BDT Capital Partners, LLC, a company that “advises and invests in family and founder-led companies,” will now be the majority shareholder for the burger chain that first opened its doors in 1950 in Corpus Christi.
The idea which grew into the 824-store chain we see today came from Harmon Dobson, who desired “to serve a burger so big that it took two hands to hold, and so good that after a single bite customers couldn’t help but exclaim, ‘What a burger!’”
He so clearly succeeded at this that his burger stand turned into a multi-billion dollar company.
The reaction to Friday’s news proves Texas is crazy about its signature burger joint. Texans voiced their frustration on social media concerning Whataburger being “sold to the Yanks.”
Houston Texans’ star, J.J. Watt, even weighed in, announcing his own plan to save the legendary chain.
Seemingly advocating for a customer-owned approach — similar to his home state’s NFL team, the Green Bay Packers — Watt said, “Ok, I say we all chip in and buy Whataburger back.” He then added, “Make honey butter chicken biscuits available all day, add kolaches to the menu and change nothing else. Especially not the ketchup.”
But he wasn’t the only high-profile Texan to weigh in.
Patrick Mahomes, former Texas Tech quarterback and now with the Kansas City Chiefs, replied to Watt, saying “I’m down as long as [I] can get one in KC.”
Governor Greg Abbott jumped on the bandwagon, tweeting a meme of George W. Bush, reading “Get in J.J., we’re saving Whataburger.”
Whataburger President and CEO Preston Atkinson said about the move in a statement, “We’ve been exploring different options to expand the brand and introduce it to new audiences. We’ve gone through this process purposefully and diligently because we wanted to find a partner who honors our values, culture and 69-year legacy of family tradition.”
Atkinson added specifically about why BDT was chosen, “They want to preserve [our brand] while they help us continue growing a sustainable, competitive business over a long period of time. They don’t plan to change our recipe for success.”
Many fans are concerned with the authenticity of the chain remaining.
BDT Capital Partners managing director, Tiffany Hagge, emphasized in a statement, “We look forward to a long-term partnership with the Whataburger team, continuing their commitment to serving high-quality, great-tasting food at a value and delivering superior customer experience.”
She continued, “We are excited to support Whataburger as they continue to innovate and pursue accelerated growth in existing and new markets.”
The company wants to assure its fans that the Whataburger experience they have come to love isn’t going anywhere, simply that more Americans will be able to experience the Texan icon, which has grown into a household name in the Lone Star State.
It remains to be seen exactly what the move towards expansion will entail. But Whataburger leadership insists the Texan spirit of the chain will not be lost, but rather will be exported beyond the state’s borders.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.