Published on February 15, 2018, at 10:03 a.m.
by Greta Banks.
As a Texpat, there are few things I miss more than Whataburger, the regional fast food chain located exclusively in Southern states but primarily in Texas. My craving for a Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit has led me to drive close to two hours just to get my favorite late-night snack. The Texas classic was originally known for making burgers so big, you need two hands to hold them. Now, it’s the unique menu offerings that incorporate local flavors — like the Honey Barbecue Chicken Strip Sandwich and the Jalapeno Cheddar Biscuit Sandwich — that make it a favorite among Texans.
While there’s no denying the quality of the food, some of the credit for Whataburger’s success is due to its public relations strategies. Here are some key takeaways:
Know your audience
More than 83 percent of Whataburger restaurants are located in Texas. Whataburger is a part of Texas culture, and it capitalizes on that fact by sharing content tailored to Texas traditions. During homecoming season, the media relations team shared instructions on how to make a Whataburger-themed mum, playing into the local tradition of crafting extreme corsage-like decorations. In San Antonio, where Fiesta is so celebrated it gets a school holiday, Whataburger participates by creating and selling Fiesta medals along with other local businesses and organizations.
Show your fans some love
People like to show their love for Whataburger in all kinds of creative ways, and Whataburger never fails to recognize them for it. On Twitter, it frequently shares pictures people have sent in and retweets things like a customer showing off her Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit tattoo, or a painting of Tejano music star Selena with Whataburger french fries.
Knowing that they have a good chance of being appreciated by Whataburger for their efforts, fans consistently produce content that often earns Whataburger media placements. A customer recently celebrated his 100th visit by creating a crown and costume out of Whataburger packaging and sharing a video of himself as the “Whataburger King.” The story was quickly picked up by numerous local news stations and shared thousands of times across Facebook and Twitter.
Always support your community
Whataburger has been family owned and operated in Texas since its inception in 1950. For all the support the Texas community gives Whataburger, Whataburger gives back. When Hurricane Harvey hit, Whataburger donated $1 million to the Whataburger Family Foundation to support affected employees and their families, as well as an additional $500,000 to local food banks and $150,000 to the Red Cross.
In San Antonio, Whataburger gifted $1 million to Morgan’s Wonderland, “the world’s first universally accessible water park.” Through actions like these, Whataburger shows that it isn’t just about selling to the community, but rather serving it.
Take advantage of trends and current events
Whataburger does a great job of engaging customers on Twitter by capitalizing on the latest viral tweet going around, such as, “The floor is…,” “2018 is wild,” and so many more that are wildly popular with its audience.
Whataburger also puts its name on the latest news stories, like when the Astros won the World Series. Whataburger surprised Texans by having players working the drive-through, handing them their order when they pulled up to the window. On the NBA trade deadline day, when everyone was talking about the Cleveland Cavaliers’ drastic roster changes, Whataburger made a timely joke on Twitter that the remainder of the team was being traded for a year of Whataburger.
While the food will always be amazing, it’s the way Whataburger makes customers feel — by engaging them, appreciating them and supporting them — that makes it a Texas treasure.