Learning with a Purpose
A Family Member embraces reading to better serve his guests
When Abraham Belmares walked into Whataburger in 2013, he was just looking for a job.
He got that and more.
The Whataburger restaurant general manager asked Belmares to fill out a job application. Belmares hesitated because he struggled with reading.
But the general manager saw and understood Belmares’ predicament.
The Whataburger team agreed they would try to help Belmares read. And today Belmares is a regular service ambassador during the lunch shift.
“We saw something in Abraham,” says Andrea Acerra, who oversees the management of several restaurants in San Antonio. “We could tell he had a lot to offer.”
From the beginning, Belmares stood out. He came early. He stayed late. He watched over the dining room, looking for guests to help and pitched in where needed.
But the complexity of a commercial kitchen was overwhelming for someone who couldn’t read.
Trying to read the lists of menu items, specialty add-ons and sauces, and the signs explaining cooking procedures was difficult.
“I didn’t understand what some stuff meant,” Belmares says.
That’s when his Whataburger family stepped in.
It started small, Acerra says. “They’d point to the words, then write them on paper, and then ask him if he could distinguish what they were,” she says.
Soon, Belmares was reading enough to understand all of the instructions.
A plan for the future
To be at work by 8 a.m., Belmares catches the bus at 6:45 a.m. each day.
He takes pride in keeping the windows sparkling and parking lot spotless. But, most of all, he loves taking care of his guests. “I know them all,” he says, naming customers off by their orders: Biscuits & Gravy, Black Coffee, Double Whataburger Jr. Several of his regulars bring him cookies and other treats.
One customer visits every morning to drink coffee and do the crossword puzzle in the daily paper. When he’s done, he gives the newspaper to Belmares, who scans the headlines.
“His guests just love him,” Acerra says. “They can tell he cares about them, and that it’s real. He has an orange heart.”
Whataburger has focused on its fresh, made-to-order burgers and friendly customer service since 1950 when Harmon Dobson opened the first Whataburger as a small roadside burger stand in Corpus Christi, Texas. Dobson gave his restaurant a name he hoped to hear customers say every time they took a bite of his made-to-order burgers: “What a burger!” Within the first week, people lined up around the block for his 25 cent, 100 percent beef burgers served on five-inch buns. Today, the company is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, with more than 820 locations in 10 states with sales of more than $2 billion annually. Visit www.whataburger.com for more information.