Whataburger Returns Better than Ever after Devastating Storm
Tulsa restaurant gears up for re-opening following 2017 tornado
In the dead of night August 6, 2017, a tornado ripped through midtown Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The EF2 tornado caused millions of dollars in damage throughout the community, including to the Promenade mall, the BOK Financial Corporation Operations Center and the 41st Street Whataburger.
The restaurant, facing shattered windows, a destroyed pole sign, a torn roof and interior damage, closed its doors to rebuild.
For customers used to making a morning stop for coffee or gathering the family for a Patty Melt dinner, that meant an important part of their local community was shuttered.
On Monday, July 29 – almost two years since weathering storm damage – the restaurant will open its doors to the community once more, offering more seating, more parking, and even more smiles.
“For years people have been saying ‘Hey that’s my Hometown Whataburger,” says Whataburger Area Manager Chris Noles. “When is it coming back?’”
Whataburger Regional Brand Manager Kim Kannarr was flooded with calls.
“We have some guests that stop there every single day,” Kanaar says.
Tulsans feel a deep connection to their hometown store, because the employees feel a deep connection to their community, she says. They work, live and play in a tightknit community. Their kids go to school right down the road, and the restaurant has helped raise funds for both Bishop Kelley and Edison high schools. And when record floods washed away homes and property in the Tulsa area this past spring, Whataburger was there with hot breakfasts and warm smiles.
“Our team immediately got on the move and started building meals for all of the first responders and rescue groups,” General Manager Justin Hall says. “We knew they were working around the clock and we wanted to make sure they were taken care of.”
According to Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, that’s what Tulsans do in the face of any adversity, including the 2017 tornado.
“In typical Tulsa fashion, our community came together to help those in need,” Bynum says.
Better Than Ever
Sometimes, meeting the needs of the community takes a little time. Since this area of Tulsa is a “prime commercial corridor, which serves thousands of residents on a daily basis,” according to Bynum, it was important for Whataburger to figure out exactly what would best serve their guests before they began construction.
“We said ‘Let’s not just bring it back. Let’s make it better than it was before,’” Hall says.
The new restaurant will feature a state-of-the-art kitchen, double drive-thru lanes and an updated dining room that can comfortably seat more than 100 guests. Whereas the old facility had a small parking lot with about 40 spaces, the new one can fit 70.
“Even the construction workers got homemade cards from some of the kids in the neighborhood,” Hall says.
Together, Whataburger and the people of Tulsa are getting the area back on track.
“The reopening of Whataburger shows the company’s commitment to the Tulsa community through business revival,” Bynum says. “We are thankful to have Whataburger contribute to the continued synergy of all of the businesses in this area.”
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.