KENNESAW, GA — The popular Texas-based fast food chain Whataburger opened its first metro Atlanta franchise in Kennesaw recently, attracting long lines of customers day and night.
“As we grow into different markets, Atlanta was one of the hot markets that Whataburger said they need to be in,” said Sandeep Kadur, the Whataburger senior area manager for the Atlanta market whose job is to ensure upkeep and oversee performance within Whataburger’s Metro-Atlanta restaurants.
Whataburger is a $2.7 billion company with over 800 locations across 11 states where their burgers have a cult following. In 2019, the family-owned business was bought by BDT Capital Partners from Chicago, Illinois. Since then, the company has focused on expanding in the southeast, said Kadur.
Quick Service Restaurants Magazine recently ranked Whataburger 6th in market share among burger chains and 22nd overall as of August 2022.
“Whataburger has had a history of great success in the Texas market and Gulf Coast market,” said John Salazar, a professor of hospitality management at the University of Georgia.
He also spoke about the importance of local perception in the markets where restaurants are located.
“Restaurants, especially in the last few years, are now understanding that they have to be part of that community investment,” said Salazar. “That’s something that can’t really come out of the Whataburger office in Texas, or the capital investors in Chicago. That has to really come from that local operator and where that local operator is engaged in the community.”
Community engagement could be difficult in the age of mobile ordering and pickup, said Rydell Johnson, the Kennesaw franchise owner.
“There’s no personal reaction,” when everything is online, he said.
That’s different from when he first started with the chain, working in a local Whataburger in his native Houston when he was 17.
“I was in high school; it was my very first job,” said Johnson, adding that the company was supportive of employees. “It was incredible.”
Johnson’s store shows no signs of slowing down, with long lines weeks after the store opening.
“Knowing that Kennesaw was trending on social media for this made it so much better,” said Dakari Dickey, a customer. “I’m from Tallahassee, Florida and I used to eat there often before moving to Georgia. Even though this wasn’t my first time having Whataburger, I can definitely say it was worth the wait.”