spreadsheet of their data, which she started with their first weigh in on August 2, 2013 and also records FitBit steps on a weekly basis.

Supporting Each Other

“It’s really inspiring to look over it and see such impressive results and also to know that it is proving to have longevity. For each individual, there may be different needs and ways to reach goals, but we are providing a support group to encourage their success,” she said.

Gift cards and money go to those who have the most steps and the highest percentage of weight loss for a period of time. The competition is tight, but so is the support.

Michael Bowman, General Manager of the Mount Pleasant DQ Grill & Chill, commented, “It’s very easy to slip, but we’re there for each other. If one of us is picking up something that isn’t healthy, the other one says, “You don’t want that.”

Healthy Choices

Instead, they’re picking up good habits and making healthier choices.

Tammy said she wants the 45 – 50 employees she oversees to know that she wants to be healthy and wants them to be healthy too. “Just because we work here, doesn’t mean we can’t make healthy choices and eat smaller portions.

At DQ, I can have a grilled chicken wrap. A BBQ snack meal is only 280 calories. Non-sugar fudge bars are full of protein. The Snack Melt solo is 280 calories. One half cup of DQ vanilla soft serve is only 200 calories and just 6 grams of fat. And our DQ hamburgers cooked over open flame are also a good choice.”

Working Out

The FitFan program, open now to all Lynn’s DQ employees, is about making healthy choices every step of the way.

“Almost all of us are members of Planet Fitness and work out together. I go to the gym three or four times a week and like to do three miles on the elliptical and two miles on the bike. Judy will find activities for us. Last summer, we went biking on the Yough River Trail.

DQ Charity WalkThe group also does charity 5K walks together, like The Main Street Classic to benefit City Mission – Living Stones, Inc., a homeless shelter and Heart Walk to raise funds for the American Heart Association.

“It makes us feel like of a family. We know she cares more than if her business is running successfully. She cares that we are happy, healthy and are part of the community.”

Taking Off

That includes the International Dairy Queen leadership community as well.

Each year, Judy takes her store managers to DQ conferences, meetings, and conventions. The FitFan program was launched two years ago as the group was getting ready to attend Dairy Queen’s bi-annual conference, being held in Hawaii.

The investment in her employees is paying off. Lynn’s DQ managers, most of whom who have been on the job for more than 10 and 20 years, have lost a combined total of 500 pounds.

The Transformation

Tammy Burkey, General Manager of Connellsville DQ Grill & Chill, before starting the FitFan program and today.

Paula McDowell, Assistant General Manager, Lori Lewis-Downs, Assistant General Manager/ Office Assistant, and Michael Bowman, General Manager – all with the Mount Peasant DQ Grill & Chill, before starting the FitFan program.


Paula, Lori, and Michael today.

DQ Tammy soloTammy leads the group with 100 pounds lost so far. “There are ups and downs,” she said. “Once I got to my highest weight loss and couldn’t get past it, I saw a dietitian and also had a gastric sleeve surgery. Diabetes and heart disease runs in my family. I did it for health reasons and to live the life I was meant to live.

Now, I have more energy when I’m at work. My blood pressure is normal and I feel good. I don’t like to do paper work because I don’t want to be sitting down and being sedentary.” Tammy’s transformation has enabled her to reach her # goal.  “It’s made me a more confident manager,” she said. “I’m more comfortable to engage with my customers and I’m doing more in the community.”

DQ Michael3Michael’s journey started at 366.8 pounds and the words, “I’m over it!” At 74 pounds less today, he said, “I gave away all my fat clothes – five garbage bags!” There’s no turning back now.

DQ PaulaAssistant Manager of the Mount Pleasant DQ Grill & Chill, Paula McDowell, remarked, “A few of us have been heavy all of our lives. When we started, I was 293 pounds and now, I’m 85 pounds lighter.”

Jessica 3Jessica Barkley, Assistant Manager of the Route 40 DQ Grill & Chill in Uniontown, has battled with weight since the birth of her daughter nine years ago. She said her motivation to be fit was two-fold. “I was going on the trip to Hawaii and I was getting married.” She lost 50 pounds before she walked down the aisle.

Jamie2Jamie Hoff is Business Consultant for Dairy Queen of SWPA, Inc, the franchisor for 55 franchise locations, which Judy serves as president. She too had a hard time losing weight following the birth of her three-year old son, Eli.

Last year, after her eight year old son, Parker, competed in a BattleFrog 8k obstacle race, he asked his mom to do the next 8k with him. Jamie has lost 33 pounds and will be joining him this summer.

Fans for Life

Judy commented, “It’s been a lot of fun and they are doing really well. At our fall business conference, others didn’t even recognize them as my team because of their transformation.

DQ Team4

It’s fan food, not fast food. Our customers are our fans and so are we a fan of being fit while working at DQ.”

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