Restaurants

Whatadisaster — Whataburger Sale Freaks Out Texas, J.J. Watt and Governor Lead Push Against Chicago Takeover

Calls Mount to Buy Back Iconic Lone Star State Brand

BY // 06.17.19

Texans everywhere are having conniptions over spicy ketchup — and with good reason. Something we know and love is at stake thanks to a potentially shady new stakeholder.  A 69-year-old icon, a testament to all things Texas, hangs in the balance.

Whataburger has officially sold out — or survived, depending on how you look at it—  and no one knows what’s coming next. Whatadisaster.

Chicago-based investment firm BDT Capital Partners has taken a huge bite out of Whataburger, acquiring a majority stake in the late-night fast food haven, the orange and white beacon for the best burgers in the state. BDT was founded by Byron Trott, a former vice president of investment banking at Goldman Sachs.

Tom Dobson, the son of founder Harmon Dobson, will remain on Whataburger’s board but he will no longer be the board chairman.

Texans aren’t having it. And we shouldn’t, considering BDT Capital Partners has stakes in generic, ho-hum chains like Krispy Kreme and Panera.

It’s a terrifying thought, but we’re all thinking it — is Whataburger going to morph from a unique local treasure into a blah national chain?

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Sure, Whataburger expanded to Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oklahoma in recent years, which was hard enough. But it remained regional.

Now, Chi-town can keep its hotdogs. But the Whatachick’n should stay put.

There’s been plenty of outcry, backlash, blowback, whatever you want to call it. On Instagram, @cyndionarol posted “Locked and loaded. Don’t Chicago my Whataburger!!”

On twitter, @causaundraporras noted “men really died at The Alamo just for us to give up Whataburger to Chicago.” Meanwhile, @emmaValverde7 said “if you don’t live in Texas, you don’t deserve Whataburger. Don’t even argue.”

And it’s hit Facebook, too. Next to a photo of Whataburger-themed cowboy boots, user Kirby Calhoun posted “Please take this down. ‘As Texan as Whataburger’ is not a thing anymore. Find something more ‘Chicago’ to put your name in front of from here on out. Just leave Texas out of it, you seem to be good at that lately…” a day ago.

But there’s one voice raising above the rest, a true hero speaking up for the people. That would be none other than NFL superstar J.J. Watt. After all, you could say the only thing more Texas than Whataburger is good old-fashioned football.

The Houston Texan is just that — even if he’s from Wisconsin. This is home away from home, and he’ll do whatever he can to protect it.

He just needs some help.

“OK, I say we all chip in and buy Whataburger back. Make honey butter chicken biscuits available all day, add kolaches to the menu and change nothing else. Especially not the ketchup,” Watt tweeted.

Now, the controversy has spread from sports to politics. Governor Greg Abbott tweeted a photo of former president George W. Bush with the caption “Get in J.J., We’re saving Whataburger.”

Whataburger’s family ownership isn’t sitting on the sidelines. Instead, it’s trying to assure customers that everything they love about Whataburger will stay, and nothing is going to change.

“Texas, we don’t want you to be upset. We will always be Texan and represent you in a way that makes you proud. #believethat,” Whataburger posted.

The thing is, if you mention Whataburger, you’re talking Texas.

For now.

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