December 01, 2022
I have taken the back way into town the last two days and noticed a line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot at one of the major intersections. The first day I went past I noticed there was a sheriff’s car parked in the road near the entrance and two uniformed officers standing at the driveway. I tried to avoid being a “Looky Loo” and drove on by. I was surprised to see the same situation (line, police car, and officers) again when I drove by the second day. I could not figure out what was causing the traffic tie up. Was this a covid test station I was not aware of? Was it a free food giveaway popup for the holiday season? I vowed to get to the bottom of the mystery when I got home, but before I did, I decided to read the newspaper. The lead story on the front page concerned the new burger restaurant that just opened. As I read the story it described the location and the precautions being taken to direct traffic in and out of the lot. The story gave the address, and I realized the traffic jam was caused by the new Whataburger.
When I looked online, I found the Whataburger chain was started by Harmon Dobson in 1950 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Dobson’s idea was to serve a burger so big it took two hands to hold, and so good that after a single bite customers could not help but exclaim, “What a burger!” With this goal in mind, he named his humble burger stand, “Whataburger.” By 1960, Whataburger had 17 restaurants and a year later the familiar orange and white striped A-frames housed the burger palace. The chain doubled to over 200 restaurants during the 1970’s, along with the first drive-thru built in 1971. This was the era when country music legend Mel Tillis started appearing in TV ads for the company, a role he continued through the 1980’s. According to their website, Whataburger has continued to be owned and operated by the Dobson family and has grown to more than 890 locations across the country. The newest one is blocking traffic in Fort Smith.
According to another website which ranked the fifteen best burgers in America, the Double Meat Whataburger ranks fourth on the list, just ahead of McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese (America’s bestselling burger) at fifth and Wendy’s Dave’s Double at sixth. Burger King’s The Whopper fell to twelfth. Culver’s Double Butterburger with Cheese topped the list. Culver’s began in Wisconsin and features Wisconsin made cheese and a grilled Kaiser bun. A 2015 survey by Franchise Business Review stated the “Culver Franchising System was rated No. 1 in franchisee satisfaction among restaurant franchises.” There are 878 existing Culver’s locations (26 more planned) in 26 states throughout middle America. Even though I have never heard of Culver’s, there is one existing location in Northwest Arkansas, with another planned for the same area. I wonder if the new Culver’s will also feature a police escort.
THOUGHTS: Sunday, September 18, was National Cheeseburger Day in 2022. Determining the best burger in America has got to be subjective, but as I read the reviews it appeared to center around highest fat and calorie content (Whataburger’s Double ButterBurger with Cheese?). Still, I envied the person who got the job of tasting burgers across the nation to determine which was “the best”. Americans eat and drink about one third of their calories away from home, and in May 2017 the FDA established a statue on nutritional labeling for chain restaurants and similar establishments. The compliance date was extended from May 5, 2017, to May 7, 2018, to allow “what opportunities there may be to reduce costs and enhance the flexibility of these requirements beyond those reflected in the final rule” (read, cut the calories). I have since changed my order after seeing the calorie notices, and even walked out of one franchise. Eating from a sack is convenient but is rarely based on nutrition. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.