Following a year of successfully leading Whataburger through an ownership transition and the challenges of a global pandemic, Whataburger President Ed Nelson was promoted to CEO of the company on August 1, 2020, by BDT Capital Partners.
Ed, a 16-year veteran of the brand, was named president of Whataburger in July 2019. Since that time, Ed has worked tirelessly to preserve the 70-year-old company’s legacy -- while also evolving the brand through a mix of innovation and growth.
Under Ed’s leadership, Whataburger has launched curbside and delivery service across its 10-state footprint; introduced three, new limited-time offer burgers; built seven new restaurants (with nine more planned by the end of year); unveiled modern restaurant designs; and, built a new restaurant prototype and announced plans to begin franchising for the first time in 20 years.
“As Whataburger celebrates 70 years, it’s fitting that Ed Nelson is named CEO of the brand. Ed’s passion and commitment for Whataburger is unwavering. His energy and visionary leadership have been absolutely critical over the last 12 months,” says Tiffany Hagge, Whataburger board member and Partner at BDT Capital Partners. “Despite the challenging environment presented by COVID-19, Whataburger’s sales have surpassed existing records, and the restaurant teams have achieved new levels of operational success, broadly outperforming the industry. Ed has been an exceptional leader of the Whataburger team through this adversity, while staying true to the company’s long legacy of serving up amazing burgers and hospitality – and, most importantly, maintaining Whataburger’s culture of strong Family values, throughout.”
Working side-by-side a 15-person Strategy Council, Ed has successfully navigated the business challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. While operating a 24/7 Command Center to keep employees and customers safe during COVID, Whataburger temporarily closed its dining rooms and ramped up sales through its new curbside, online app, and delivery services. Ed also helped shift the company mindset to be more operationally efficient in support of its 837 restaurants.
“Our entire leadership team rolled up their sleeves and implemented significant change to keep the business thriving and our brand intact. I am so proud of the work our employees – who we call Family Members – have done to keep the spirit of Whataburger alive during difficult times,” Nelson said. “It’s my honor to be named CEO of this iconic brand. I always believe that Whataburger is a place where goodness lives, and that has been proven time and time again from the many emails our customers have sent saying that Whataburger has been ‘there for them’ during this trying time.”
Ed received his bachelor’s degree in finance and master’s of accountancy from Clemson University and is also a CPA. Ed won the San Antonio Business Journal’s Best CFO Award in 2012 and has been twice honored with the Whataburger Chairman’s Award for his leadership and dedication to the company.
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The company, founded in 1950 in Corpus Christi, Texas, had 830 units at the end of 2019, including 703 company-owned and 127 franchised. Whataburger has restaurants in 10 states and plans to add about 15 new units this year.