The History of and Story Behind Whataburger Logo (2024)

The History of and Story Behind Whataburger Logo (1)

The Dobson family ranked #103 among America's Richest Families in 2015 with a $2.6 billion net worth. This amount of wealth would not have been possible if Harmon Dobson had not established Whataburger decades ago in 1950. Although it hardly rakes in as much revenue as McDonald's and Burger King, the restaurant is still among the US's 500 largest burger joints. In 2018 it ranked #31 with revenue of $2.4 billion, and it is still going strong. Every story has a beginning so let's take you back to how it was founded and how the Whataburger logo came to be designed.

The Start of Harmon's Entrepreneurial Journey

In 1913, Hugh and Ethel welcomed a baby boy, Harmon Dobson. He grew up on their farm in Arkansas, where the family raised cattle and did vegetable farming. The farm did well, and Harmon's parents managed to send him to school. Unfortunately, while at the University of Missouri, the Great Depression hit the country. According to Valbridge, the Dobson family farm was affected so much that Harmon had to drop out of college to go and help it stabilize.

After helping out on the farm, Harmon was ready to embark on money-making ventures. Therefore, at the age of 23, he began working as an apprentice ironworker. He did all sorts of odd jobs, including shipbuilding, pipefitting, and cable rigging. The ambitious man's efforts made him seek jobs in all corners of the globe, and before long, he was in Eritrea building tanks and radio towers. He later moved to Egypt, working in the Suez Canal, then Bahrain, to build an oil refinery.

After the Second World War ended, Harmon settled on buying used cars, which became profitable. With his massive profits, he dabbled in oil speculation and mining diamonds in South America. Since his businesses were now at different locations, Harmon figured it was wise to visit them by plane. Therefore, he learned how to fly a plane and bought one to help with overseeing his businesses.

Whataburger is Born

They say what you confess you possess, and when Harmon Dobson wrote in his journal on January 1, 1950, that the year would be eventful, he prophesied a bright future. According to STMU History Media, Harmon moved to Texas in 1950 for the oil business. He had accumulated $2500 to invest in oil and found the right partner, Henry Mode, to collaborate on an oil lease.

The year did not start as well as Harmon had hoped because he found Henry had begun drinking again. His drunk partner almost cost Harmon $5,000 invested in a drilling deal that would have led to the money's forfeiture. Luckily, Harmon stepped in two days before, and he decided to pull out of the oil business to finance a hamburger expert, Paul Burton. With this new venture, Harmon was hopeful that things would turn around.

Determined to see positive changes, Harmon wanted to make a burger that would make customers exclaim "What a burger!" due to how delicious and big it was. Consequently, he sought to trademark "Whataburger." On June 23, 1950, he got his wish when the Secretary of State granted him the trademark. Harmon could now operate, and he began by selling his first burgers in Corpus Cristi on August 8, 1950. He insisted on quality from the start, and he sold the burgers for 25 cents, quite on the high end at the time. At the end of the first day, Harmon had made $50, and in the next two days, he made $141. By the fourth day, the sales by the close of business were $141.80 after selling 551 burgers - the restaurant also sold drinks and chips.

Coming up with the Whataburger Logo

From the beginning, Harmon wanted his burger joint to stand out. Therefore, even when he decided to put up a building for visibility, instead of the portable single-story box he had been operating in, Harmon used the letter "W." he erected two steel legs attached to the side of the gable to form the letter. Furthermore, from his experience as a pilot, he knew how to make radio towers and anything that would pose a hazard to aircraft stand out for more visibility.

According to the San Antonio Report, radio towers are often painted in alternating bands of international orange and white for visibility. Therefore, he figured if someone spotted a radio tower from up in the sky due to the colors used, his restaurant would be spotted from miles away. He incorporated the color scheme that has remained in use to date, even in their fries' packaging. The "W" is, however, modified to look like it is a "flying W," and the restaurant has used this since 1972.

Whataburger Accuses Wonder Woman of Logo Theft

In 1985, DC Comics launched Wonder Woman's original logo, which was very similar to Whataburger's, according to Eater. However, Whataburger did not feel the need to take up any issue with DC Comics. Had they had the foresight, the restaurant should have brought a case against DC Comics because they planned to use Wonder Woman to sell drinks, bubble gum, cookies, cake decorations, and other edible items.

While the current Wonder Woman's logo barely resembles the restaurant's logo, Whataburger is now seeing how it can affect their business since DC Comics is now venturing into the food industry. They, therefore, opened a friendly discussion with DC Comics to come up with an acceptable agreement. A legal approach could go either way, and maybe Whataburger is not ready to lose a logo it has used for decades. Regardless, customers must have noticed the similarity years ago and by now know how to differentiate the two logos, so Whataburger should not be worried too much.

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The History of and Story Behind Whataburger Logo (2024)


What is the history of Whataburger? ›

In 1950, Harmon Dobson and Paul Burton were looking to open a hamburger restaurant. Dobson's goal was to "make a better burger that took two hands to hold and tasted so good that when you took a bite you would say 'What a burger!' " In June 1950, Dobson was granted the Whataburger trademark.

Why is the Whataburger logo orange? ›

“He had the goal of making Whataburgers as visible as possible and orange and white is a common color scheme around airports. Meaning: 'pay attention.” Whataburger's signature orange bears similarities to a few other shades of orange, most notably “International Orange,” also known as aerospace orange.

Who designed the Whataburger logo? ›

1973 - Following a design contest, Whataburger chose Corpus Christi artist Will Clay's “Flying W” as its logo. 1974 - The “Modern A-Frame” restaurant architecture was introduced, with bigger dining rooms and better drive-thru service. 1980 - The 300th location opened.

What does the name Whataburger mean? ›

More than seven decades ago, an adventurous and determined entrepreneur named Harmon Dobson had a bold idea: to serve a burger so big that it took two hands to hold, and so good that after a single bite customers couldn't help but exclaim, “What a burger!” He named his humble burger stand, located on Ayers Street in ...

What is the Whataburger slogan? ›

Just like you like it | We take “just like you like it” pretty seriously. By WhataburgerFacebook.

Who is Whataburger owned by? ›

BDT Capital Partners owns Whataburger.

In 2019, Whataburger sold its majority ownership stake to a Chicago investment firm, ending an era for this once family owned and operated burger joint. Whataburger's founders, the Dobson family, now have a minority ownership position in the company.

How did Whataburger get its colors? ›

How did Whataburger get its colors? The iconic orange and white pattern was inspired by Harmon Dobson's passion for flying and his love of air travel.

Why does Whataburger have the Wonder Woman logo? ›

“In fact, Whataburger supports superheroes like Wonder Woman and her friends in the Justice League.” Fans first met the Wonder Woman in 1941. Lynda Carter portrayed her on the 1970s TV show, followed by numerous voice actresses in cartoons.

What is so special about Whataburger? ›

It's a no frills, short stack, thin patty burger, designed to be consistently delicious no matter where in the Lone Star state you eat one. Topped with a thin, pliable bun that leaves an imprint when you press too hard with your finger.

Who is the CEO of Whataburger son? ›

She ultimately refused to sell the company, wanting it to be kept in the family, and became chairwoman of the board of Whataburger until her death in 2005. In 1993, her son Tom Dobson became the CEO and president of Whataburger.

Is Mark Wahlberg owner of Whataburger? ›

The fast food chain Wahlburgers (although it's phonetically similar) was founded by Hollywood heavyweights Paul, Donnie and Mark Wahlberg, whose daughter goes to Clemson University. Who else went to Clemson? Whataburger CEO Ed Nelson, who grew up in Simpsonville.

Is Whataburger originally from Texas? ›

On Aug. 8, 1950, at a burger stand on Ayers Street in Corpus Christi, Whataburger was born. Since that lone stand along the coast, the business has grown to nearly 900 locations across the United States. The business saw strong success, and Harmon expanded it to other markets in Texas.

Does Whataburger use real beef? ›

We take pride in delivering our fresh, bold flavors across our entire footprint, made possible by our: 100% fresh, never-frozen American beef. In-house distribution and supply chain management to ensure optimal freshness. Fresh vegetables, chopped in-house daily.

What is the oldest fast food chain? ›

Most historians agree that the American company White Castle was the first fast-food outlet, starting in Wichita, Kansas in 1916 with food stands and founding in 1921, selling hamburgers for five cents apiece from its inception and spawning numerous competitors and emulators.

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