SAN ANTONIO, March 07, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Sixteen restaurants in Florida, Mississippi and Texas have emerged as finalists in Whataburger's WhataGames, a unique competition designed to test the skills of Whataburger team members in the categories of operations, corporate history and customer service.
Stakes are high. The teams, who beat out their competitors at Whataburger's more than 700 restaurants in ten states, will travel to Grapevine, Texas, near Dallas, for an intense 3-day competition, with big money prizes on the line.
The WhataGames gold medal winning team takes home $5,000 each as well as $500 each for their fellow restaurant team members that didn't make the trip. Silver medal team members each win $2,500 and $250 for their restaurant team members and bronze team members each win $1,000 and $100 for their restaurant team members. In total, Whataburger invests $140,000 in prize money for the games, over and above travel and lodging expenses.
"This is a huge moment for our team," said Annie Bernal, GM of Unit 800 in Kingsville, Texas and a returning finalist. "We've been training together for months - years if you count the 2009 competition -- and the pressure is on. I am confident in our team and eager to show our pride in front of the thousands that make up the Whataburger family."
Whataburger restaurant teams are comprised of 10 members: one general manager, one manager, two team leaders and six team members. The dedicated group studies their operations manuals, practices their burger-creating and frying skills, and memorizes Whataburger history, facts and procedures to ready themselves for the games. Through a process of elimination involving mystery shoppers, independent restaurant audits and pop quizzes, the top 16 restaurants rose above the rest.
Teams compete for three days, April 3-5, in three different competitions: WhataYaKnow, a Jeopardy-like game; Texas Hot Hold 'Em, a card game related to Whataburger procedures; and What's Cookin', a simulated 30-minute lunch rush at a Whataburger restaurant located in Grapevine, Texas.
This year, for the first time, Whataburger team members will also be tested on their customer service in a competition called "March Gladness." Throughout the month of March, service audit teams will conduct 'mystery visits' at each of the individual finalists' restaurants to ensure teams are 'serving customers with the extra smile' that is a Whataburger trademark.
Along with the 16 WhataGames restaurant finalist teams, seven teams from the company's maintenance staff will be competing to prove who can flawlessly maintain equipment like fryers, grills and drive-thru speakers. Whataburger's maintenance services staff maintains all of the company's more than 700 restaurants and are a crucial part of ensuring every Whataburger restaurant is clean and functions properly. Three technicians from each of Whataburger's seven regions will compose the teams, which compete in their own competition for the same level of prizes as the restaurant teams.
"WhataGames is about the passion our team members have for delivering outstanding food and friendly service. It's remarkable to see a 16-year-old win $5,000 and use it to help his family buy a new car or save it for college," said Tom Dobson, Chairman and CEO for Whataburger Restaurants, LP. "It's about much more than training or operations. WhataGames is a celebration of our commitment to our team members, our company's culture and a tribute to our history."
WhataGames finals are the featured event during the Whataburger Family Convention, held concurrently at the Gaylord Texas in Grapevine, near Dallas. The games were created in 1996 as a training exercise for operations to better serve our customers. The first event hosted less than 500 people, and today it attracts over 2,000 Whataburger team members. The convention is a family occasion, hosting Whataburger corporate and regional representatives, franchisees, suppliers, and their spouses, along with the WhataGames national finalists.
This year the 61-year old burger icon's "Biggest Fans," chosen from over 3,000 entries during Whataburger's "Tell Us Why You're Our Biggest Fan" online contest, will be recognized at the convention. Fans like Carol and Karl Hoepfner of Rockport, Texas, who have been customers since 1963 and enjoy breakfast together daily at their local Whataburger, will be awarded a prize package worth more than $10,000 and will travel to the Gaylord Texan for an all-expense paid visit and a welcome into the Whataburger Family. Seven "Biggest Fans" were named in October 2010.
WhataGames Restaurant Finalists, 2011
Tallahassee, Florida: Unit 912, 1701 West Tennessee
D'Iberville, Mississippi: Unit 843, 3611 Sangani
Austin, Texas: Unit 907, 6301 W. Parmer Lane, Building 3
Brownwood, Texas: Unit 534, 411 East Commerce
Corpus Christi, Texas: Unit 396, 4545 Violet Road
El Paso, Texas: Unit 372, 131 Americas Avenue South
Fort Worth, Texas: Unit 526, 3160 S. E. Loop 820
Houston: Unit 670, 3797 Southwest Freeway
Houston: Unit 601, 211 West Road
Kingsville, Texas: Unit 800, 2701 South US Hwy 77 Bypass
Laredo, Texas: Unit 669, 7110 McPherson Road
Laredo, Texas: Unit 845, 9102 McPherson Road
North Richland Hills, Texas: Unit 729, 6225 Precinct Line Road
Round Rock, Texas: Unit 528, 1501 South IH 35
San Antonio: Unit 782, 503 S. W. Military Drive
Victoria, Texas: Unit 788, 3603 Houston Highway
Whataburger has focused on its fresh, made-to-order burgers and friendly customer service since 1950 when Harmon Dobson opened the first Whataburger as a small roadside burger stand in Corpus Christi, Texas. Dobson gave his restaurant a name he hoped to hear customers say every time they took a bite of his made-to-order burgers: "What a burger!" Within the first week, people lined up around the block for his 25 cent, all-American beef burgers served on five-inch buns. Today, the company is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, with more than 700 locations in 10 states with sales of more than $1 billion annually. Visit www.whataburger.com for more information on the company.