San Antonio-based Whataburger announced today that BDT Capital Partners,LLC, a merchant bank that advises and invests in family and founder-led companies, has agreed to acquire through its affiliated funds a majority interest in Whataburger. The family who founded the iconic restaurant will remain a minority owner and Whataburger headquarters will remain in San Antonio.
Together, BDT and the Whataburger team will begin exploring expansion plans – while staying true to the brand it has been over the past 69 years.
The company also announced an internal leadership realignment to position the brand for long-term growth and success. Most notably, the company named several new internal promotions, including a president, chief operating officer and chief restaurant operating officer.
“Whataburger has grown significantly over the years. And, in order to keep satisfying our customers, we’ve been exploring different options to expand the brand and introduce it to new audiences. We’ve gone through this process purposefully and diligently because we wanted to find a partner who honors our values, culture and 69-year legacy of family tradition,” said Whataburger President/CEO Preston Atkinson.
“We’re excited about the partnership with BDT because they respect and admire the brand we’ve built,” Atkinson continued. “They want to preserve it while they help us continue growing a sustainable, competitive business over a long period of time. They don’t plan to change our recipe for success.”
BDT will be key in providing strategic vision and long-term growth capital to the tenured Whataburger leadership team.
“Whataburger is an iconic brand and extraordinary company with an important legacy of family ownership, loyal customers, valuable community involvement, dedicated and talented employees, and a highly experienced management team,” said Tiffany Hagge, Managing Director of BDT Capital Partners. “We look forward to a long-term partnership with the Whataburger team, continuing their commitment to serving high-quality, great-tasting food at a value and delivering a superior customer experience. We are excited to support Whataburger as they continue to innovate and pursue accelerated growth in existing and new markets. This investment is a perfect example of BDT’s business model – to partner and invest alongside exceptional family businesses, with strong cultures, deep community ties and loyal customers.”
Current Whataburger President/CEO Preston Atkinson and Board Chair Tom Dobson also elevated several leaders within the company. Whataburger’s leadership team holds more than 150 years of combined experience growing the Whataburger brand, and for that reason, all positions named were internal promotions.
“As the brand embarks on a growth and expansion plan, we decided the time was right to promote new leadership to carry the company forward,” said Atkinson. “This leadership team has the right combination of Whataburger core values, strategic vision and people-centered leadership to take us into the future.”
Whataburger has focused on its fresh, made-to-order burgers and friendly customer service since 1950 when Harmon Dobson opened the first Whataburger as a small roadside burger stand in Corpus Christi, Texas. Dobson gave his restaurant a name he hoped to hear customers say every time they took a bite of his made-to-order burgers: “What a burger!” Within the first week the company says people lined up around the block for his 25 cent, 100 percent beef burgers served on five-inch buns. Today, the company is headquartered in San Antonio with 828 locations in 10 states with sales of more than $2 billion annually.
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