Marketing

Whataburger had a very good day—at least on Twitter

The Texas-based burger chain unwittingly became a trending topic, drawing thousands of love letters from fans.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Two politicians walk into a burger joint …

It could be the setup to a lame joke. But, thanks to a major media outlet’s gaffe, that setup turned into a publicity boon for Whataburger on Tuesday, catapulting the chain onto Twitter’s trending topics and making it the unasked-for recipient of thousands of swooning fan letters.

The kerfuffle started early Tuesday when Reuters, in a since-deleted tweet, ran an inaccurate caption to accompany a photo of former presidential candidate and former Texas State Representative Beto O’Rourke and current presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, sipping Styrofoam-cupped sodas and chatting at a table at a Whataburger in Dallas.

“In a Texas chicken joint, Biden and onetime rival Buttigieg unite to stop Sanders,” the caption read, referencing former candidate Pete Buttigieg and current Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders.

As one Twitter commentator wrote: “Which is the bigger mess up? Beto mistaken for Buttigieg or Whataburger mistaken for a chicken joint.”

By midmorning Tuesday, more than 21,000 people were tweeting about San Antonio-based Whataburger. The chain—which has near-cultlike brand loyalty—drew impassioned responses, reminiscent of those it received last summer when Chicago-based investment firm BDT Capital Partners bought a controlling stake in it. (A flashback example of the fervent feelings among Whataburger lovers? An Austin Tex-Mex restaurant, known for its eye-catching billboard messages, posted this semi-ominous missive: “Dear Chicago, If you hurt her I’ll kill you.”)

Whataburger aficionados took to Twitter on Tuesday, defending the burger chain from the erroneous caption.  

“Inexcusable Reuters. Whataburger is the best burger in Texas and has spicy ketchup that is more trustworthy than your lousy journos. #FakeNews”

“Whataburger is trending, and I couldn’t be happier.” – A proud Texan

“A Chicago company bought out Whataburger. This is just the beginning. Soon, it will be known as a ‘Texas tofu joint.’”

“Our customers have been gathering to celebrate at Whataburger for nearly 70 years," Pam Cox, Whataburger’s vice president for human resources and brand communication said in a note to Restaurant Business. "We’re happy that’s something everyone can agree on.” 

With Super Tuesday voters heading to the polls to choose a Democratic candidate and a national presidential election looming in November against the backdrop of a divided nation, this much is clear:

Whataburger might want to consider a run for office.

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