Whata-farce: Ken Hoffman on a blasphemous new study toasting Texas' favorite fast-food burger
Last week, Top Data, an analytics research firm, released the findings of a poll that is the greatest threat to American democracy since … well, this isn’t the time or place.
Top Data claims it used GPS tracking data from America’s top fast food restaurant chains and surveyed 1,000 hard-working citizens to determine the favorite burger in each of our 50 states.
According to Top Data, the favorite burger in Texas is (drum roll) A&W! Rounding out the Texas Top 5 are: In-N-Out, Steak ‘n Shake, Shake Shack, and Culver’s.
Blasphemy! And that’s putting it mildly.
Is Top Data really saying that Whataburger isn’t king in Texas? Try telling a Texan that A&W has a better burger than “Whata” and there will be some furniture moving, or worse.
I know my way around a burger. During my journalism career — this long hard climb to the middle — I’ve reviewed more than 1,000 burgers, fried chicken, and pizzas from all the top fast food chains. Frankly it’s a miracle that I’m not attached to a machine.
I have never eaten an A&W burger. I asked some of my friends: they’ve never had one, either.
Heck, there’s only one A&W restaurant in Houston, by the West Road exit on I-45. There are only 22 in Texas, which, may I remind you, is a mighty big state with more than 30 million people and 38 electoral votes.
The lone A&W in Houston shares a drive-through with Long John Silver’s, the most underrated fast food chain in America.
If you went to an expensive steakhouse, ordered a burger, and they brought you a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder, you’d start looking for a hidden camera. This has to be one of those TV prank shows.
But, if you went to an upscale seafood restaurant, ordered fish and chips, and they brought you the No. 10 combo platter from Long John Silver’s, you wouldn’t suspect any chicanery, except for the plastic packets of malt vinegar. I love Long John Silver’s. I always get an extra side of fried clams, the unsung hero of the entire shellfish industry.
Texas' true top burger
Dismissing Top Data’s claim that Texans’ favorite burger is A&W (huh??), let’s explore for the true top dog (except we’re talking about burgers).
Let’s crunch some real numbers and determine our favorite burger by number of units and sales figures. Nobody is holding a gun to anybody’s head saying you must eat at this or that drive-thru.
The No. 1 burger chain across America is McDonald’s, of course. According to QSR Magazine, the bible of the fast food industry, McDonald’s has 13,438 locations. Average sales are $3.4 million per unit. It’s got to be the fries.
Whataburger (ahh, Whataburger) has 1,028 locations with average sales of $3.6 million. Fewer units than McDonald’s, but higher sales per unit. It’s starting to get interesting.
A&W has 600 restaurants with estimated sales of $1.6 million. We say estimated because each year QSR Magazine ranks the Top 50 national chains and A&W didn’t crack the list for 2022. I got the $1.6 million from A&W press releases and financial reports.
That’s how McDonald’s, Whataburger, and A&W stack up nationally. But we’re only concerned about Texas now.
McDonald’s has 834 restaurants in the Lone Star State. Whataburger has 670. A&W has 22, as previously noted.
Statistically, I’ll call it a tie between McDonald’s and Whataburger for Texas bragging rights — although we all know the crown belongs to Whataburger.
Texas' fast-food champ is...
If we’re digging deeper for the overall fast food favorite in Texas, that’s an easy one. There are 649 Chick-fil-A restaurants in Texas – the most of any state in the U.S. Nationally, the average Chick-fil-A rakes in $6.1 million in sales. No other chain averages even $4 million.
So, clearly Chick-fil-A rules the roost in Texas. In fact, the No. 1 busiest Chick-fil-A in the world is here in Houston, by the corner of Kirby and the Southwest Freeway. There should be a plaque by the front door.