Whataburger: The “Better Burger” Process Strategy

If you have ever been to Texas, you have probably seen more than one oddly-shaped building with a pointed roof, painted in orange and white stripes.  This unique style is the typical Whataburger location, a fast-casual burger chain that is extremely popular in Texas and other southern states.  The unique design of Whataburger’s restaurants is just one of the many things the company uses to stand out from other competitors in the fast-casual industry.

Whataburger’s process strategy is similar to many other fast-casual burger companies with one big exception.  In terms of quality, Whataburger excels in both consistency and degree of quality.  Whataburger’s direct competition, fast food giants like McDonalds and Burger King, specialize in the consistency of quality, achieved through implementing a standardized process that eliminates variations.  Whataburger has established a cult-like following in Texas because it has created and maintained a strategy that successfully delivers burgers to its loyal customers that meet expectations on quality consistency and exceed expectations on degree of quality.  This process strategy, along with successful marketing campaigns that depict Whataburger as the burger of Texas, have caused sales to grow exponentially since its humble beginnings in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1950.

Whataburger is now the United States’ most popular “better burger” chain.  In the first quarter of 2017, the successful Texas chain accounted for 44% of the transactions in a study of the largest fast-casual burger chains in America, with In-N-Out coming in second place with 26% of transactions, and Five Guys at receiving 12%.

http://www.businessinsider.com/whataburger-most-popular-better-burger-chain-2017-6

Whataburger’s success is due largely to their successful implementation of this process strategy that focuses on excellence in both consistency and degree of quality.  However, Whataburger’s strategic marketing techniques that position the company as “wholesome” and “Texan” are also a huge part of Whataburger’s success.  The average customer frequents Whataburger 4 times in three months.  Compare that to In-N-Out’s statistic of 2.2 visits per 3 months and Five Guy’s 1.6 visits.  Whataburger customers are extremely loyal to the Whataburger brand and come back more frequently than customers of any other fast-casual burger chain.  Considering these figures, it is easy to see why Whataburger’s sales have continued to grow and why it is now the most popular “better burger” chain by a long shot.  This article goes into more depth on the crazy loyalty that Whataburger customers exhibit.

https://www.bonappetit.com/restaurants-travel/article/whataburger-history-texas

Whataburger’s process strategy is not solely defined by the aspect of quality.  The prices it offers are somewhere in the middle between McDonalds low prices of $3 and a typical dine-in restaurant burger of $8.  Low costs are not one of Whataburger’s competitive priorities, but flexibility definitely is.  Another reason why Whataburger customers are so crazy about this burger chain is that every burger is highly customizable.  Their slogan “Just Like You Like It” embodies this competitive priority of flexibility.  Finally, a fast delivery time is something that all fast-casual burger chains try to achieve, and Whataburger is no exception.

As you have probably guessed, I am a huge Whataburger fan, and I can’t wait to go home over spring break and order my usual double meat, double cheese, no onion, jalepeno, and BBQ sauce Whataburger!

5 thoughts on “Whataburger: The “Better Burger” Process Strategy

  • March 7, 2018 at 10:51 pm
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    Kyle,

    I am from the Boston and have never had Whataburger, but after reading these posts I definitely want to try it. It is interesting that you bring up marketing in association with their strong customer loyalty. I decided to look more into their marketing strategy and found an interesting article about what makes them social media “savvy”. Something that I found interesting was their use of Twitter. It is becoming popular for other food companies like Wendy’s and Taco Bell to have a more personal approach to connecting with their customers through humorous tweets, and Whataburger seems to have jumped on this trend. Their feed is a mixture of relatable tweets and funny pictures with a couple pop culture comments thrown in. By doing this they become more relatable with their customers and give them a way to interact with Whataburger away from their restaurants.

    https://contentwriters.com/blog/whataburger-uses-social-media-savvy/

    • March 8, 2018 at 4:07 pm
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      Kyle,

      I am also from the North East and have only heard of Whataburger from my friends from Texas. I think a huge part of their success comes from brand identity. As Jake mentioned, this burger chain emphasizes the authentic, wholesome Texan aspect of their brand. As you discussed, the Whataburger marketing strategy emphasizes customer loyalty. I think this strategy has been so successful because of their brand identity. People who identify with a certain brand are more likely to be loyal. On the Whataburger website, under “Our History” there is a detailed timeline outlining the story of the company. Because of this, Whataburger has embodied a reputation for being a “classic” and “hospitable” establishment that contributes to the overall success and popularity of the chain.

      http://whataburger.com/company

  • March 7, 2018 at 9:22 pm
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    Jake,
    As a fellow Texan I immediately read your post the second I saw Whataburger in the title. It isn’t very easy to explain, but Whataburger really does seem a cut above other burger chains. No matter how many burgers I have from other restaurants, whether they are fast food or gourmet, I still always will fall back on Whataburger when I am in the mood for a burger. You are right in saying that they appeal to Texans, as all the players on the baseball team who are from Texas always miss Whataburger. When we took a trip down to Texas last year, the entire team tried it and had a generally good response. Some of them weren’t wild about it, but others agreed that it was the best “fast food” burger they had ever had. This can be attributed to exactly what you said, their competitive priority of quality. When you look back behind the counter, the grills and other items used to make the burgers look very similar to other fast food chains. So it begs the question what do they do differently to create such an incredible following of customers. Maybe it has to do with the way they prepare their burgers, which would have taken process improvement and optimization since they still are able to create these burgers and other menu items at the speed you would expect with a fast food restaurant. Whataburger might sacrifice some competitiveness when it comes to price, but they make up the difference and more with the quality of their food. They are still my favorite place to get breakfast before a game, and by far the best fast food breakfast place in my opinion. Obviously my opinion is heavily biased but if you ever get the chance, go try it for yourself. It’ll be worth your time.

  • March 7, 2018 at 9:09 pm
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    Jake, I love that you posted an article related to Whataburger. I’m from Texas, and I can attest to the popularity of the fast food chain. In fact, it seems to be a mission of those who fly back in to the state to go directly to a Whataburger and get their fill (or maybe this is just me). I enjoyed reading your post and found it interesting to look at Whataburger’s strategy and how it relates to competitors like McDonald’s (funny that the golden arches come up once again in this class) and Burger King. Whataburger’s cult like following, and it is cult like, can be attributed to their competitive priority that is focused on quality and consistency. Though you say that, I feel it is important to state that from the viewpoint of a consumer who frequents the chain whenever I am back home in Texas. From a marketing standpoint, competitive priorities are aided by effective techniques to appeal to the loyal customer base that frequents the restaurant. Whataburger utilizes social media to engage patrons, where they then focus on the details at the location that include the orange and white identifiable scheme and “the little things” that add a nostalgic like feel to eating at the burger chain. Pair that with consistency and taste that runs back to the 1950’s when Whataburger was conceptualized and you not only achieve your priorities, but are able to win over customers due to great branding paired with excellent operational strategy. Cheers to you for being a Whataburger fan! I’m right there with you.
    https://advertisingsystemsinc.com/blog/what-a-brand-marketing-lessons-from-top-u-s-burger-chain-whataburger/

    • March 7, 2018 at 10:52 pm
      Permalink

      Kyle,

      I am from the Boston and have never had Whataburger, but after reading these posts I definitely want to try it. It is interesting that you bring up marketing in association with their strong customer loyalty. I decided to look more into their marketing strategy and found an interesting article about what makes them social media “savvy”. Something that I found interesting was their use of Twitter. It is becoming popular for other food companies like Wendy’s and Taco Bell to have a more personal approach to connecting with their customers through humorous tweets, and Whataburger seems to have jumped on this trend. Their feed is a mixture of relatable tweets and funny pictures with a couple pop culture comments thrown in. By doing this they become more relatable with their customers and give them a way to interact with Whataburger away from their restaurants.

      https://contentwriters.com/blog/whataburger-uses-social-media-savvy/

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