Connect with us

Top 10 Untold Truths About Whataburger

That classic Whataburger look. Photo from stories.whataburger.com

Business

Top 10 Untold Truths About Whataburger

Zombie apocalypse, alien invasion or World War III? Shut up, all ye conspiracy theorists! The only real world war raging on today is burger proliferation–a war that the US has started. The smoking gun? Many different burgers are battling it out to global domination. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Five Guys, and A&W are just a few of the combatants involved in the burger wars and they don’t seem to be backing down any time soon. Whataburger sounds like a new kid on the block, but is it really? Time to find out, ten times over! Let’s begin…

10.  Hello…Whataburger Is Texas’ Best Kept Secret

During the 77th session of the Texas legislature, Whataburger was proclaimed a state treasure.  You see, Whataburger was born in Texas on August 8, 1950. And that makes the unique burger factory 68 years old to-date and fast approaching the grand old dame status.  As an iconic brand, Texans hold a deep adulation for their homegrown burger joint, according to Javier Moreno at BuzzFeed. So when in Texas, do as the Texans. Do not insult their favorite burger in any way if you plan on staying out of trouble. In fact, Whataburger Field is the home of the Corpus Christi Hooks, according to Wikipedia. I am confident, however, that once you taste Whataburger,  you can never hurt the feelings of the average Texan. Odes to Whataburger have been composed by famous artists and Nike shoes designed with the classic Whataburger logo in mind. Further, an increasing number of sweethearts who met and fell in love inside a Whataburger establishment are either  choosing to get married in the store or renewing their marriage vows there.  

9. Contrary to Popular Opinion, Whataburger, Not McDonald’s Invented the Quarterpounder

Take it from Moreno,  the burger sleuth who claims that since 1950, Whataburger has been using quarter-pound beef patties ahead of Mickey D’s, which, by the way, only caught on with the craze in 1971: Oh, the Johnny come lately! So stop giving McDonald’s more credit than it deserves. In fact, even in an actual taste test, the Big Mac has lost the game. According to Elizabeth Abrahamsen of Wide Open Country, Whataburger won the battle fair and square in an arm wrestling of sorts, sponsored by Fast Company.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Whataburger is hands-down the best-tasting burger in the US of A without a doubt. And that’s why it’s called Whataburger. 

8. Spoiler Alert: You’ll  Need Both Hands to Tackle a Whataburger

In fact, one of the things making the Whataburger unique is that the bun alone is already five inches thick. So what say you, hah, Big Mac? The infamous McDonald’s concoction has been fabricated to make eating it impossible without making a mess, what with all the lettuce, onions, mayo, and patty bits spilling out.  Also, did you notice that the sheer size of McDonald’s flagship product has been shrinking with the passing of years? This hasn’t happened to Whataburger; it’s still as big as it used to be. However, nothing can stop you from ordering Justaburger if you want to downsize at the burger joint, which, as of April 2018, has 824 branches spread across the USA.  You can even try Whatacatch, the company’s take on the fish sandwich, and while doing so, try comparing it with Filet-O-Fish. Also, feel free to compare and contrast the Whatachick’n with the McChicken. 

7. Whataburger Joints Are Masters at Customization

In fact, Abrahamsen claims that there are over 36,000 possible combinations to customize the Whataburger. Now try doing that with a Big Mac. The company has also managed to cement itself into the average Texan heart by making its own ketchup, mayo, mustard, and other condiments. Can’t get enough of these condiments? You can also buy them at H-E-B grocery stores that are found all over the state. Planning to bring a taste or a souvenir of Whataburger home?  The burger craftsman of the Lone Star State just won’t be beaten when it comes to merchandising. To illustrate, you can order a ketchup gift pack complete with a T-shirt, mousepad, reusable bag, and of course, the ketchup itself, whether spicy, fancy or original–take your pick. 

6. Two Heads Are Better than One: A Whataburger Story

Into every life, some rain must fall. Whataburger is the brainchild of Harmon Dobson and Paul Burton, whose partnership would prove to be pretty shortlived. I guess two extremely creative dudes just couldn’t live forever under one roof, so-to-speak. In less than a year after the two opened shop in breezy Corpus Christi, Dobson decided to raise the price of Whataburger from 25 to 30 cents a piece. Just consider at that time that a McDonald’s burger only cost 15 cents. If you put yourself in the shoes of Burton, you’ll be throwing tantrums at your business partner’s decision.  In fairness, however, the drastic price increase mirrors Dobson’s supreme confidence in their flagship product. You can further contextualize such a brave if not rash decision when you know for a fact that at that point in time, McDonald’s had already been in business for ten years. That’s definitely one David trying to challenge an established Goliath. For all of Dobson’s fire in the belly, he would perish in a plane crash on April 11, 1967. 

His burger enterprise, however, would live on as a testament to the Texan business entrepreneurship that’s far removed from JR Ewing of Dallas fame. In fact, Dobson would pass away not even knowing that there’s another burger company in the US called What-A-Burger. And he thought his idea was original. In 1970, Whataburger and What-A-Burger started suing each other over copyright infringement and when the dust cleared, the burger company that Dobson built would emerge as the winner. However, What-A-Burger was still allowed by law to continue to operate as a burger joint in the state of Virginia and the two Carolinas.  The final verdict was that although Whataburger held an unassailable copyright, the operation of What-A-Burger in its markets was virtually harmless to the burger chain that Dobson built in Texas. 

5.  How the Great Whataburger Tragedy Would Give Way to Widow Power as Well as an Enduring Family Business

While it all looks like an episode from the hit television series Dallas, which, of course, wouldn’t come into the average Texan consciousness until later in 1978, the Whataburger story would have quite a different soap opera. The extremely photogenic Lynne Dobson would take the cudgels for the burgeoning Texas burger chain with all the trappings of a real cowgirl. You could almost hear or picture the still-grieving widow singing, It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.  However, the Whataburger matriarch would prove to be tougher than TV’s Miss Ellie. In fact, Mrs. Dobson seemed to rule with an iron hand as she managed to keep the whole Whataburger enterprise a private business completely oblivious to the growing trend of going public. Was she inspired by Alexis Carrington Colby?

Later, she would hand over the reigns of the Whataburger business to her son, Hugh, who in turn would rescue the company from becoming a sinking ship well into the ’90s. Hugh’s secret? As Tom Peters would have it in his now famous management book, In Search of Excellence, successful companies who stick to the knitting get blessed in turn with longevity and financial success. The same can be said for Whataburger, which nearly perished from the escalating competition had Hugh not decided to return to what his father’s company does best: the hamburger business. 

4.  A Secret Menu as Secret as the Star Wars Death Star

After doing his own version of Return of the Jedi, the son who has successfully taken over the family business from his doting mom could only be blessed with a secret menu that knows how to attract if not cement a loyal following in Texas and beyond. As Moreno reveals, the Whataburger secret menu isn’t a hamburger, unless of course, you consider a chicken burger a hamburger. Hence, a definition is in order. In the strictest sense, a hamburger must have a beef and not a chicken patty–although such a distinction could be fading at the rate that the burger warriors are innovating on their various offerings to the public. To keep us guessing, Moreno doesn’t actually reveal if the chicken in the chicken and pancake of the Whataburger secret menu is a sandwich or a burger.  So I did some further sleuthing for you by going to the Recollection Library YouTube channel. And lo and behold, I found out Whataburger’s biggest secret of all. To accomplish this feat, I had to enlist the help of an American couple who themselves were made in Texas. The husband and wife team reveals that the best of the best in the Whataburger menu isn’t really the Whataburger per se. Instead, it’s this innocent-looking chicken sandwich that’s unceremoniously enclosed in toasted sliced bread. Inside, you’ll find chicken strips held together by a rather spider-web-like cheese. Just make sure you ask the Whataburger crew to put honey butter instead of honey mustard on the chicken.

The long and the short of it is that throwing in honey butter is the correct mistake that would challenge even Whataburger hamburger’s own reputation. Go ahead and order it, but let’s keep it on the down-low, okay? Part of the Whataburger secret menu is Hulk, an odd drink consisting of a Powerade and Vault soda combo. The big mystery is that we don’t know for sure if the Hulk in the equation is Hulk Hogan the infamous wrestler or The Incredible Hulk. So much for keeping the mystery alive and well.  The bottom line with secret menus is that the plot thickens unless you actually try and ask the Whataburger crew what they’re up to in a hush-hush fashion inside the Whataburger store or the drive-through.

3.   A Company Logo as Mysterious as Ancient Aliens

If you’re an avid fan of the History Channel’s hit series, Ancient Aliens, you will probably find the Whataburger logo very intriguing. It consists of flowing lines of orange that forms the impression of the big letter A. The Avengers would have picked this logo for themselves had the original Whataburger not been wise enough to patent it. As it sits right now, it’s water under the bridge for our favorite bunch of Marvel superheroes. Long live the Whataburger symbol that has withstood the test of time. It’s definitely the founder’s tribute to the art of flight, what with the symbol’s flowing lines that seem ready to disappear in midair at any time.  In fact, from afar, the Whataburger logo seems to warp into the letter W, definitely making it more creative than the original handwritten Coca-Cola logo.  Coke hasn’t thought yet of designing a head office that’s shaped like the legendary Coca-Cola body, Marilyn Monroe style. 

But from the very beginning, Dobson has seen it fit to let his spirit live on in his company by entrenching his undying love for aviation. In fact, the very first incarnation of the old man’s idea found itself in the very first Whataburger joints sporting that airplane or plane hanger look. Lucky for him, the aviation industry hasn’t caught up with adopting the flightful symbol for a commercial airline carrier. In the era of the drive-through, circa 2000 to be exact, the classic Whataburger logo would be reborn into a well-integrated A symbol at the center of a largely box-shaped fast food compound.   

2.  The Whataburger in Frisco, Texas Was Among the First to Get Upgraded to the New Look

You look like a million dollars, baby, but any talk about Whataburger complexes inevitably brings us to the colossal Whataburger by the Bay structure in Corpus Christi.  At 6,000 square feet, the chain has every right to housing the life-size bronze statue of the Whataburger founding father who, like Indiana Jones seemed to always try cheating death. The rambunctious character either shames or shades Colonel Sanders of KFC fame.  In his otherwise short lifespan, the legendary Dobson had been a rough neck, a diamond courier, and a pilot who would have loved to fly the Millennium Falcon.

The windmills of Whataburger’s Quixotic existence and stance was Hurricane Ike, which literally forced the company to move its headquarters from the bay-positioned Corpus Christi headquarter to San Antonio, Texas. Hence, by the stroke of a decade after the second millennium, the Whataburger HQ was already well-entrenched in a less windy and definitely less hurricane-prone Texan city that’s known as the fastest-growing of the top 10 largest USA cities from 2000 to 2010. That San Antonio made the mark is a testament to the fiery determination of the Whataburger enterprise to win the ever-intensifying burger wars of America. Whataburger is definitely no stranger to rapid growth right from the get-go. Just picture this: At less than ten years old, the business that burger built was able to establish a beachhead in Florida. A year later, and Whataburger franchises had spread like wildfire to Tennessee.  A decade more and the company would amass more than a hundred stores. By 2007, there were already 700 Whataburger establishments spread across ten US states. 

1.  Whataburger: The Private Company that Can

And while nearly every successful company inevitably opens itself up to the public as a publicly traded corporation sooner or later, Whataburger has had both the will and the power to stay on as a family-owned enterprise.  To illustrate, the Dobson family still owns at least 611 of the 824 Whataburgers in existence. The rest of the ownership is distributed among 25 franchisees. Amid this scenario, the Dobsons obviously still hold the majority stake in the business.  It’s not like they’re going to hand over the reins of their beloved enterprise that still has so much untapped potential. And the raging burger wars can only get bigger. 

Today, Whataburger has the Eastern and Western United States as its bailiwick. Tomorrow, the Dobsons can control the world. It’s like Canada controlling 20% of the world’s freshwater resource or OPEC still having the big say as far as world crude supplies are concerned. If the preeminent burger family continues to play its cards well, there’s a chance to beat McDonald’s at its game in terms of taste alone.  For let me ask you this, how many times have you been dismayed by the case of the shrinking Big Mac or that Mickey D’s family of burgers tend to taste way too superficial or bland when compared with Burger King’s fresh taste or even A&W’s mouthwateringly juicy patties? The hamburger is one of America’s greatest invention. It’s the fast food that takes minutes to prepare and not surprisingly, the first choice of workingmen and soccer moms alike. Disneyland, Hollywood, military hardware and hamburger exports are Uncle Sam’s greatest gifts to the world. However, burgers are far more lethal than nuclear proliferation because burgers speak to your stomach. Along with the Coke and Starbucks mentality, America has more control over the average human diet than any other country on Earth. This global domination ensures that the fast food lifestyle will continue to rule the world for many more decades to come.  With a taste that distinctly appeals to cowboys, Whataburger delights will persist in zapping hunger pangs as the human population fast approaches the 10-billion mark. Algae just don’t cut it.   Who wants to eat healthy yet boring stuff when juicy Whataburgers are out there?

More in Business

To Top