HOUSTON– Whatablow: A Texas icon has actually been Chicago’ed.
A financial investment firm based in Chicago with the name BDT Capital Partners announced last week that it was acquiring a majority stake in Whataburger, the family-owned, 24- hour, orange-and-white-themed regional fast-food chain founded and commemorated in Texas.
Whataburger isn’t simply a Texas thing– the distinct A-frame dining establishments dot the highways in Arizona, Alabama, Florida and a handful of other states, with sales of more than $2 billion each year.
But the burger chain has actually become inseparable from Texas, a location that often seems more brand name than state, home to Texas-shaped pool and Texas-only special-edition pickup trucks. To turn control of a business founded in 1950 in Corpus Christi over to some investors in Illinois– that’s been more than some people here can swallow.
” We just need time to change,” composed The San Antonio Express-News
J.J. Watt, the star lineman for the Houston Texans football group, advised his more than 5 million followers on Twitter to “all chip in and purchase Whataburger back” and add kolaches– a doughy Czech special that long back found a 2nd house in the Lone Star State– to the menu. Social media emerged with Texas-themed memes and images, and outraged Alamo recommendations(“182 guys didn’t pass away at The Alamo just so we could give @Whataburger over to Chicago. I’m just sayin’,” tweeted one man from the Rio Grande Valley city of McAllen).
Whataburger and BDT have urged calm.
Whataburger’s president and president, Preston Atkinson, stated in a declaration that the chain desired to “broaden the brand name” in other places in the country and found a partner that doesn’t “plan to alter our recipe for success.” The company published an open letter on Twitter: “Texas, we do not want you to be upset. We will constantly be Texan and represent you in a manner that makes you happy.”
But the damage is far from controlled.
” It’s got every real Texan quaking in their boots,” stated Dick DeGuerin, who is one of the state’s most desired criminal defense attorneys (and who happens to like his Whataburger with jalapeños.) “I have actually had cases in Chicago. It’s a lovely city right there on the lake. I’ve had some extremely pleasant experiences with a few of the lawyers from up there. But for God’s sake, get your hands off our hamburgers.”
Texas is Hawaii with oil and guns– a part of America that is apart from America.
No other state wishes to be more like no other state than Texas. All the things that make Texas Texas– the state’s flag, shape, food, books, music, politics and even chain shops– burnish the brand name. This is the location where “Don’t Tinker Texas” is more than just an anti-litter motto: It’s a federally registered trademark, owned, naturally, by the State of Texas. The Rangers are more than the state’s elite authorities force; they’re likewise a major-league baseball franchise.
Texans have a difficult time supplying a definitive explanation for why the state has become so self-obsessed that even sharing a hamburger chain with outsiders raises hackles.
Some believe it traces back to the Republic of Texas– having as soon as been a country, it’s been hard to opt for mere statehood. Others see it more politically, with some Texans fretted about losing the state’s long-held conservative identity as brand-new people relocate. ” Do Not California Our Texas” has actually ended up being a popular T-shirt and rally chant for Texas Republicans. At least some of the answer is commercial: The Texas brand name sells, and the state works hard to perpetuate and market its self-promotional misconceptions. That ain’t toast, in other words– that’s Texas Toast.
” I think it’s simply our independent nature,” said Daniel Vaughn, the barbecue editor of Texas Monthly (his go-to Whataburger order is the jalapeño-cheddar biscuit sandwich). “Brisket, no matter how well you smoke it beyond Texas, will never ever be as good as Texas brisket since it wasn’t made in Texas. That’s just the view of, I think, the majority of Texans. If it remains in Texas and of Texas, it’s more essential.”
Thus a Texas hamburger is larger than all other type of burgers, in all sort of ways.
The Whataburger chain, now headquartered in San Antonio, was officially recognized by the Texas Legislature as a state treasure in 2001, an honor duly noted on a sticker label on many Whataburger front doors.
Texans have actually been married in Whataburgers. One Texas couple held a Whataburger-themed image shoot for their newborn in 2016– the child was put on a striped Whataburger tray and swaddled, burger-style, in yellow Whataburger wrapping.
The burger chain played a bit part in the biggest political battle in Texas in years: Democratic underdog Beto O’Rourke’s stopped working effort last year to unseat Republican Senator Ted Cruz. Throughout the project, Mr. O’Rourke skateboarded in Whataburger parking lots and, after his argument with Mr. Cruz, he posted video of himself air-drumming to the Who in a Whataburger drive-through lane in Dallas. When word spread on social networks that Mr. O’Rourke’s black-and-white campaign logo bore an unusual similarity to Whataburger’s popular spicy catsup packaging, a Cruz spokesperson called Mr. O’Rourke a “ Triple Meat Whataburger liberal who runs out touch with Texas worths.” The Fire Ted Cruz PAC countered, declaring, “Whataburger IS a Texas worth.”
Ed Nelson, who will end up being the new president of Whataburger on July 1, stated in a statement that sales are up in Texas given that news of the sale broke. “I want all our Texas consumers to understand we are still very much a Texas brand name– the Lone Star State has actually constantly been home for us, and it would be insane to change what our consumers like most,” Mr. Nelson stated.
The primary executive of BDT Capital Partners, Byron Trott, stated in a statement that his company was interested in Whataburger precisely due to the fact that of the Texas-size loyalty of its fans. “We wish to guarantee Whataburger is around for years to come to serve its consumers and communities,” he said.
At lunchtime on Thursday in one of the state’s wealthiest enclaves– Houston’s River Oaks– Whataburger No. 266 on Westheimer Road was humming.
The parking lot was packed, and the drive-through was, too. A construction worker at a booth inside didn’t bother taking off his helmet. One table was stickier than the sticky side of a strip of Scotch tape.
No significant changes appeared to be in the works. A Double Meat Whataburger Meal still cost $7.69 The medium beverage was still a large, and the big still made a Huge Gulp look puny. The chicken strips still came with a side of Texas Toast. “Spicy mustard!” a customer screamed while her buddy picked dressings at the counter. For a short minute, there was Whataburger anxiety: Spicy mustard? Is that a Chicago thing?
Incorrect alarm: The client misspoke. She implied spicy catsup. Some things never change.