When I’m looking to grab a burger and some fries, I know there’s only one place where I’m sure to be greeted with a Southern twang and a “Hi, darlin’” or a smiling “What can a get ya, honey?” That place is Whataburger. While Whataburger is a fast-food chain restaurant and has much in common with other restaurants of this ilke, it sets itself apart from its competition with its unique Southern charm.
Whataburger’s Southern pride can be traced to its roots. The first Whataburger stand opened in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1950 by Harmon Dobson. Like most American fast-food joints, its beginnings were humble and simple. The stand sold humongous burgers and little else. Dobson’s little stand was soon recognized for its delicious burgers and, over the course of more than fifty years, the trademark A-frame buildings have appeared in locations across the country.
What separates Whataburger from its fast-food brothers of similarly humble origins is where it stands today. To this day, the company remains owned and operated by the Dobson family. The same cannot be said for McDonald’s or Burger King. Another notable feature of Whataburger is that, while it operates as a chain, it does not exist across the entire U.S. One can find a Whataburger in only ten states: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. Notice what these states have in common? Every single one of those ten states is located somewhere in the south.
Whataburger’s southern heritage is clearly a characteristic the company is proud of. This pride is brought to my attention every time a commercial appears on TV. Images of sizzling patties are inevitably accompanied by the voice of a male announcer, and his voice embodies the heritage that Whataburger sports. The voice is unequivocally Southern: drawling, slow, and pleasant. This marketing strategy is noticeably different from the strategies of other fast-food burger joints. Commercials for McDonalds or Burger King feature customers living in indeterminate locations, speaking in neutral dialects.
Conversely, Whataburger’s deliberate use of a Texan accent immediately lets the customers know the restaurant’s origins and what kind of cookin’ to expect. It’s only fitting that this fast-food chain born in the south actively uses a regional dialect to promote food. Can you expect any less from a restaurant from Texas, where state pride comes in spades?