In recent years, food trucks have driven onto the U.S. restaurant scene in vast numbers. Market research company IBISWorld estimates U.S. food trucks represent a $1.1 billion industry. Now, San Antonio-based Whataburger is catching up to the action.
On August 6, Whataburger took off the wraps off its first-ever food truck during a teacher appreciation event at The DoSeum, just a few blocks from a Whataburger restaurant. Whataburger debuted the truck as part of the burger chain’s 70th anniversary celebration.
“We wanted a way to connect even more with our communities and to introduce Whataburger to new customers in a new and exciting way,” Rich Scheffler, vice president of marketing and innovation at Whataburger, says in an August 6 release. “And this truck is a showstopper.”
Next year, the “showstopper” will hit the road for a multistate tour of Whataburger markets; no word yet on where the truck will park. The vehicle also will be called up for duty during natural disasters and other emergencies.
Whataburger says the 36-foot truck — emblazoned in the chain’s trademark orange and white colors — features a 4-foot grill and 24 feet of cooking space powered by a 30,000-watt generator, “bringing the same kind of burger-making power as a brick-and-mortar restaurant.” San Antonio-based Cruising Kitchens, the world’s largest maker of customized mobile kitchens, built the Whataburger truck.
The truck’s 30 laminated vinyl panels display images of burgers, while LED lighting provides a distinctive glow and a “Flying W” logo graces the grill.
“We have worked on the idea of a food truck for years,” Scheffler says. “But we didn’t want it to roll out of the garage until it could turn heads and bring our restaurant-quality food to the road. This truck fits the bill.”
The Whataburger truck will be featured in an episode of Cruising Kitchens’ new Built For Business show on the MotorTrend TV network. The show — starring Cruising Kitchens owners Cameron and Kaycee Davies and their 64,000-square-foot production facility near San Antonio International Airport — premieres August 20.
In a release, CEO Ed Nelson advises Whataburger lovers to “get ready” for the chain’s next 70 years, as “the brand is taking innovative steps to meet the needs of the next generation of Whataburger fans — while still holding true to the things that matter to our longtime customers.”
Among those steps is a cosmetic makeover of existing and new Whataburger locations that dramatically scales back the chain’s classic A-frame design but preserves the familiar orange-and-white color palette. Furthermore, Whataburger is expanding into new geographic areas and is beefing up its franchising program.
Last year, Chicago-based investment firm BDT Capital Partners LLC purchased a majority stake in Whataburger. Aside from Whataburger, BDT owns shares of Panera Bread, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and Einstein Bros. Bagels.
The Whataburger brand has grown from a single location that opened on August 8, 1950, in Corpus Christi to over 830 restaurants in 10 states that ring up more than $2 billion in annual sales. Fun fact: Whataburger launched five years before McDonald’s.