Whataburger Hits a Delay in Restaurant Opening

Article excerpt

Byline: Gregory Richards, Times-Union business writer

First Coast residents -- your Whataburger is on its way. Just a little later than planned.

December is now when the region's first Whataburger restaurant in many years will likely open, instead of August.

"We've been moving as fast as we can," said Jerry Baird, executive vice president for franchisee FesteCapital Franchise Management in Austin, Texas. "It just takes time to acquire property and get building permits, and it's taken longer than we anticipated."

The First Coast's first new Whataburger is planned for Butler Boulevard and Philips Highway, an intersection where McDonald's, Wendy's and Zaxby's already reign. To pave the way for the rest of the eateries, FesteCapital, through a subsidiary called JWB Ventures Ltd., has established a regional office and training center off A.C. Skinner Parkway, staffed with about five employees, Baird said.

The goal is to open 30 Whataburgers within the next five years, maybe even 40, within a franchise territory that stretches as far south as St. Augustine, as far west as Lake City, and as far north as Brunswick, Ga. That effort is backed by a $45 million investment made by nearly a dozen investors, including Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell.

With Whataburger's quarter-pound burgers served on a 5-inch bun, Baird said the goal is to capture 10 percent of the local market for hamburgers and roast beef sandwiches.

That mammoth burger is how Whataburger got its name. The average hamburger bun measures 4 inches in diameter. But Whataburger's founder Harmon Dobson wanted a burger so big that when people saw it, they would exclaim, "What a burger!"

Today, the 53-year-old Texas chain is a staple throughout much of the Southeast and Southwest, where its approximately 600 orange-and-white-topped buildings have become institutions. …