Whataburger is no longer a family-owned business.
In a cross-country leap toward expanding the company’s brand, the Texas burger chain announced Friday that is has sold a majority interest to Chicago-based BDT Capital Partners.
BDT is a merchant bank that invests in family-owned businesses. It’s adding Whataburger to a sizable portfolio of food retailers in which it owns majority shares, including Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Panera Bread, and the recently rebranded Dunkin’.
In a press release, Whataburger president and CEO Preston Atkinson said, “We’re excited about the partnership with BDT because they respect and admire the brand we’ve built. 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.”
Texans may be more concerned with preserving the chain’s actual recipes. Whataburger legend has it that in 1950, customers lined up around the block for the 100% beef burgers during the restaurant’s first week. Now, 820 locations across 10 states bring in sales of more than $2 billion every year.
In response to the sale, Houston Texans star J.J. Watt tweeted to his 5.46 million followers that everyone should “chip in” to buy the chain back from BDT as a way of saving the menu:
Ok, I say we all chip in and buy Whataburger back. Make honey butter chicken biscuits available all day, add kolaches to the menu and change nothing else. Especially not the ketchup. https://t.co/HadutHXJ9l
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) June 14, 2019
The sale to the Chicago firm is expected to close later this summer, but Whataburger’s headquarters will remain in San Antonio as it attempts to reach new markets and satisfy more appetites.