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Whataburger History

On Aug. 8, 1950, an adventurous and determined entrepreneur named Harmon Dobson opened up the world’s first Whataburger on Ayers Street in Corpus Christi, Texas. He had a simple goal: to serve a burger so big it took two hands to hold and so good that after one bite customers would say, “What a burger!” He succeeded on both counts and turned that one little burger stand into a legend loved throughout Texas and the South. 

Today, each and every Whataburger is made to order, right when it’s ordered. And they’re still made with 100 percent pure, never-frozen beef and served on a big toasted five-inch bun with all “the extras” to suit your taste. Grilled jalapeños, extra bacon, three slices of cheese, no tomatoes, extra pickles? No problem. Your Whataburger will be made just like you like it, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Whataburger’s following has grown exponentially in its more than 70-year history, thanks to a number of features, including its famous burgers and growing list of menu items, its iconic orange-and-white-striped restaurants and its famous Fancy Ketchup. 

Whataburger is more than a burger chain. It’s a place that feels like home to more than 50,000 employees, called Family Members, and millions of customers. It’s a brand built on pride, care and love. It’s a place people count on in their communities. It’s a place where goodness lives. So now with more than 900 Whataburger restaurants across 14 states stretching from Arizona to Florida, road-trippers and hometown folks alike continue gathering under the big orange-and-white roofs for fresh, made-to-order burgers and friendly service. 


Harmon Dobson at Unit 11950 - On Aug. 8, Harmon Dobson opened Whataburger #1 in Corpus Christi, Texas, with Paul Burton, who went on to operate a Whataburger in San Antonio until his death in 1970.

1953 - Joe Andrews Sr. became the first franchisee and opened Whataburger #5 in Alice, Texas.

1955 - On March 11, Harmon and Grace Dobson married.

1959 - Harmon Dobson opened Whataburger #21 in Pensacola, Florida – the first Whataburger outside of Texas.


First A-frame1961 - The first A-Frame opened in Odessa, Texas – Restaurant #24.

1962 - The Whataburger menu grew with the addition of fried pies and french fries.

1963 - Whataburger expanded to 26 restaurants across Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Arizona.

1967 - On April 11, a plane crash claimed the life of Harmon Dobson. His wife Grace refused to sell Whataburger, choosing instead to run the business herself.

1969 - Grace Dobson became chairman of the board.


photo19701971 - Whataburger installed its first drive-thru.

1972 - Whataburger opened its 100th restaurant.

1973 - Whataburger Jr. was added to the menu, as were jalapeños and onion rings.

1973 - Following a design contest, Whataburger chose Corpus Christi artist Will Clay’s “Flying W” as its logo.

1974 - The “Modern A-Frame” restaurant architecture was introduced, with bigger dining rooms and better drive-thru service.


1980 - The 300th location opened.photo1980

1980 - Whataburger raised its advertising profile with spokespeople like country singer Mel Tillis.

1982 - The first restaurants began operating 24/7.

1982 - Whataburger began serving breakfast in all locations.

1983 - Breakfast On A Bun, Whatachick’n and Taquitos were added to the menu.

1987 - The 400th Whataburger opened.


Whataburger By The Bay1993 - Tom Dobson, one of Harmon and Grace’s sons, became CEO and president.

1994 - Whataburger recorded its first $1 million day.

1995 - The 500th location opened, making Whataburger the country’s eighth-largest hamburger chain.

1998 - System-wide sales reached $500,000.

1999 - Whataburger hosted its first WhataGames competition.

1999 - Whataburger by the Bay opened as the flagship store in Corpus Christi.

1999 - Whataguy first appeared on kids meal bags and a games site.


Whataburger Field2000 - On Aug. 8, Whataburger celebrated its 50th anniversary with 575 restaurants in operation.

2001 - The 77th Texas Legislature recognized Whataburger as a Texas treasure.

2004 - Whataburger Field, home of the Corpus Christi Hooks Class AA baseball team, opened.

2005 - Grace Dobson passed away, leaving her children in charge of a growing company with more than 600 restaurants.

2007 - Preston Atkinson was named president.

2008 - Whataburger reached $1 billion in system-wide sales.

2009 - Whataburger moved its Home Office to San Antonio from Corpus Christi, Texas.


Legendary Trio 3-Pack2011 - Whataburger introduced four All-Time Favorite sandwiches to its menu.

2012 - Whataburger unveiled a new look for its menu, categorized by Burgers, Chicken and Breakfast, and introduced the Under 550 Calories menu.

2013 - Whataburger’s Facebook page reached 1 million fans after just launching in April 2011.

2013 - Whataburger bottled Fancy Ketchup, Spicy Ketchup and Original Mustard and made them available at H-E-B stores and online at Whatastore.

2017 - In July, Whataburger launched its digital newsroom.

2019 - Online ordering through Whataburger’s app and website debuted.

2019 - BDT Capital Partners acquired a majority interest in Whataburger.

2019 - Ed Nelson was promoted to President.


photo20202020 - Curbside pickup and delivery options launched.

2020 - Whataburger unveiled a food truck on its 70th anniversary.

2020 - Whataburger opened its first new large-unit prototype in Bellmead, Texas.

2021 - Whataburger awarded more than $90 million in bonuses to its employees in thanks for their extraordinary service during the pandemic and severe weather across its 10-state footprint.

2021 - Whataburger launched its signature community program, Whataburger Feeding Student Success, to serve at the intersection of food insecurity and education.

2021 - Whataburger elevated General Managers to Operating Partners with the ability to earn six figures.

2021 - Whataburger opened its first restaurants in Kansas City, Missouri, expanding its footprint to 11 states.

2022 - The first Nashville, Colorado Springs and Kansas City, Kansas, locations opened, expanding Whataburger’s footprint to 14 states.

2022 - Whataburger Feeding Student Success awarded its first scholarships to students and exceeded more than $1 million in charitable giving.