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Houston businessman Theldon Branch is about to do something no one else has done in over a decade: become a new Whataburger franchisee. The company will mark the occasion with an 11 a.m. signing ceremony on March 6 at Whataburger corporate offices. The Corpus Christi-based company began actively interviewing new franchisees last year as part of its new growth initiative under new President and COO Tim Taft. Mr. Branch, who is planning to open five Whataburger restaurants in the next 24 months, was selected to be the first new franchisee after an intensive qualification process. Mr. Taft says Mr. Branch’s extensive franchisee experience, including nine years as a multiple Wendy’s franchisee and his current franchisee agreement with Church’s Chicken in the Houston area, made him the perfect candidate. "Theldon Branch is a proven success as an operator of quality, quick-service restaurants," said Mr. Taft. "He represents what the new franchisee initiative is all about: bringing new people into the Whataburger family that will understand and uphold our commitment to being the best burger company in the industry." Mr. Branch, operating as Houston Food Group, Inc., has non-exclusive rights to open five restaurants in Whataburger’s targeted development markets between Texas and Florida, along the I-10 corridor. "I have been interested in becoming a Whataburger franchisee for many years, and this new initiative came along at the perfect time," said Mr. Branch. "I feel very proud to be involved with what I believe is the best franchise opportunity – and the best burger company -- around." Mr. Branch is president of The Branch Companies, which is involved in real estate development, and operates the Duty Free shops in Houston Intercontinental, Miami, and Newark airports. Branch, who sold his five Wendy’s locations in 1999, was also recently awarded dealership rights from General Motors. Mr. Branch holds a B.S. in business administration from Huston-Tillotson College and a Community MBA from the Graduate School of Business at The University of Texas. Whataburger, founded in Corpus Christi in 1950, operates 560+ stores in eight states and Mexico, with annual sales topping $600 million.