Man talking(l+r), Whataburger(c)

Barre Kelley/Shutterstock @michael_girdley/Tiktok (Licensed)

‘Not the same’: Whataburger customers says quality has gone downhill. Expert says they’re right—and this is why

'It's not the same. I'll take In-N-Out any day.'


Allyson Waller


Posted on May 8, 2024   Updated on May 8, 2024, 8:47 am CDT

Has Whataburger’s quality declined? For decades, Whataburger has been a Texas staple few have gripes with. But a business leader is arguing the quality of the beloved chain’s food has declined.

In a recent video posted to TikTok, businessman Michael Girdley (@michael_girdley) describes how Whataburger “used to make the best hamburgers.” He says it was the In-N-Out of Texas. As of Tuesday evening, Girdley’s video has received more than 300,000 views.

“But now you read online reviews and people say, ‘Whataburger is just not the same.’” Girdley says in the video. “People complain about the food quality and they say, ‘Well, Whataburger has lost their way.’”

A Chicago-based investment firm has something to do with it

Girdley cites the chain selling the majority of the stake in its company to a Chicago-based bank as a reason its quality in food might have changed. In 2019, a Chicago-based investment firm acquired a majority stake in the Texas-based chain, and the move frustrated some of the chain’s loyal customers, the New York Times reported. According to local news station KXAN, the company, which is headquartered in San Antonio, saw the sale as a way for the food chain to expand.

“Their solution was to franchise and expand the menu.” Gridley says. “Going from a focus solely on great burgers and service to adding things like wings, coffee and franchisees in other states.”

The Daily Dot reached out to Whataburger via its media relations form for more information.

Domino’s Pizza comparisons

Gridley goes on to compare this pivotal moment to the reinvention of Domino’s Pizza.

A 2016 article in Harvard Business Review mentions how Domino’s reinvented itself by keeping up with changes in technology and people’s ordering habits and deliveries, while also working to make its pizza taste better. The Daily Dot reached out to Domino’s for further comment via email.

“The lesson [is] businesses aren’t run on a spreadsheet,” Girdley said. “We can kid ourselves about what really makes a business work, but fixing a business requires us not to lose sight of what made us successful in the first place.”

The Daily Dot reached out to Girdley for further comment via a contact form on his website.


What happened to Whataburger?

♬ original sound – Michael Girdley

The first Whataburger was opened in Corpus Christi, Texas on Aug. 8, 1950. It was founded by entrepreneur Harmon Dobson. The chain prides itself in making sure its burgers are “made to order,” according to its website, with never-frozen beef.

In 2023, Whataburger placed 34th on the  2023 Franchise Times 400 list, making it one of the top franchise restaurant chains in the U.S. At the time of ranking, the chain had surpassed $3 billion in sales across 925 locations, according to a news release.

Whataburger customers weigh in

Viewers seemed largely divided over Girdley’s claims that Whataburger’s quality had dwindled. Some agreed that the change in majority ownership affected their experience with the restaurant.

“It’s gone downhill since 2019!! They need to bring back the mushroom Swiss!!!” user @spacecityayebear said.

“I’m from Texas and used to be a Whataburger fanatic,” user Joshua Schmitz (@joshuaschmitz8) said. “It’s not the same. I’ll take In-N-Out any day.”

Meanwhile, others mentioned they didn’t notice that much of a difference in Whataburger’s quality of food over the years and intend to keep frequenting the chain.

“My patty melt combo still just as good as ever,” user Nin (@ninuzumaki) said.

“I eat at Whataburger weekly for 30 years and I haven’t noticed a difference. Still good!” user @yepitsmefosho said.

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*First Published: May 8, 2024, 6:00 pm CDT