10 Things You Didn't Know About Whataburger

If you're from Texas, you've most likely eaten at Whataburger. This beloved San Antonio-based chain has been going strong since its founding in the 1950s, and the classic 5-inch Whataburger  — topped with mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and diced onions — is a fast-food institution. But even if you have a prized collection of the chain's vintage Nickel Mugs, we bet there's still a lot you didn't know about this chain. 

The Signature A-Frame Design Was Inspired by a Love of Flying

Dobson loved to fly, and the chain's signature A-frame was inspired by wings in flight. The first A-frame store opened in Odessa, Texas, in 1961. 

It Didn’t Sell French Fries Until 12 Years After Its Founding

French fries and hot pies were the first additions to the original menu of burgers, chips, and drinks; they didn't make it onto the menu until 1962.

It’s One of the Few Fast-Food Chains That’s Still Family-Owned

Today, the company is run by Harmon and Grace Dobson's son, Tom. Only a handful of major burger chains are still family-owned, including In-N-Out.

The Largest Whataburger Is in Corpus Christi

At 6,000 square feet, the "Whataburger By the Bay" was opened in Corpus Christi in 1999, and features a life-size bronze statue of Harmon Dobson. 

It and Another Chain Named What-A-Burger Sued Each Other

There's another chain that has locations in Virginia and the Carolinas called What-A-Burger, with the only differentiation between the two being branding, menu, and the hyphens. Though the two chains were made aware of each other in 1970, no legal action was taken until 2002, when both companies sued each other over trademark infringement. The court allowed both chains to continue with no changes; it found that it would be highly unlikely that anyone would be unable to tell the difference between the two. 

It’s Openly Defying a Texas Law

The chain has chosen to not allow its customers to openly carry firearms on its premises, in defiance of an "open carry" law that was instituted earlier this year. 

It Used to Have Locations in California

The chain shuttered all of its California locations in 1987; they weren't performing well due to all the competition.

The Legendary “Nickel Mug” Promotion Was Supposed to Only Last a Year

In April 1983, Whataburger launched a new promotion: Customers could buy a special mug that would get them as much coffee as they could drink for a nickel, as long as it was served in that mug. Intended to last for a year, the promotion lasted all the way until September 30, 1997, when it was finally discontinued. The mugs are today a yard sale staple, and if you bring yours to a Whataburger you still might get lucky if they're feeling generous!

Employees Are Challenged Every Year During the Annual WhataGames

The WhataGames were launched in 1996, and since then, they have served as an annual training exercise and competition for employees. Representatives from every Whataburger location, as well as maintenance technicians, compete in three categories: operations, corporate history, and customer service. Each member of the gold medal-winning team wins $5,000, while silver wins $2,500 and bronze wins $1,000. 

Every Burger is Still Made to Order

Each Whataburger is still made from 100 percent beef and cooked to order. 

It Was Named an Official “Texas Treasure”

On April 9, 2001, the Texas State Legislature officially recognized Whataburger as a "Texas Treasure." "I chose to recognize Whataburger and its founding family, the Dobsons, as they celebrate 50 years of successful business," Rep. Jamie Capelo announced. "They deserve credit for capturing the hearts — and taste buds — of millions of Texans, including many in the House of Representatives."