After a month-long search and poring over thousands of entries, Whataburger announced the winners in its "Tell Us Why You're Our Biggest Fan" online contest, launched in August in celebration of the Southern burger icon's 60th anniversary.
Carol and Karl Hoepfner of Rockport, Texas, who have been customers since 1963 and enjoy breakfast together
daily at their local Whataburger, are the grand-prize winners and will receive a prize package worth more than $10,000, including gift cards for "60 Years of Free Whataburger."
In their winning entry, the Hoepfners wrote, "We have traveled the world over, from the Arctic to Antarctica, from Asia to Europe ... to more than 100 countries, islands and have never found a better hamburger than yours." Since 1999, the couple has eaten more than 7,000 meals at Whataburger and the pair has credit card invoices that reflect more than 50 charges a month to prove it. They are greeted by name each day at their local restaurant in Rockport, Texas, and sit at the same table with their permanently assigned orange and white table tent number 13.
"We were looking for the most loyal Whataburger fans anywhere and I think we've definitely found them in Carol and Karl Hoepfner," said chairman and CEO Tom Dobson. "Customers like them are the reason for everything we do, from our quality food to our extra special customer service. We are humbled that they—and everyone who entered our contest—have made our restaurants a part of their lives."
Second-place winner Kristen Gardiner of Corpus Christi, Texas, met her husband James at Whataburger while the pair were in college and included photos of their "Whatababy" with her entry. The Gardiners will receive 60 months of free Whataburger in addition to other prizes totaling more than $2,000. Roger Blue of New Braunfels, Texas, who has been a customer since 1954 and took his 11-year-old nephew to a new Whataburger restaurant grand opening 2 hours and 30 minutes early to be the first customers in line, will enjoy free breakfast for 60 months as third-place winner.
Other winners include Ted Martin of Dallas, a tournament fisherman who says a meal at Whataburger is his good luck charm; 81-year-old Jewell McGowen of Houston who says she remembers Whataburger as the first hamburger stand that didn't turn her away because of her race; University of North Texas student Matthew Duerr of Denton, Texas, who created a music video about his devotion to Whataburger; and Greg Clark of Clarksville, Tennessee, an Army Staff Sergeant deployed in Afghanistan, who was nominated by his wife Michele.
All seven winners will receive a trip for two to the Gaylord Texan Resort in Dallas for a behind-the-scenes and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the "Whataburger Family Convention,” which is a gathering of the company's employees held every other year. In addition, they will be the subjects of winner videos shot in their hometowns that will be shown at the event.